Ship of Dolls

A few minutes ago, I finished reading one more of this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees. (Only one more to go!) The book was Ship of Dolls by Shirley Parenteau.

While I’m not one to seek out much historical fiction, I admit that I liked this book more than I thought I would. It takes place in the 1920s, one of my favorite historical periods, but Ship of Dolls is not all flappers and speakeasies. No, this book is set in Portland, Oregon, and it tells the story of Lexie, a young girl trying to find her way after being sent to live with her grandparents. (Sounds a bit like the book I posted on earlier today, doesn’t it?)

The year is 1926, and Lexie Lewis would like nothing more than going back to live with her mother, a singer and flapper who is always the life of any party. That party is currently far away in San Francisco. Lexie’s new stepfather doesn’t think this life is a place for a child, so Lexie is living with her grandparents in Portland. She’s not happy about the situation–especially since her grandmother is so strict–and she longs to be reunited with her mother.

At school, Lexie may have an opportunity to see her mother once again. Her class has been collecting money to send a Friendship Doll to Japan. Letters will be sent along with the doll on its long journey, first to San Francisco and then to Japan. The student who writes the best letter will get to accompany the doll on the first leg of the journey. Lexie is determined to win this all-important contest, travel to California, and be reunited with her mother…permanently.

But winning this contest is not as easy as one would hope. Lexie gets into a bit of trouble trying to get inspiration for her letter, and that trouble leads to even more as her little lies turn into big ones. Then there’s the matter of Louise Wilkins, Lexie’s rival at school. Louise is also determined to win this contest, and she’s willing to do anything to get her way.

As Lexie works on her Friendship Doll project, she continues to focus on being with her mom again. Sure, working on this project has brought her closer to her grandparents, especially her grandma, and maybe they’re so strict for a reason, but Lexie belongs with her mom. Right?

Lexie’s potential reunion with her mother is growing closer and closer, and, soon enough, Lexie faces an important decision. Should she go with her mom on whatever adventure is next, or should she stay with her grandparents in Portland? The answer may surprise even Lexie.


Lexie Lewis’ story is fictional, but it is based on an actual event…and one that I had never heard of. In the late 1920s, Dr. Sidney Gulick organized the Friendship Doll Project, which sent over 12,000 dolls from the U.S. to Japan in an effort to foster friendship and peace between the two nations. Japan reciprocated with fifty-eight Dolls of Gratitude sent to the U.S. While the two countries did eventually engage each other in World War II, the dolls of friendship were remembered years later, and some of them have been found, restored, and displayed in museums.

Aside from the interesting historical events in this story, I think Ship of Dolls is a good book for addressing concepts like honesty, friendship, forgiveness, and tolerance. Lexie, her grandmother, and even Louise grow throughout the course of the book, and it’s interesting to see how their interactions change–particularly in regards to the concepts listed above–as the story progresses.

If Ship of Dolls sounds like the book for you, there’s more to enjoy. A second book, Dolls of Hope, follows the very doll in Lexie’s story on it’s journey in Japan. A third book, Dolls of War, is scheduled for a Fall 2017 release, and there will also be a fourth and final book in the series called Dolls of Secret. You can find more information on all of these Friendship Doll books on author Shirley Parenteau’s website.

With that, I’m going to wrap things up and enjoy my last few hours of freedom before the new school year begins. So long for now!

 

Lair of Dreams

Caution: Read The Diviners by Libba Bray before proceeding. There may be spoilers ahead!

Last month, I finally made time to read the first book in a thrilling, terrifying series. That series, of course, began with The Diviners. Yesterday, I finished reading the second book in the series, Lair of Dreams. Well, if The Diviners scared me, Lair of Dreams terrified me to the depths of my soul. Thanks to the fabulous Libba Bray, I can now add dreaming to the long list of things that scare me. (If you’re curious, that list includes–but is not limited to–clowns, balloons, thunderstorms, zombies, most forms of social interaction, the dark, and failure. Yes, I’m aware I have issues.)

Moving on…

Lair of Dreams picks up where The Diviners left off. Let’s dive in, shall we?

After the horrendous battle against Naughty John, the whole world knows of the existence of Diviners, and Evie O’Neill is determined to be the most famous of them all. She is now the “Sweetheart Seer,” and she performs her object readings on a very popular radio show. Evie is a media darling, and she’ll do almost anything to keep it that way…even aligning with her nemesis, Sam Lloyd.

As for Sam, he has own agenda, and he needs Evie’s help to finally discover what really happened to his mother. He knows she’s still out there somewhere, but he’s having no luck in uncovering the truth behind “Project Buffalo,” the shady government project that may have something to do with locating (or even creating?) Diviners. Sam knows his mother was involved in the project, but he doesn’t know how…or why. He’s hoping that Evie’s object-reading ability will clear things up, but can he work with Evie, a girl who craves the spotlight, while keeping his own abilities a secret?

Evie and Sam have the media’s attention at the moment…but something else is in the news as well. A mysterious sleeping sickness has taken hold, and it has all of New York on edge. People are being trapped in their dreams, and there appears to be no cause or cure for this strange illness. Is there anyone who can figure out what is happening?

As it turns out, there is. Two young Diviners, Ling Chan and Henry DuBois, are dream-walkers, and the ability to discover what–or who–is responsible for the sleeping sickness may reside with them. But what if they don’t want to leave the dream world? What if it’s so much better than the prejudice and ridicule they face every day?

For many people–Ling and Henry included–dreams are quickly turning to nightmares, and there appears to be no escape. Diviners and their allies will have to work together to stop this evil from spreading and taking those they hold dear. But how? How can they stop an evil that exists in dreams?

On the fringes of this terror, there’s always the odd gray man in the stovepipe hat, known to some as the King of Crows. This shadowy figure, who was also present during the Naughty John fiasco, seems to thrive on terror, but his endgame is unclear. What does he have to do with the sleeping sickness, and how will the Diviners play into his plans?

As the Diviners navigate the terrifying dream world threatening to invade even their waking hours, they must also unite to face the uncertain future ahead of them. Something big is headed their way. Will their abilities be enough to fight it? Who or what will try to get in their way? And what will they discover about themselves and their “gifts” in the process?

Find out just how dangerous dreams can be when you read Lair of Dreams, the thrilling second installment in Libba Bray’s Diviners series.

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To say that I liked Lair of Dreams would be something of an understatement. Granted, I could not read it at night, especially right before bed, but I still enjoyed every bit of it. This book, like The Diviners, is rich, complex, and provides a rather interesting, alternate-history type look at life in the 1920s. Those who read this book may just find themselves doing a bit of research into just how much of it is historically accurate. (A lot of it, by the way.)

If you, like me, are already eager for more of The Diviners, well…we’re all out of luck for now. According to Goodreads, there will be two more books in the series, but there is no timeline on when we can expect them. Given that the two books we already have come in at around 600 pages each, I imagine it takes the wonderful Libba Bray quite some time to research, write, rewrite, and otherwise prepare the books for publication. So, I guess we’ll just have to be patient.

As news of future books in The Diviners is released, I imagine it will be on Libba Bray’s website first, so check there often. You can also follow the fantastic Ms. Bray on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.

If you’d like to hear more about Lair of Dreams from Libba Bray herself, check out the interview below from BookCon 2015. Enjoy!

The Diviners

My favorite historical period (in America, at least) is the Roaring Twenties. I also enjoy reading books about people with supernatural abilities. Well, my latest read combined those two things in an amazing story that I’m still thinking about.

This book, The Diviners by Libba Bray, was a lengthy tome, and I couldn’t read it much at night because I’m a wuss, so it took me longer than I would have liked to finish. That being said, I adored this book, and I look forward to reading the second book, Lair of Dreams, which came out last month. I’m fairly certain it will give me the same case of heebie-jeebies that I got while reading the first book.

Evie O’Neill doesn’t quite fit in her boring Ohio hometown…and everyone knows it. When scandal erupts–a scandal that Evie had a part in revealing–she is sent to live with her uncle in Manhattan, and Evie couldn’t be happier. She knows she’ll find the life she’s always wanted in the Big Apple, and she’s ready to take the city by storm.

As Evie explores the speakeasies, parties, and good times that are so much a part of New York in the 20’s, she’s also being introduced to her Uncle Will’s work in the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. Uncle Will is soon called to assist with a strange murder investigation, and Evie finds herself right in the middle of it.

You see, Evie has a special ability that helps her to know much more about these gruesome murders than she should…and this ability may just make Evie a target herself. Evie is quickly caught up in an investigation that leads her to learn more about a dangerous cult, ritualistic killings, ghosts come back to life, and someone’s quest to bring about the end of the world.

How can one girl hope to stop such horrible events? Evie will have to use all of her considerable wits to combat the evil to come, but it still may not be enough. She’s on a collision course with a vicious killer, and her charms and abilities may not get her out of this mess.

And Evie is not the only person with abilities that put her in a killer’s cross-hairs. Theta, a chorus girl with a tragic past, has her own dangerous secret. Memphis once had sought-after healing abilities that left him after his mother’s death. His brother, Isaiah, is showing signs of his own special–and disturbing–gifts. Then there’s Sam, a pickpocket who has the handy ability of going completely unnoticed when he wishes to. And let’s not forget Jericho, a student of Evie’s uncle, and a young man who isn’t completely what he seems.

All of these people will, on some level, come face-to-face with the horrendous evil that is waking in New York, and each of them will have to do what they can to protect themselves and those they love. Will they be able to stop what’s coming before it’s too late? Or will one of them be a murderer’s next victim?

Answer these questions and many more* when you read The Diviners by the fantastic Libba Bray.

*Warning: For every answer you receive, about a thousand questions will pop up in its place. It’s kind of awesome.

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To say that I like The Diviners would be a major understatement. This book was rich, terrifying, entertaining, complex, and filled with characters that I want to know more about. (If you’re familiar with Libba Bray’s other books, this is probably not news.) Luckily, The Diviners is only the first book. Lair of Dreams was released on August 25th, and there are rumored to be two more books in this captivating series.

In my most humble opinion, The Diviners a series more suited to teen readers, but some mature middle grade readers may be able to handle it. There’s a certain amount of rule-breaking and alcohol use–completely true to the historical period–that might keep it from being a must-purchase for libraries that serve middle grade students. (For instance, I definitely wouldn’t put this book in the hands of sixth or seventh grader.) I simply think mature teen readers will be able to read this book and keep social and historical context in mind. That’s all, really.

If you like your historical fiction with a supernatural twist (or vice versa), I’d highly recommend The Diviners. To learn more about the series as a whole, I urge you to visit the series website. There’s loads of information on The Diviners, Lair of Dreams, and the amazing Libba Bray.