Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Chosen One

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams comes in as my first 10/10 read for the year. I can't say it enough...get this book and read it. It's absorbing, amazing, and affirming; it could easily be gulped down in one sitting.
Almost fourteen year old Kyra has lived her entire life as a Chosen One--a member of a religious polygamist group which has separated itself from the world with a fence and a lifestyle few understand. Kyra's family life includes a loving father, three mothers, and approximately eighteen brothers and sisters, and she's been raised to accept her own future as one of her husband's subservient wives. Though Kyra has a bit of a rebellious nature in that she slips out regularly to the mobile library to read forbidden books, she knows she will continue to do as she's told by the community's Prophet...until he declares that he has had a vision that will make Kyra the seventh wife of her much older uncle.
Told from Kyra's point of view, this gripping young adult novel unfolds a story of freedom, young love, fear, and desperation in a sparse 200 pages. Kyra is adamant that she isn't going to marry her uncle, and though her family agrees with her, they are powerless to stop the marriage once the Prophet has spoken. I watched breathlessly as I saw Kyra's world spinning out of control with no adult able to stand up for her lest they risk losing everything they know and love. The balanced way Ms. Williams portrays the polygamist society was well done; Kyra's mothers honestly seem to love all the children and their shared husband, and Kyra feels nothing but warmth and care from not only the mothers but also her father. It is when the bigger picture of the Chosen Ones society is revealed--killing of "defective" infants, forced marriage, brutal physical punishments, and the not so subtle idea that young girls are being forced to wed the much older leaders--that my skin began to crawl and I felt almost as trapped as Kyra. The idea that the only way out might be the sacrifice of never seeing your beloved family again rips into your soul and makes you understand why some young women choose to remain subservient.
This novel might have been torn from recent headlines and it brings a very real, very personal face to the tragedy of some young females at the hands of religious zealots. Ms. Williams builds to a climax that is dangerous and gut-wrenching in so many ways that I literally could not put this novel down. Once I closed the last page, I was so worked up I couldn't stop thinking about Kyra and her sisters, both fictional and real. This book is tremendous, and deserves to be read and shared. I am going to be thinking about this one for a very, very long time. Get this book. Now. You won't be sorry. Highly, highly recommended.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ghost Huntress: The Awakening

I'm on a bit of a roll this weekend, finishing two books, both of which came to me from the Amazon Vine program. While there were a few minor quibbles with Ghost Huntress: The Awakening by Marley Gibson, it is overall a good entry into the paranormal sci-fi young adult market and I feel confident in recommending it. I just saw, however, that the recommendation is for ages 12 and up, and I'd have to think a bit about that since there is quite a bit of cursing and couple of serious make-out sessions (but that's all they are). I'm copying and pasting the review I posted on Amazon below. Give this one a try; it's pretty fun.

Ghost Huntress: The Awakening, is the first entry into a new series that follows sixteen year old Kendall Moorehead as she moves from her home in Chicago to a rural town in Georgia. Not long after she moves into her new home, she begins to realize something odd is going on, not just around her but also within; she can sense other people's thoughts and pains, and she's beginning to hear odd sounds in her room. A chance meeting with a local New Age businesswoman helps Kendall to understand that she's experiencing an awakening of her psychic abilities, so Kendall can now add extrasensory perception/sensing the dead to her list of things to worry about, along with making new friends and fitting in at her new high school.

Kendall, while perplexed at the odd things happening to her, embraces her newfound gift with gusto and decides she must confront the ghost currently living in her house, as well as the one menacing her father's workplace. It isn't long before she conveniently finds some new friends who are interested in the paranormal, and together the four girls form the Ghost Huntresses. With Jason, twin of Ghost Huntress Taylor, the group acquires expensive equipment through the wallet of wealthy Celia and proceed to find and kick ectoplasmic butt.

Ms. Gibson has done her homework, that's for sure; she has her teen paranormal investigators using the correct equipment and following standard debunking procedures. As a person with some interest in paranormal investigation, I really appreciated that the author was giving out accurate information. The references to popular television shows that feature ghost hunters are accurate as well, and the characters are realistically written teenagers who battle not only the not-crossed-over but hormones, too. It was a little convenient to have Kendall luck out with the friends and the money aspect, but this is tempered by her mother's very mom-like response to having a daughter who suddenly claims to have psychic abilities. Though the title is Ghost Huntress, this is actually a mesh of Ghost Hunters, Medium, and Ghost Whisperer; the amount of activity experienced by the group is just too good to be true for amateurs, but it does hold your interest well. There's also a lot of New Age/crystals/protection going on, which does make it seem a little scattered in focus. But this is a fast read that sets out to entertain and that it does quite well. I'll be looking for the second book, The Guidance, when it appears later this year.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Palace Circle

Ah, nothing better than a delicious tale of the glittering and privileged set against a glorious time period and filled with first rate characters! Palace Circle by Rebecca Dean fills the bill superbly; nothing too deep, but definitely good solid storytelling. Below is my Amazon Review...enjoy!

Delia Chandler is a young eighteen year old bride of the much older Ivor Conisborough when she first comes to England in 1911, leaving behind her rich American upbringing to become Lady of the manor. With her head in the clouds, Delia is stunned to learn that Ivor, while enamored with her, is not in love; that right is reserved for his long time mistress, Sylvia. With her world shattered, Delia seeks solace in her friendship with Sylvia's husband and in her ever-growing social circle which comes to encompass members of the royal family as well as all the movers and shakers of the early twentieth century. And surprisingly, she does a tremendous job of recreating her life, filling it with not only her two daughters, but endless rounds of parties and a lover, all held together with the understanding that she and Ivor will maintain appearances and even an abiding friendship of their own.

Whew. What a premise for a rollicking good tale, and Palace Circle is just that. As we watch Delia mature from the lovestruck teen she is in the beginning to the social whirlwind she becomes, all sorts of side intrigues appear that keep the story flowing. Moving deftly between the England of the Great War into a posting for Ivor in Cairo, and finally into the early days of World War II, we follow not only Delia but her daughters as they find love, lose it, and learn to live with life's disappointments and challenges amid the glitterati and privileged. Dean does a remarkable job of keeping the setting realistic by filling it with people who actually lived and determined the force of events, and the voices ring true to real life.

Perhaps my one complaint in this splendid saga is how at times the author seemed to time jump sometimes even years within the space of a couple of paragraphs. We go from Delia's daughter Petra's initial reaction of happiness at meeting her future husband (after much angst) to a year later their being married within literally two lines. Granted, the author couldn't give us every detail, but the speed at which some events take place is a little head spinning. But really that's only a minor complaint at best, and this is a tale that leaves me wanting more (which I will get with the arrival of two more books, thank goodness!). Dean has brought me into a world I knew little about and made me feel at home. Definitely worthy of at least 4.5 stars, if not 4.75. Recommended!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sandra Dallas's Prayers For Sale

Sandra Dallas's newest novel, Prayers For Sale, is set for release April 14, 2009. Run and reserve it's so good! I received the novel early as part of the Amazon Vine program, and I'm glad I made the choice to read this one! Copied below is my review from Amazon.
Hennie Comfort knows she's getting old--she's 86--but she doesn't want to leave her mountain home of Middle Swan, Colorado, to go live with her daughter in Iowa. Still, there comes a time when Hennie figures she must face the facts and give in to her daughter's pleadings, so she sets the end of the year 1936 as the time when she'll begrudgingly move. But there's lots to be done in the months left, including befriending the new young neighbor, Nit Spindle, and working through some things Hennie's managed to set aside for many years. Thus kicks off Sandra Dallas's new novel, Prayers For Sale; sit back and let the story wash over you as the pages turn themselves.
Hennie's a real character, and a mainstay of the town since she came out seventy years before to marry Jake Comfort, sight unseen. Hennie's lifelong passion has been quilting, and just as she stitches quilts throughout the book, her own story unravels for Nit as she shares it with the lonely young woman. Hennie's figured out quite a bit about people in her long life, but she's still got a few things left to tend to before she leaves her home, and the friendship she develops with the much younger woman is the basis for the flashbacks into Hennie's life. The bond created between the two women is strong; centered around children both have lost, they find they can share each other's burdens over a quilting frame. Hennie doesn't actually offer prayers for sale, however; her prayers are frequent and fervent and she intervenes when necessary.
This is such a delightful tale with such strong, well-written characters that I hated to see it end. I could easily picture Hennie's dry sense of humor and her good will in trying to bring Nit into the town's social circle. In my mind's eye, I could see Hennie telling the stories as she worked over her "piecings", and I felt the same impact from them that Nit was experiencing. The ending is a bit of a surprise--not unwelcome, but surprising nonetheless. I was left smiling, knowing I will hold these dear people with me for a very long time. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hunted, The House of Night Book #5

Here below is my review of the newest House of Night book, Hunted by P.C. Cast. This book's taking a bit of heat at Amazon, and perhaps rightly so. My biggest issue were the typos and the "effect/affect" fiasco on page 169 (okay, sue me, I'm a grammarian). This is the review I just published on the big A; I didn't hate it by any means but hope that the next one resolves a few things (and gets a better editor).
Amazon Review
The fifth book in the House of Night series picks up almost precisely where the fourth one left off; Zoey and her friends have escaped from the power mad Neferet and her newly re-risen god Kalona and are currently hiding in some tunnels with Stevie Rae and the red fledglings. Zoey needs to figure out how to fight Kalona's hold on the fledglings still at the House of Night, but how can she do that trapped underground? And what about Erik, her former boyfriend, who is suddenly expressing interest again...and her unease with the odd red fledglings who don't seem to be telling everything about themselves? Lots of questions to be asked and answered, and Zoey's uncertain of her part in all of this.
This entry in the series takes place over just a few days, and while it begins at a slower pace, it does pick up steam fairly quickly. There is a lot of rehashing what's gone before as Zoey tries to determine what her course of action should be. I liked that Zoey actually faced mortal danger this time out because I believe it gives her more perspective in her fight against evil. I also like that the Benedictine nuns were a part of the solution, thus making this series seem less about Nyx vs. other religions and more about working together.
It would be very easy to nit-pick this novel to death, but there are a few things that deserve to be mentioned. Zoey's endless love triangles must end. Find a guy, stick with him, quit stringing everyone else along, end of story. Imprinting with Heath again was probably necessary to keep him in the story, but I have to wonder why Erik is suddenly so possessive when he's only been noble and loving before. I like Stark but I don't see a relationship with him as necessary or even wanted at this point. I also found the whole stables/horses plan a bit over the top, and I have a problem with the fact that Kalona sees Zoey as a potential mate. Why can't he just be evil and let it go at that? Finally, the typos and editing errors about drove me insane! Was there such a rush to get this book out that typos were allowed to go through unchecked? And for goodness' sake, it's "effect", not "affect" on page 169!
However, all that said, I still enjoyed this novel quite a bit. I know it's escapist fun, and Zoey represents what most young girls would like to be: smart, alluring, powerful, and loved. I love the character development of Aphrodite; she's worth the price of the book alone. With all good series, there will come a point when there needs to be a book that provides some catch-up time and then some high drama, and Hunted provides that. It may not be the best in the series, but it is still worth the read. I am hopeful that the next in the series finds Zoey recognizing her need for maturity and less of the pull between her hormones and her heart.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Honolulu by Alan Brennert

Honolulu by Alan Brennert is a wonderful glimpse into the life of a Korean "picture bride" around 1914-15 as she travels to Hawai'i to wed an ex-pat Korean man. Having read Brennert's Moloka'i last year, I was pleased to receive this book as an ARC from the Amazon Vine program. While it's not quite as intensely gripping as Moloka'i, it is still a fascinating look at a life I cannot imagine having lived. The truth is, it wasn't all that long ago that women were treated as nothing more than servants and chattel in their own homes, traded to the highest bidder to continue a life of servitude. Regret (later known as Jin) decides that this isn't going to be her life, and she accepts an offer of marriage to a man who, it turns out, is less than honest about himself and his circumstances. How Jin bounces back and continues in her quest to better herself brings us a story well-told through Jin's point of view.
My full review can be found at I enjoyed this one a great deal, but didn't find myself as caught up as I'd hoped toward the ending. Overall, though, I can still recommend it.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Cool Book Giveaway

Head on over to my friend Teddy's blog and get yourself registered to win a free copy of Helen Hollick's new novel, The Kingmaking. The post to win the copy is found at I love Hollick and can't pass up this chance to get more people turned on to her writing.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Minor Celebration Time!

I officially "put to bed" our 2009 school yearbook yesterday. Yeah! It looks good, if I do say so myself. I let the kids do more than ever this year and they did a good job.
Gotta celebrate the small stuff in life!