Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Rinaldi always does impeccable research for her novels, and her insertion of Harriet into this story is seamless and realistic. Rinaldi also says in her Author's Notes that she purposely didn't treat Turner one way or the other, leaving the reader to decide if he was a hero or a murderer. But it's this detail that makes the novel feel as though it's lacking depth. Harriet is a great voice to tell this horrific story, but I needed more: more interaction among the characters, more reasons for characters' actions, more inner voice. While I felt she did a credible job, nothing felt fleshed out and the ending was way too "fairy tale" (to use her own words).
Even though I did end up liking this novel quite a bit, I find myself missing the Rinaldi I used to read, the one who expanded the stories,adding to them in such a way that I felt the characters came alive from the pages. This one felt rushed, as have the last few of hers I've read. That said, Rinaldi is still head and shoulders above most young adult historical fiction writers. I'm rounding 3.5 stars up to 4 based on the research and my fondness for Rinaldi overall.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Lord of Misrule is fast paced and action packed; filled with its own drama, it's also a bridge to the ultimate fate of the vampires in Morganville. Claire's called upon to help Amelie but finds herself in grave danger, facing down Bishop and his minions even while enduring a major storm. The chaos keeps coming and naturally the book ends on a cliffhanger, making it very good for me to have #6 close at hand. I love the depth of the relationship between Claire and Shane, and I love how Claire's learned to stand up for herself and those she loves. Her parents are fairly extraneous to the story but everyone else is present and accounted for; I can hardly wait to find out what side Myrnin is really on. Definitely fun and entertaining and I'm ready for more!
Friday, June 26, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Claire, Claire, Claire...are you ever going to keep yourself out of trouble? Somehow I doubt it. In this fourth book of the Morganville Vampire series, we pick up almost immediately where Book 3 leaves off: Claire and her housemates are dealing with the arrival of her parents to Morganville when, out of the blue, Amelie's father (read: Big Daddy of All Vampires) arrives at the Glass House with two of his cronies, demanding food and Amelie. Turns out he's not there for a friendly visit, of course; he's there to wrangle control of Morganville from his daughter, and he doesn't give a flip who he hurts (or kills) in the process.
There is a lot of action in Feast of Fools, with Michael conflicted over his vampiric nature, Eve losing her estranged father, Shane forced to attend a vampire ball as the escort of the dangerous Ysandre, and Claire still working with the increasingly volatile Myrnin on a cure for the disease affecting the vamps. The relationship between Shane and Claire continues to grow (rather nicely, as a matter of fact), and Claire's self-confidence increases despite her misgivings for belonging to Amelie. The height of the action hits when Amelie is forced to give a ball for her father, and sides are chosen as to whom loyalty will be given. Claire's knowledge brings her into the center of things, and once again we're left on a major cliffhanger (and I'm left checking my mailbox every few hours, waiting on my Amazon shipment that contains book #5!).
Feast of Fools is a very interesting installment in the series; we see Claire maturing constantly as she tries to figure out the complex intricacies of the vampire society and her place in it. The addition of her parents has left me a bit puzzled because it honestly feels as though Claire is the parent and her parents are the clueless ones. I like how the series develops its characters as the stories move along, and I like how, despite the turmoil going on in Morganville, there are some rather "human" stories, such as Michael playing guitar in Common Grounds. I may as well confess it now: I'm hooked, and I'll be reading this series until it bleeds me dry. Great, great fun.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Welcome to Morganville, a town run by vampires and a place where you might find yourself as lunch if you aren't careful. Claire, unfortunately, hasn't been very careful, but her new contract with Amelie aims to fix that. And in fact, things start off well, in that Claire is bumped into more accelerated classes, which she finds pleasing; the downside is that she is given as an apprentice to Myrnin, a slightly odd, vaguely dangerous vampire. It's imperative that Claire learn as much as she can from Myrnin, but as the sessions go on, it becomes clearer that there is something more wrong than usual with the vamp. Will Claire survive her lessons with him? What is he trying to teach her? All her questions lead to a big conclusion that ultimately puts Claire and the entire vampire community in danger.
As per usual, I raced through Midnight Alley. I love that the story moves along so quickly and I love the interactions between the four roomies. If I get frustrated at times, it is with the continuing presence of the annoying Monica and the illogical turns Claire sometimes takes. There's some minor drug use going on in this one, and the user will undoubtedly surprise some people. But overall this series just continues to improve and capture me from the first pages. This book actually earns a very solid 4.5 stars. On to the next!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
First up: An Unlikely Friendship by Ann Rinaldi
It's not a surprise that I love Ann Rinaldi. I've loved her writing since I first read Wolf by the Ears and My Father's House many years ago. So even now I get excited when I pick up a book of hers that I haven't read. Below are my thoughts on this one, which turned out to be pretty good overall.
An Unlikely Friendship by Ann Rinaldi is rather unique in that it begins with President Lincoln's assassination, focusing on his wife Mary's loss and the attempts of her friend Lizzy to get to her during the hours following. From there, the narrative splits into two very distinct tales, both of lonely young girls who grew up feeling as outsiders within their own families; finally the story rejoins the women as they meet later in life and form an odd yet strong bond. It's this particular stance to the storytelling that makes An Unlikely Friendship so personal and it's Ann Rinaldi's depth of research and gift of writing that makes it so compelling.
The first person narratives of first Mary Todd and then Lizzy Hobbs Keckley show how very differently the two young women grew up, yet both were eerily similar in their immediate family circumstances. Both struggled to find her place within the confines of the family she'd been born into, and both had difficulty learning to keep to themselves. Both share stories of how they found love with members of their families yet still felt distant. Both were headstrong young women who suffered losses yet somehow remained strong; when they meet later in Washington after Lincoln becomes President, they each discover that there is a kindred spirit in the other, despite the fact that one was raised in relative luxury while the other was a house slave. Rinaldi does a splendid job of bringing both ladies to light and showing them as real people, just as she always done in her fine historical fiction. Recommended for all ages.
Secondly, I read How I Found the Strong by Margaret McMullan in one afternoon. Excellently written! Below is the review for this gem.
Sometimes a book doesn't need to be very long to get its message across, and How I Found the Strong is a powerful reminder of this. I read it in one afternoon but I'm pretty sure its impact will stay with me a very long time.
Beginning at the start of the Civil War, we meet young Frank "Shanks" Russell as he wistfully watches his elder brother and father march off to fight for the Union. Left at home with his mother, his grandparents, and Buck, the slave not much older than he is, Shanks longs for his neighbor Irene as he begins to watch his world disintegrate into hunger and blood. First he loses his grandparents and then he has to struggle to help his pregnant mother; all of the things Shanks suffers through start to make him question whether or not slavery is worth everything it is costing him and the U.S. It is to Buck that he turns, and it is Buck who helps Shanks learn to stand up for what is right.
Powerful, yes, but also revealing; as Shanks grows up, he must come to terms with the idea that the world as he's known it is not what he'd hoped but he's got to find out what means the most to him. Excellently written and illuminating, this is one I can recommend without reservation.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
The storyline in Glass Houses is very dark, and things don't get better as the novel moves along. Claire, for all her youth and innocence, figures things out pretty quickly, and her crush on Shane, one of her roommates, is sweet yet tentative. There is a lot of hiding, running, and some violence; like some other reviewers, I have to say that Monica and her gang were far more vicious than the vampires. Claire's relationships with the goth Eve and the ghost Michael solidify quickly, and even if her parents arrive to order her home, it's pretty easy to see that Claire's coming into her own. The story ends on a major, major cliffhanger; of course I'm quite glad I happen to already have book two ready and waiting.
Glass Houses isn't without its faults; Claire is very lucky very often, and her reluctance to deal with Amelie is naive. The supernatural aspect tied to Morganville itself doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but then again, this is a paranormal novel so that can be excused. Caine gives her characters a strong sense of realism, even though a few secondary characters come off as over-the-top. That said, I am hooked enough to go straight into the second book in order to find out just how several threads left hanging will be resolved. This one's sure to appeal to all young adults interested in the paranormal.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I always know I'm in for a special treat whenever I begin a book written by Laurie Halse Anderson. Somehow she gets into the hearts of her characters and pulls their problems, hopes, and experiences to the surface bit by bit, dragging the reader along until you realize you've been inside the very skin of the characters. So it was with Wintergirls, her newest novel and quite possibly her finest to date.
Wintergirls is the story of anorexic Lia, whose former best friend Cassie is found dead in a hotel room. Despite the estrangement between the girls, Cassie, obviously drunk and in pain, repeatedly called Lia's phone in the hours before her death; Lia had ignored the calls and the guilt threatens to consume her. Both girls had suffered from eating disorders, and Cassie's ultimately led to her death; even knowing this, Lia finds herself falling back into the old patterns of not eating and over-exercising, hoping to find control over one aspect of her life. We can almost visibly see Lia's spiral into desperation in her feeble attempts to reach out to someone totally unsuitable and her denial that she is hurting herself or anyone she loves.
Wintergirls is a realistic story and one that many people might identify with, even if they haven't experienced an eating disorder. It's incredibly hard to be vulnerable, and Anderson captures the terror and angst Lia feels brilliantly. I particularly liked the relationship between Lia and her step-sister Emma because it showed that there was yet hope in Lia's life. I was a little dismayed that cutting was also highlighted but perhaps cutting is also a hallmark of anorexics (since I'm unfamiliar with anorexia's specifics). But this book is so absorbing and well-written on so many levels that there really is nothing to complain about. Highly recommended for readers of all ages.