Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Scorch, following on the heels of Croak, picks up with heroine Lex still feeling guilty over the death of twin sister Cordy at the hand (literally) of fellow Grim Zara and knowing that she has to do something to stop Zara from Damning people wildly. The upside? Lex can still visit Cordy in the Afterlife (even though Cordy's taken up with a very impressive historical personage). The downside? Too many to mention actually, but the biggest is that the entire town of Croak has turned against her (with a few exceptions)...and also against Uncle Mort, the mayor. With the knowledge that she must stop Zara torturing her, Lex is further dismayed to learn that Zara's also looking for a mysterious text known as the Wrong Book, and the consequences will be very dire indeed if she finds it.

Scorch is just as quick a read as Croak, though it's more violent at times. Lex is still a moody teen but the loss of her twin has only made things worse; her relationship with fellow Junior Driggs continues with lots of physical encounters (that Uncle Mort tries repeatedly to discourage). Lex is a great anti-heroine; she's rude and angry, but she also wants to make things right in whatever way she can. Though there's a lot action, there are also lots of secrets which aren't revealed until we're far into the book. The final two chapters throw major kinks into the story and it's going to be interesting to see how everything plays out. The writing, while at times a bit silly, still engages and captures the imagination. I'm hooked and I can't wait to see what happens next.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beautiful Days

Beautiful Days takes up the lives of Cordelia, Letty, and Astrid--three young women living the glamorous life in the 1920s. Cordelia's brother Charlie has taken over the bootlegging business upon the death of their father, while Astrid, as Charlie's girlfriend, continues with her superficial life of parties and drinking. Letty, meanwhile, has moved in with Cordelia and is still hoping for her big break as a singer. As the story progresses, all three end up far from where they began at the start of this novel, and that's not necessarily a bad thing at all. Along the way, Cordelia and Astrid come to realize just what a dangerous occupation Charlie has, and Letty discovers that her desire to be in the spotlight may trump her newfound feelings for writer Grady. No one is safe from heartbreak and danger.
Beautiful Days started off a little slowly for me; I felt as though I was spinning my wheels, waiting for one of the girls to actually make up her fluffy little mind and get on with her life in a meaningful way. And as far as that goes, it's still a ways into the book before more mature decisions are made. But the emotions are strong, and I especially loved reading about the nightlife of New York during Prohibition. I admit to feeling frustration with Astrid particularly; she seems so shallow, and I'm not sure Godbersen intends for her to gain much depth. The action is good once the story picks up (probably a third of the way in), and the very unexpected complication in the relationship between Max and Cordelia is going to be fun to explore. Godbersen's writing is descriptive and detailed; occasionally I got tired of reading what everyone was wearing but in general I felt as though I was smack in the middle of the Roaring Twenties. Good characterization and an engaging storyline makes this a winner of a sequel and has me ready for the next book. Recommended.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wanna Know What It's Like to Teach? Ask Tony Danza

This slim (less than 300 pages) book is the story of the year Tony Danza (yes, that Tony Danza) spent as a high school English teacher in Philadelphia. Finding himself at loose ends after the cancellation of his talk show, Danza decided to put his teaching degree to use as well as develop a television show around his experiences. After searching nationwide, Northeast High School in Philadelphia agreed to take him on, with many stipulations: He would be treated as a real teacher with the same responsibilities as the other teachers, he would have a one-on-one mentor, and he would only be given one 90 minute class to teach (Dang, where do I sign up for that gig? lol). He agreed, the camera crew arrived, and the adventure began.

As a teacher myself, I have to say I was skeptical of Mr. Danza at first, much like his colleagues must have been. He came in with lofty goals and had reality smack him in the face repeatedly: kids with bad attitudes, parents who were no-shows, fights, unengaged students. Danza persevered, despite the odds, and something happened as he did: he became a *real* teacher, one who strove to come up with lessons that excited his students, one who looked past the academic and into the lives of his kids, one who saw through the standardized testing into the concern of his students actually learning. Did he make mistakes? Oh yeah, and sometimes they were huge (hello, drinking on a field trip!), but he was able to forge relationships that he maintains to this day.

This story of a year in the life of Tony Danza is well written and a reliable look at the state of education in public high schools today. While I feel that a few tales may have been glossed over, I believe fully that Danza put his heart and soul into this job and that he gained as much as his students during his tenure. His stories are real and he feels he needs to let the world know the reality of the situations teachers face on a daily basis. This is a good read and one that should be read by all of us with a vested interest in the education of our young people today.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Don't you just hate it when you wait and wait for a sequel to an exciting book, and then you find it so underwhelming? That's how I feel about Meg Cabot's Underworld, the sequel to the very fun Abandon. So bummed.
Underworld picks up the story of Pierce and her undead boyfriend, John, as they try to escape the Fury currently possessing her grandmother's body. Pierce awakens in the Underworld where John has taken her and where he works as a lord of the dead, sorting souls so they can pass on to their ultimate fate. Pierce quickly realizes John has done this to protect her, but she's worried about her family back in the living world, and her fear only multiplies when she receives a strange video on her cell phone of her cousin Alex trapped inside a coffin, in danger of dying. So she convinces John to take her back to rescue Alex, but of course the mission doesn't go smoothly and Pierce's life--and Alex's--are on the line.

First I'll say I loved Abandon; the pages flew by when I read it and I couldn't wait for the sequel. Unfortunately, the intriguing story of Abandon isn't found in Underworld. Pierce is reliant on John most of the time, and he spends most of the book keeping dark secrets from her, which she excuses. The entire story takes place in about 24 hours but most of it is spent with Pierce trying to decide what she wants...and then changing her mind. The fact that she decides she can't face her parents, knowing if she stays with John she will never be with them again, just left me feeling cold, and her conversation with her uncle was just odd. And while much of the storyline centers on the likeness of Pierce's situation to that of Persephone, a lot of time was spent trying to show just how they were different. I just couldn't get past the fact that John was making the decisions while withholding important information. So not okay...and Pierce comes off as immature rather than independent.

There are good things in Underworld; Cabot's writing, as usual, is fast and fluent and her secondary characters are entirely charming. Kayla, John's crew, and even the dove Hope all shine whenever they are involved, and Mr. Smith and his partner are very delightful. I just felt like I spent 300+ pages not really going very far and watching Pierce go backwards in her personality. What should be a love story is starting to feel like a control story, and I want Pierce to step up and take charge. This is not a bad book, but it is lacking in spirit and personality, in my opinion. Not sure if I'll be back for the final book or not.


What's Happening to My Summer Vacation?

This is me...being pulled ever closer to the start of school. Sigh.

Thanks, ICHC. 


Monday, July 09, 2012

My Black Dagger Brotherhood Fix

Lover Reborn is mainly Tohr's story: Our heartbroken Brother is having a hard time letting go of his beloved shellan Wellsie, who was killed by the Lessening Society a few books back. Normally that would be understandable and forgivable, but Tohr's inability to move on has trapped Wellsie and their young in the In Between, neither dead nor alive nor able to go on into the Fade. Resident Angel Lassiter accepts the mission to unite Tohr and No'One in order to both save Wellsie and redeem himself. But none of this goes as planned; Tohr likes No'One, but doesn't love her, and No'One still suffers from the rape that produced John Matthew's shellan, Xhex. Lots and lots of sex ensues, but Tohr resists his emotions. Come to think of it, there's more than one Lover doing some resistance work in Lover Reborn.

There are multiple stories going on in Lover Reborn besides the main focus of Tohr and No'One (hate that name, btw). We also have Xhex and John Matthew being hard-headed and stubborn, and we have Qhuinn still watching Blay from afar. There's also the stories of the BoB, with Xcor and Throe given attention and the Chosen Layla being pulled into the mix. Lots of action, lots of fighting, lots of misunderstanding.

Lover Reborn grabbed me early on when Tohr, suffering from his loss, takes Wellsie's mating gown to his bed, only to realize she'll never fill it again. Such a heartbreaking scene, one filled to the brim with emotion. I felt as though I wanted Wellsie back as much as Tohr did, and I wasn't certain that a romance with No'One was going to work. Still, Ward was able to show how sometimes there are different loves for the different stages of our lives, and Tohr was able to point out, quite rightly, that he wasn't the only damaged soul. Definitely real and gripping, and I bought it all. In fact, there wasn't a scene with Tohr that I wasn't emotionally involved in, even if I felt that No'One was a bit of a wash-out as far as personality goes. But she's so different from Wellsie that I can see how the relationship might work, and I think that's the beauty of Ward's world...people change, but they can become better.

The idea of being reborn is given much attention, and while this is ostensibly Tohr's tale, it's also Xhex and John Matthew's tale, and Layla's tale as well. I enjoyed the movement among the characters, and I am able to see how Ward is setting us up for future stories. While I missed the interaction among the Brothers, it definitely wasn't totally gone, and I understand that their stories can only be told once in full. And Lassiter? He's definitely moving towards becoming one of my all-time favorite characters. Where else are you going to find a cursing, reality-television addicted, drinking angel?

Lover Reborn wasn't perfect, but it certainly kept the pages turning as I dug into this engaging world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I made myself slow down so I could savor the stories; gotta get my fix until 2013, and this one was a big improvement in spirit and involvement over Lover Unleashed. If Tohr doesn't break your heart, you're not alive. Loved it.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Endure is the final book in Carrie Jones's pixie series, and it winds things up with a major bang. Zara and Co. are still fighting the evil pixies which are going to start the apocalypse, and they are in search of answers wherever they may be found. Betty, Zara's grandmother, has allowed her grief over the death of her best friend to keep her in weretiger form, more people are disappearing, and Nick is back from the dead, but is unable to deal with Zara's transformation into a pixie, which she only did for him. But what is Zara developing feelings for pixie king Astley? And another trip to Iceland? All right, let's see how it well it plays out.

Actually, this final book does a very good job of tying up the story lines, with Zara discovering her true strength and coming to terms with her feelings. While I've always been a Nick fan, I have to say he let me down with his all too (semi) human response to Zara's sacrifice, understandable as it was. The characters are all well developed, and Zara's learning to rely on herself is refreshing and well written. Unfortunately, my belief was suspended--even for a YA paranormal--when the entire town of Bedford became involved. It just seemed too unrealistic, even if it was a way of possibly defeating the evil pixies. I also felt a sense of deja vu when there was yet another trip to Iceland in search of a place which may or may not exist (even if I loved Hel herself). Impressive as the use of Norse mythology was, I felt like the story was getting away from Zara and her band of friends, and that was a bit of a letdown for me.

Overall, Endure was indeed a good read, and a fitting ending to the series, even with the problems I've stated. Ms. Jones has fashioned a fascinating look at a different sort of paranormal character, and the strong family ties only add to the reality. Definitely a recommended series!


RIP, Andy Griffith

Jeff and I were faithful fans of Andy Griffith, particularly during our college years. Behind Seinfeld, it is the television show we quote most around our house.

A few years ago, our church Sunday School class spent a summer watching episodes of The Andy Griffith show, using it to teach Bible themes. It was one of the most enjoyable, and educational, times I have ever spent in a church.

RIP, Andy. It's like losing a family member, but heaven is having a great reunion today.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Before I Wake

First, let me say I love this series by Rachel Vincent! It certainly has some of the most interesting, most flawed characters in YA fiction, and the storyline is developing well with lots of action and excitement. This entry is another good one, but there are a couple of issues that kept me from giving it the full 5 stars...nothing major, but still things that bugged me. But mostly Vincent's writing is growing and this series is going to be so hard to give up when the next (and final!) novel is out.

What I Loved: I LOVE Tod. He is the single best character, with his wit constantly shining and his utter, complete devotion to Kaylee a true heartwarming relationship. The way he tries to protect Kaylee, the way he works with her and values her, all make him probably one of my favorite YA characters ever. Also, Vincent handles their decision to go physical in an adult, responsible way that shows how deeply they care for one another. I also love that Kaylee's relationship with Nash isn't just resolved so quickly and that we can feel his pain. I love that her dad is still a dad, regardless of her dead status. And speaking of that issue, I love how Vincent is portraying Kaylee's abrupt adjustment into the land of the dead: it's a learning process, with both benefits and problems, all of which are overwhelming. Kaylee's a great character herself, but she is a conflicted one. I also like the central problem with Avari: he's found a way around the Netherworld Rules, and he's just pure evil, and right now, no one's sure how to deal with him. Great story telling amid all the fighting (both the relationship kind and the physical kind). I also like that hard decisions have to be made and there are consequences for those choices.

What Bugged Me: Surely someone, somewhere is going to notice all these deaths in a high school and in a community, most of which have some sort of tie to Kaylee. It's almost too much to believe, that the school is still open and operating with students and teachers dropping left and right. I know that shouldn't bug me, but it does. But what bugged me more was the idea that the group is so in peril that they must not go to school, must all sleep together and keep tabs on one another...but they go to the lake on an outing to celebrate Kaylee's the woods...and the couples break up into pairs and disappear on their own. There is no logic whatsoever in any of it, other than to set up the fight with Avari, and it just bugged me too much that the over-protective adults make this move. It was a big "Huh?" moment in an otherwise well written, smartly plotted book.

Final Impressions: Before I Wake is another really good novel in the Soul Screamers series, and Vincent knows how to keep you on the edge. She definitely has a handle on her characters' reasons and personalities, and I'm still not able to figure out how Kaylee and Co. will defeat Avari ultimately. Definitely a great read and I'm ready for the final book!