Thursday, September 29, 2011

Teen Ghost Story: Dark Souls by Paula Morris

There is nothing like a good ghost story!  Paula Morris has written a tale about Miranda, a young teenager who can see ghosts.  She travels to York, England with her brother Rob and her parents as a family getaway following a tragic car accident involving Rob and Miranda.  Rob has become painfully afraid of enclosed spaces after being trapped in a crushed car, while Miranda saw her friend's spirit walk away from the crash and disappear.  She has since kept the secret of seeing ghosts to herself, afraid others would think her odd.  

York is full of ghosts--from Roman soldiers, to victims of Elizabeth I's war against Catholics, to a night watchman continuing to do his duty every night .  Miranda sees and hears them all-and soon meets Nick, a mysterious young man who can see them, too.

What secret does Nick keep from Miranda?  Who is the ghost she sees every night in the attic across the street?  This is a teen read, and it's a fascinating mix of history, detective work, and the paranormal.  Loved it! 

The author also wrote Ruined, another great ghost story that takes place in New Orleans.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Children of Paranoia by Trevor Shane

I received a review copy of Children of Paranoia from Penguin, and have heard a lot of buzz about this novel.  It's certainly not my usual ghosty/garden/food book.  It's the exact opposite, which was a refreshing change from my usual reads!

Joe is a young man who kills people.  Why?  Because he's on the side of good, and they are evil.  His father and sister were both murdered by the "other side", and he became an assassin at age 18.  Who are the bad guys?  Well, both you and Joe don't really know.  You just know they're evil, and they spend their lives hunting and killing the people on the good side.  So Joe's side spend their lives taking out the other side.  Tit for Tat.  An endless battle that has gone on for centuries.

But as Joe travels the country, and accepts his assignments by phone from the mysterious Intelligence, he begins to question what exactly he's fighting for:  how did this begin, and who can answer his questions?  When he meets Maria, and falls in love, he begins a dangerous journey to be free of his life and live peacefully with Maria.  Can he do it?

This book is full of random killings between two factions.  The rest of the world has no idea this is going on--they're the innocents.  There are a few simple rules to follow:  Don't kill anyone under 18, no killing innocent bystanders, and if you have a child before you are 18, it is taken away from you and raised by the other side--yep--it becomes the 'enemy'.  

You take the journey along with Joe as he struggles to do what he has been taught is right, but all the while he is questioning just what is right.  Can Maria understand his life?  Can they find happiness and escape his birthright?  

This is a good, edge of your seat book.  It would make a pretty effective action movie.  And it makes you stop and think--how many things do you just accept, without questioning.  And once you do question, how would it change your view?  

Anyone who likes action/adventure, or a fiction novel that has elements of science fiction in it, or wants to read something that will keep you thinking long after you've finished the last page--pick this up.  I would say it's suitable for high school kids and up.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Books on the Floor Next to My Bed

*Sigh*.  Once again, too many good books surrounding me.  Here's what I've got on my Nook (courtesy of Netgalley), and what's sitting on the floor next to my bed.  My nightstand is too small to hold any books--and it would have to be the size of a small country to hold them all anyway! As you can see, it's another mixed bag.  I've been reading so many serious novels, I needed something fun, so I'm going to lighten things up with a book about a gardener and her garden, and a young reader book that combines archaeology and adventure.  Hope to get these all read in the next few weeks; some are a holdover from last week:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman

This is the kind of book that keeps you reading, even when you are creeped out and want to put it down.  Yep.  It's a horror novel that's disguised until it's too darn late to put it down. 

But, it's darn good writing, and a clever original story about Frank and Dora, a history professor from Chicago and his wife, who travel to the small town of Whitbrow, Georgia, to escape a scandal. Frank plans to  write a novel based on his great-grandfather,  a horribly cruel plantation owner who was murdered by his slaves after the Civil War.  

Those Across the River is atmospheric, creepy, and has that tale of innocent people getting caught up in something old and evil.  Frank and Dora soon find that something strange is in the woods across the river, and it's pretty angry when the townsfolk stop an old ritual of sending a pig out into the woods every month as a "sacrifice" to keep their town safe in troubled times.  This novel takes place during the Great Depression, and Frank's nightmares of fighting in World War I are part of the gloomy, steamy southern summer atmosphere.  I think placing this tale in a time when there was no easy way to communicate, where people still believed in old folk ways, and "don't go into the woods" still carried some weight around kids makes this story so good!

  Oh, the ending leaves you desperate to know what happens next.  But, alas, no sequel to this one.  The author leaves you to decide what comes after you've finished that last page.  A satisfying ending to a thrilling, edge of your seat story.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this for review. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quick Reviews From The Past Week

I'm up to 90 books, and I have so many good titles lined up to reach 100 I may just up my goal this year to 110.  Here are some quick reviews of three books I've read in the past week--all very different, but I liked each one of them:

Ashfall by Mike Mullin is a teen book that is quite good.  A volcano in Yellowstone has erupted, sending an ash cloud east across the country, creating chaos in Iowa.  A teen boy--Alex, is left home alone while his parents travel to Illinois to visit his uncle.  Alex is determined to get to his parents, and begins to travel from Cedar Falls to a small town in Illinois, not knowing if he will survive a trip that normally only takes a few hours, but will take him weeks to accomplish.  Meeting both kind and criminal people on his journey, Alex's story is tense, action-packed, and keeps you reading.  This was a great story, and perfect for teen boys who are looking for a novel with a male central character.  This is first in a series.  Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy.

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz was a fun read about a family of witches--the Beauchamps--who live in North Hampton, and have for hundreds of years been banned from practicing magic.  They've followed the rules, but now find themselves itching to help their fellow townsfolk find true love, get pregnant, and feel better when they're sick.  But something malignant is starting to show up--great pools of grey ick are killing the ocean life around North Hampton, people are falling ill with mysterious illnesses, and Joanna Beauchamp knows that "something wicked this way comes."  Can Freya, Ingrid, and Joanna save the town and figure out what's going on?  I really enjoyed this quick read.  It's a different take on witches--their history, and the ties to old myths and legends I found fascinating.  This is the first in a series, and I can't wait to read more!

And finally, a yummy book about cooking and France.  The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais tells the journey of one young Indian boy--Haji--from his early years hanging out at the family restaurant in Mumbai, to his rise as a famous chef in Paris.  But in between lies family tragedy, a relocation to a small town in France, and the battle to be accepted by the locals.  And then there is Madam Mallory--a renowned chef who runs an exclusive restaurant across the street from Haji's family home.  It is distaste at first sight for her--but oh, what happens between Madam Mallory and Haji is what makes this novel so wonderful.  For anyone who loves to read novels about food--read this one.  It makes you want to travel to France pronto!

So as you can see, I've been reading some very different novels.  I'll be posting a review for each of my last 10 novels--from 90 to 100 during the next few weeks as a countdown to reaching my goal.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wonderstruck: An Amazing Reading Experience

Brian Selznick does it again:  for an evening, I became a child again, rediscovering the wonder of a book full of amazing illustrations and a story that kept me glued to the pages.

In Wonderstruck, Brian tells the dual stories of Ben and Rose.  Ben's story is told in words, while Roses' story--set in 1927, is told in drawings and no words.  We soon find out why:  Rose is deaf.  Ben lives in a small town in Minnesota in 1977, mourning the death of his mother, and feeling lost living with his Aunt, Uncle, and cousins.  One night, he sneaks over to his old home, and discovers a book hidden by his mother called Wonderstruck.  It's about curiosity cabinets--which were the beginning of museums--and soon has Ben absorbed in figuring out the origin of this book, and what secrets his mother was hiding from him.  What happens next?!  

I can't tell you anymore.  Seriously.  It would give too much of the story away.  You can read this book in about an hour, since so much of Roses' story is told in full page black and white pencil drawings.  The two stories weave in and out of each other, until you reach the end and, sadly, finish the last page.  This is a wonderful book to read with your kids, or savor for  yourself.  If you haven't read Selznick's first book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, well, get thee to a bookstore!  It is just as wonderful as his second novel (and it won the Caldecott).  

Magical, emotional, full of wonder--this book will turn you back into a young child again, if just for awhile.  It reminded me of that sense I had as a child of the world being HUGE, and full of so many amazing things.  It's a sense of wonder that we lose as adults.  Thank you, Brian Selznick, for bringing that feeling back to this adult on a late summer night with a cool night breeze and the sounds of crickets flitting through my windows. A night where a person can be wonderstruck.   

This book will be available nationwide on September 13th.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

September Reads

My favorite time of the year is fast approaching--Fall.  Although with the steamy weather the past few days, it's hard to imagine a crisp Fall day.  When I think of Fall, I think of cool nights, hearty warm meals, and having more time to read.  

This may look ambitious, but all of these books are on my reading list for September.  It's a goofy mix, but that's the beauty of reading--you can travel anywhere at anytime, and read about anything.  So from an Indian boy who becomes a chef in Paris, to a creepy horror novel about a small town, to a young adult novel about friendship and adventure, here are some of the books I'll be gobbling up this month:

A futuristic novel about good vs evil

Creepy horror that reads like a thriller

Romance and mystery "Rebecca" style

Liesl's adventures with Po, a ghost

A volcano in Yellowstone blows, creating chaos

Food and Paris!

Talking Leaf Bookclub read