Liesl remembers when she used to go into the woods as a child and play with Der Erlkönig [the Goblin King]. She found it strange that he kept asking for her hand in marriage since she was only a child, but he persisted. As she grew older, she stopped traveling so often into the woods, but she still heard tales of the Der Erlkönig — especially from her grandmother, Constanze, who urged Liesl to respect the “old laws” so that she could keep herself safe as the Der Erlkönig searched for his eternal bride. Though Leisl was primarily occupied with helping to run her family’s inn, she preferred to spend her spare time composing and playing music with her brother, Josef. She didn’t give much thought to Der Erlkönig and his search for an eternal bride, but then her sister, Käthe, was kidnapped by goblins. Suddenly, Leisl’s entire world was turned upside down — because Der Erlkönig had not only taken her sister away, but he had also clouded the minds of everyone around her.
As she struggled to get out of the house and search for her missing sister, the people around her, who didn’t know who this “Käthe” was, seemed to think Leisl had a mental breakdown. Only Constanze could see through this illusion, but her family thought of *her* as an old woman who had lost her own grip on reality long ago. Fortunately, she conspired to sneak Leisl out of the house so that she could find Der Erlkönig and negotiate for her sister’s safe return. Though this book was set at the turn of the 19th century and Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest was set in modern times, it somehow made me think of that story. (Maybe it’s because of the forest setting? Don’t ask. I have no idea how my mind works!) All I know is that I recommend fans of Black’s work to check this out when it’s released in February.
Anna Morgan is able to communicate with the dead. Or, to be more accurate, the dead are able to communicate with Anna Morgan. This communication doesn’t require fancy summoning rituals like a séance or anything; the spirits of the dead can be found nearly everywhere and many of them compete for her attention on a regular basis. Why? Because they are hoping she will be able to help them complete some final task before they move on. These mental hitchhikers have been accosting Anna since she was a small child. In fact, when she was only a toddler, Anna was abandoned in a food court with a note — “This child is possessed.” — pinned to her clothing. Anna has spent most of her life being shuffled between foster homes and psychiatric institutions because people just don’t know what to make of her. But, luckily, she has found two people she can count on — her best friend, Deo, and her therapist, Dr. Kelsey. Deo is the closest thing Anna has to family, and the two of them look out for one another no matter what. Dr. Kelsey, on the other hand, has helped Anna to deal with her gift and to erect mental walls to contain or keep out spirits as necessary. Talk about an invaluable skill!
Occasionally, Anna lets down her guard to help a spirit in need and Molly is one such case. Anna doesn’t know the entire story, but she knows that Molly was a murder victim who wants Anna’s help bringing her killer to justice. First, though, they need to get in touch with Molly’s grandfather and convince him that Anna is not just a scam artist looking for a payday. Since he has contacts in law enforcement, he is the best possible person to contact… but he is also very skeptical, so Anna has her work cut out for her. This book is a wild ride with plenty of action and mystery throughout, and it even has a dash of conspiracy theories thrown into the mix. With some fairly graphic descriptions of violence, though, I feel compelled to forewarn anyone who might be squeamish. If you enjoy murder mysteries like The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, though, you should definitely check this one out.
Elle Wittimer is a die-hard Starfield fan. It only makes sense, since her father was so obsessed with the single-season cult classic. (Think Firefly.) He was such an über geek, in fact, that he was one of the founders of the geek convention known as ExcelsiCon. Elle has kept in touch with the fandom online and even writes a Starfield blog, under the pseudonym Rebelgunner, but she hasn’t been back to the con since her father died. Now that Starfield is getting a reboot as a major motion picture, though, she has a very good reason to attend — the winner of the cosplay will win tickets to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball (a dream of her father’s) and a meet-and-greet with the actor who plays Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. It’s just too bad the guy they picked to be Carmindor is the annoying teen “heartthrob” Darien Freeman…
Darien Freeman is an über geek in his own right, but no one really knows it. When he was younger, he used to live for Starfield and events like ExcelsiCon… It was always his dream to play Carmindor. But, he feels like a fake because he is seriously lacking in geeky “street-cred” now that he is so well-known for role on a popular teen show called Seaside Cove. It would have been hard enough for anyone to step into that role after David Singh’s amazing portrayal, but the very vocal lack of confidence of the Starfield fans has Darien feeling even more rattled. So much so that he doesn’t even want to make his appearance at ExcelsiCon. If only the number he found to get in touch with the person responsible for running ExcelsiCon wasn’t wrong, he might have been able to talk his way out of attending. At the very least, though, he has “met” a pretty cool girl who seems to love Starfield as much as he does. And, as long as she doesn’t know who is really texting her, he is free to just be himself. (Kinda ironic, right?!?)
This modern adaptation of the Cinderella story is simply amazing. With a falling-in-love via text homage to You’ve Got Mail, and a true understanding of geek culture reminiscent of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, it’s a #mustread for hopeless romantic geeks like myself. Aside from the story, by the way, I think I am seriously fangirling over Ashley Poston. I already loved her for creating this story, but her acknowledgements hit me right in the feels:
Never give up on your dreams, and never let anyone tell you that what you love is inconsequential or useless or a waste of time. Because if you love it? If that OTP or children’s card game or abridged series or YA book or animated series makes you happy? That is never a waste of time. Because in the end we’re all just a bunch of weirdos standing in front of other weirdos, asking for their username.
Hawthorn Creely is a bit of an outsider. She doesn’t really have a lot of friends, and most people consider her to be a bit strange. Her older brother, Rush, though, is a part of the popular crowd and even used to date the seemingly-perfect Lizzie Lovett. When Lizzie disappears, nevertheless, it is Hawthorne who becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened. How obsessed? Well… She kinda decides to go and apply for a job at the diner where Lizzie worked — they *obviously* have an opening! — and to try and get close to Lizzie’s boyfriend, whom many people suspect of foul play. After all, her boyfriend was the last person to see her when they went camping together. Maybe if she spends enough time around the same people and places as Lizzie, she will be able to uncover some clue everyone else is missing. The thing is, though, Hawthorn has a completely crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie… I’m talking, I think she needs some serious mental help. But she is utterly convinced that she is right and that by spending enough time living like Lizzie, she will be able to prove that she is right. If you like mysteries and enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, you should get this book when it comes out. [It is slated for a January 3, 2017, publication.]
The O’Sullivan brothers lived alone and did their best to get by, but it was tough having a dead father and an absentee mom (she took off with an orthodontist who didn’t seem to keen on having teen-aged step-sons). Sean had to put his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold to take care of his younger brother Finn; he worked as an EMT instead. Finn was an awkward boy whom the townspeople all seemed to talk/worry about, and Sean’s resentment was fairly evident. Then, one day, Finn found a girl in their barn. Roza was badly hurt, but she refused to go to the hospital, so Sean took her inside their house and did his best to mend her injuries. They decided to give Roza the keys to the unused apartment in the back of their house, and her presence seemed to help all three of them thrive… until the day Roza disappeared from Bone Gap.
Sean was heart-broken and Finn was devastated because he largely blamed himself. He swore that there was a man who took Roza away, but he couldn’t really describe the man other than the strange way he moved through the cornfields. He felt that if he could just do a better job at describing the man, he could save her. People in town had always called Finn names like “space man” because of he always seemed to lack focus and didn’t really look people in the eye. He also seemed to have a hard time recognizing people, though his vision was technically fine. The only person Finn seemed to get along with was a girl named Petey, whom most of the townspeople teased for being “ugly.” Petey believed Finn when he said that a man took Roza away, and she was determined to help him solve the mystery, but she was so self-conscious she couldn’t help but wonder if Finn was just pretending to like her.
I’m gonna be perfectly honest and admit that I actually had to start listening to this audiobook over again because I was about half way through and all sorts of confused. The book changes perspectives between Finn and Roza — as he looks for her and she deals with having been taken — and also goes back in time a bit, at times, to explain how everything came to be. I mean, I was doing chores like mowing the lawn and folding laundry, so it’s not like I was focused on something terribly exciting that took my attention away… But it was confusing enough that I really couldn’t go on without starting over. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I just figured it was worth mentioning in case any of y’all start to read/listen to this book and end up feeling confused, too. It was totally worth starting over again, in my opinion, so I would recommend doing the same if you also feel lost. Now that I “got” it, it was pretty awesome. If you like books with a touch of magical realism, like Belzhar, you should check this one out.
Hamster is ACTIVE
Hummingbird is HOVERING
Hammerhead is CRUISING
Hanniganimal is UP!
This is the way the story opens, and the method Mel Hannigan uses to track her bipolar disorder. The hamster represents her mind/thinking, the hummingbird represents her energy level, the hammerhead represents her physical health, and the Hanniganimal is how they all come together to form “The Hannigan Animal” (aka Mel). As someone who is only mildly familiar with bipolar disorder and who hasn’t experienced it herself, I thought I would find it difficult to insinuate myself into the mind of a character who was experiencing constant and vast swings between mania and depression. Though Mel’s experiences with Bipolar Disorder were different than my own mental health issues with “Pure O” OCD, though, these analogies helped me to relate better than I expected.
I truly appreciate that more authors are writing books like this to provide readers with a healthy dose of information that contributes to compassion and empathy toward people suffering from mental health disorders. We can’t #EndTheStigma if no one will talk about it! Even better, I like the fact that this book did so without feeling clunky or didactic. One of my favorite characters in this story is Dr. Jordan — a resident at the nursing home at which Mel works (who was a therapist, but is not *her* therapist). He tells it like it is, but he is gentle and diplomatic enough that Mel doesn’t completely shut him out when she is vacillating between moods. This isn’t just a book about Bipolar Disorder, though. It’s also a book about navigating life, love, and friendship through the tumult that is adolescence. After reading and loving both this book and Not If I See You First, I can’t wait to see what will be next from Eric Lindstrom. (I may have to wait a while, though, since this book is not even due for publication until February 2017…)