The first Justine Larbalestier book I read was Liar, and I recall being very frustrated with the *completely* unreliable narrator. I just wanted to know what had really happened. And I was a little worried that might happen again — but it turns out that, if anything, I wish I could go back to NOT knowing what I learned of Che and Rosa’s story! Why? Well, to be entirely honest, I’m not so comfortable reading about a teenager (Che) whose little sister (Rosa) is a literal psychopath — especially one who can hide in plain sight because she’s a cute little girl who reminds people of Shirley Temple. Why? Well, with my own son closing in on his own teen years and an adorable daughter who is approaching her 7th birthday, this felt a little too close to home. Granted, my daughter isn’t a psychopath… but Rosa’s parents didn’t think SHE was a psychopath either!
It’s tough enough for parents to hear the occasional “I hate you” as kids struggle to gain autonomy, but it was crazy hard to read about a cute little girl who was only a few years older than my daughter and had absolutely NO problem stealing, lying, hurting, or even killing. With no empathy or conscience to guide her, Rosa literally relied on Che’s guidance to keep herself out of trouble (which was the only reason she bothered to behave and/or to try to be normal). It was particularly heartbreaking to see how difficult it was for Che to keep Rosa in line because everyone else (even his parents) thought he was overreacting when, in fact, he was the only one who saw through her manipulative facade. (/shudder) Yeah… I think I’d like to stick to stories about adult psychopaths for a while, thankyouverymuch! If you enjoy thrillers and you think you’re brave enough to read about an adorable little psychopath, though, I highly recommend this book.
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.
Hopefully you aren’t too terribly disappointed in my lack of activity over the past couple of weeks, but I’ve been crazy busy… I have several books that I have finished and need to review, but I thought it was slightly more important to (1) prepare for/participate in the 2016 NYLA Annual Conference and Trade Show, (2) spend some extra time with my kids immediately before and after the conference, and (3) update my blog with a new new bio and the sweet new header my hubby created for me! (Do you love it or what?!?) I figured it would be a good idea to update everything since a lot has changed in the last year. Who knew that being a “mostly-stay-at-home-mom” would make me so darn busy?!? I hope to sign on by the end of the week to actually review a book, but please forgive me if I just can’t fit it in.
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.
Abilene Tucker’s father, Gideon, sent her to live with an old friend for the summer, while he worked on the railroad. While she understood that life on the railroad was not suitable for a “young lady,” she knew she would miss her father terribly. Upon arrival, she was further disappointed to find that the town of Manifest was so dull. After growing up hearing so many stories about her father’s time in Manifest, she had expected it to be a grander and more exciting place. When Abilene found a hidden cigar box full of mementos, though, she found some of the adventure she had been hoping for. After all, there were even a few letters in the box that referenced a spy called “the Rattler.” When Abilene shared the letters with her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, they decided to work together to figure out who had been the Rattler… and then they received an anonymous note telling them to “Leave Well Enough Alone.” Yeah. Whoever wrote that note certainly didn’t understand that the surest way to get tween girls to work hard at solving a mystery was to basically forbid them to do so!
I liked the way Vanderpool wove together the stories of Abilene and her friends with the boys, Ned and Jinx, to whom the mementos in the box had belonged. It was very clever to reveal the past through both newspaper articles and “readings” of the mementos by the diviner, Miss Sadie. Not only did Miss Sadie’s storytelling help to provide details about Ned and Jinx that the girls could never have pieced together on their own, but it added a further layer of mystique as Abilene tried to figure out if Miss Sadie was truly “reading” the items or simply making up a story. I found it a bit painful to watch Abilene struggling to find any hint of Gideon’s existence in both Manifest and the stories Miss Sadie told, I liked the fact that readers are able to look back at the end of the story to see how the various story threads all truly came together. People who enjoy learning about the early 20th century will love the rich, historically accurate details. (Abilene came to Manifest in the 1930s and the stories of Ned and Jinx were from 1917-1918.)