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Spring Reading ThingCallapidder Days is hosting the 2009 Spring Reading Thing. It sounds like fun, so I’m joining.

These are the books I will be reading between now and June 20th:

  1. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
  2. Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock
  3. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
  4. September Sisters by Jillian Canto
  5. My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath
  6. Gidget by Frederick Kohner

I know I could read much more than that and I might be adding to the list as I go on.

forestofhandsteethImagine living in a world surrounded by death. Isolated and behind a fence, the only thing separating you from the deep, vast forest where the Unconsecrated- the flesh easting zombie hordes–roam. This is the world of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The world Mary has been born into. The only world she knows, but dreams is not the only world there is. After her mother’s death and return, Mary realizes that her life is not her own. Who she is and everything she knows has been tightly controlled by the Sisterhood, the ruling religious order in her village. When Mary catches a glimpse of proof that there is life beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary is determined to find the answers she desperately needs. She must follow her own path, a path that leads deep into the forest.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a breathtaking novel of death and life, love and dreams. At once filled with treacherous secrets and life-giving truths. There’s violence and raw emotions, but there’s also heartbreaking, tender moments. This is so much more than a run of the mill zombie apocalypse novel. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the after. It’s what happens long after people stop fighting the walking dead and resign themselves to just surviving. This is a story of a people who cannot remember how the world was before. There is no struggle to maintain life as it was.To these people, there is no other life. The past, a life without the Unconsecrated, is just stories. Stories that Mary desperately wants to be real.

Mary is an incredibly strong heroine, but she is still believable. She is not strong to the point of being invincible. Her relationships are realistic, as are her emotions and reactions.

Aside from Mary, the most penetrating aspect of the novel for me is the role of religion, both positive and negative, in a society that has no reason to hope, surrounded by death, despair and decay. A society that knows what the afterlife looks like. On one hand, the Sisterhood gives a semblance of order, a reason for the chaos. Sister Tabitha, the head of the Sisterhood, tells Mary that the Unconsecrated are God’s punishments, penance for cheating death and God’s will. On the other hand, the oppressive religious influence further isolates the villagers, and in essence only creates more chaos, more despair, and sets them up for more tragedy. If the Unconsecrated are reminders of human sins of commission, then the horrific events that transpire later are reminders of the Sisterhood’s sins of omission. The secrets they kept came back to bite them, literally!

I can’t say I’m unhappy with the recent influx of zombie themed novels in YA literature. I find them a nice contrast to the glamourous portrayal of death in so many vampire novels. The Forest of Hands and Teeth shows the other side of death- the decay, the dirt, the violence, the sorrow. There is no beauty in this world. No beauty in hovering between true life and true death. The beauty is in surviving. The beauty is in loving. If vampire novels give you something to die for, then The Forest of Hands and Teeth gives you something to live for.

This is young adult literature at its best. Mature, intelligent, and appealing. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a look at a world where dreams are sometimes all you have and love can’t always win over death.

Rating: 5 unnaturally red vests out of 5.

Seven Tears into the SeaSeven years ago, Gwenn had a strange experience at the beach with a dark haired boy. He tells her:

“Beckon the sea, I’ll come to thee…
Shed seven tears, perchance seven years.”

It’s an experience shrouded in mystery and gossip and drives her family to move away from Gwenn’s beloved beach. Now, Gwenn has returned to Mirage Beach to help her Nana run the inn. But as Gwenn finds herself drawn more and more to the sea, she finds it impossible to forget the words the boy spoke. Have the boy’s words sealed her fate? What about the odd prophecy her Nana saw in her scrying mirror?

“The power which commands the waves will pull you back, […] Back to a reunion no mortal can imagine and no female can resist.”

Will Gwenn reunite with the boy from the beach? Gwenn must decide if destiny is unavoidable or if destiny can be a choice. Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley is a rich, mythical novel, seeped in Celtic lore.

I’ll start by saying if I had known what this was really about, I probably wouldn’t have read it. Too much to suspend disbelief over, I suppose.

Anyway, I did read it and it wasn’t bad by any means. The prose is taut and has an almost forboding sense about it. The characterization is fairly well done and the plot moves at a good pace. But like I said, just not my cup of tea.

If you like Celtic mythology and folklore, you might want to pick this up.

Rating: 3.5 buckets of raw fish out of 5.

shadowedsummerIn a small Louisiana town where nothing exciting has happened since the disappearance of Elijah years before they were even born, fourteen year old Ivy and her best friend Collette, bored with their lives in a boring town, dabble with magic and spirits. It’s all play until Ivy sees the real ghost of the missing boy, Elijah. Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell is a story of a girl haunted by much more than a ghost as she struggles to solve a mystery, navigate a stormy friendship and a first crush, and deal with her own coming-of-age.

While the young girl haunted by a ghost plot has been done before in many incarnations, Shadowed Summer is worth the read. Early on, it becomes apparent that it’s as much a story of a family, a town, secrets, and tragedies both small and large as it is a ghost story. That’s not to say the ghost story is superfluous or feels tacked on to ride the paranormal trend wave. Elijah and his haunting of Ivy is the catalyst that forces Ivy to reevaluate her friends, her family, and all that she has been told.

The setting, post-Katrina Louisiana, in a town named Ondine, where Ivy says people are “bred with God and superstition in [their] blood” is what really won me over. I don’t think this would have worked as well had it been set in suburban New England or amidst urban sprawl. This is an atmospheric novel. It’s very Southern-feeling, mossy and humid.

The characters are likable enough, though at times they seem a little younger than they actually are. Overall, Shadowed Summer read like a middle-grade novel, and I think it would be entirely appropriate for the older members of that audience.

Recommended.

Rating: 4 witch boards out of 5.

jumpedTold in three alternating perspectives, Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of one school day in the life of three very different girls at an inner city high school: Dominique, the tough basketball player determined to teach another classmate a lesson; Trina, the pretty and artistic girl unaware of what she’s in for once the final bell rings; and Leticia, the observer of it all from start to finish who must decide to take action and warn Trina, or just let it happen.

This novel shines. The prose is honest, and at times has almost a Slam poetry feel to it. But the real centerpiece of the novel is the characters. Jumped is almost a character study in a way. Each of the three girls are much more than they seem. The writing never stoops to stereotypes or caricatures.

For me, Leticia is the one who brings everything together. Her observations reign the other girl’s perspectives in and put small details in focus. At one point, Leticia sums up the crux of the novel, the reason Trina is getting jumped, a fact of life that Trina is not aware of, and Dominique follows without verbalizing:

“When you’re an outsider, you should know your situation. Know who you are when you step out. Know what you can and can’t do.”

However, Leticia’s observations are not meant to influence readers into judgments of the characters. Readers are really left to decide for themselves what to think of the characters and their actions.

Jumped is a gritty, compelling novel from start to finish. I’d consider this award-worthy.

Rating: 4.5 sketch books out of 5.

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
Published: March 1st 2009 by Amistad
Binding: Hardcover, 176 pages
ISBN: 0060760915
Reading Level: Young Adult

Do you find it ironic that I stopped believing in angels as soon as you died and became one?

Every once in a while a good sentimental book is something I crave. It’s not very often, and it’s usually only in short, small doses. I rarely have high expectations for these sorts of books, and try not to judge them as more than they are – brief escapes. So when I read J.Kaye’s review of Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler, which is a collection of 3 books which were once published separately, it seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I was pleasantly surprised to find more than just sappy sentimentalism and cliche teenage death tropes. There’s a bit of mystery and intrigue here, and just enough action and suspense to elevate this book beyond my initial meager expectations. Even the angel themes, which are usually quite hard for me to stomach, are well-done and not too overwrought.
In short, this is a nice way to spend an afternoon. Nothing too deep, but not too shallow either.

Rating: 3.5 glowing angel figurines out of 5.

Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
Published: December 16th 2008 by Simon Pulse
Binding: Paperback, 704 pages
ISBN: 1416978836
Reading Level: Young Adult

Must stop signing up for challenges!
The 9 Books for 09 Challenge is the last challenge I’ll be taking for the year.

I’ll be reading 9 books that have been wasting away in my TBR piles. The books will correspond to the following 9 categories:

  1. Long (longer than I normally read)- Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
  2. Free (a gift, from PBS, found in the gutter, etc.)
  3. Dusty (sitting on shelf for at least 3 years)
  4. Used (bought used)
  5. Letter (title has a letter in common with my name)
  6. Strange (something I normally would not read)
  7. Distance (setting or author birthplace more than 1000 mi. away)
  8. Alive or Not (live award winners / noms OR simply dead authors)
  9. Cover (it’s ok to judge a book by its cover; pretty OR ugly)

Challenge runs from December 27th, 2008 to December 27th, 2009.


Where else you can find me:

Books That Go Bump in the Night- Halloween and scary books for kids and teens. My other blog.


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