Friday, May 15, 2015

The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman

Initially I liked discovering who the bad, greedy guy was, but when it kept changing rapidly right at the end of the book, I just thought it was silly and that it kind of ruined an otherwise nicely creepy story for me.

Are there truly fairies, water nixies and other magical creatures?  Are witches real, do they really wield power?  Some folks believe and some do not.

Five of the King's men rushed through the village of Nags End on their way to Beggars Drift in search of something and never return.  Later they were found dead, one all torn up.  Believers suspected something evil.  Others just a big wolf.  

But something surely was unleashed up there and folks keep dying, some all torn up, some neatly drained of all their blood.  It was thought that the arrival of Fiona, a relative of Rowan Rose might have been the beginning.

Rowan's best friend Tom falls madly in love with Fiona just before she too is killed but no one ever really suspects him.  There is an eerie funeral at which Fiona has been placed on display in a glass casket when town's folk believe bodies fouled by evil should be burned not buried.

A royal relative of the king arrives with a young princess and all stay with Rowan's family. They supposedly looking into the deaths of the five soldiers - their real purpose is much more sinister.

Rowan and Tom's brother Jude begin to investigate and work out what is happening at Nags end and how to stop it.  Tom, though he has asked Rowan to marry him with Fiona dead, does not love Rowan and is grieving and useless in the pursuit for the truth. 

Anyone who likes to read stories filled with witches, fairies, and other such beings should like this just fine.  They might not even mind the ending.  JDW 5/15/15

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Down

Connor's mom is ill and treatments are failing.  His father lives across the ocean in America with a new family.  His grandmother is nearby but not accustomed to messy boys.  He has a best friend and is bullied by a group of boys at school. Many nights when he tries to sleep, a monster appears in the shape of the tree outside his window.  It appears to be real.  It insists that Connor called it and it would go away once Connor understood why it was called.  For Connor things get worse and worse.  He does some things like trash his grandma's house that normally he would not do.  Folks treat him almost he is invisible, letting him get by with anything like not doing his homework.  He wants normal back but it will be a while before that happens.  As Connor faces all the feelings he has about what has been tragically happening in his life, he and readers understand the reason the monster exists.  And it is heart wrenching and it will make very many folks cry.  One of the truest, saddest stories ever.  JDW5/1//15

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Don't Stay Up Late - R.L. Stine

Lisa and her parents moved to Shadyside back in February, and it took her a little while to make some friends and have a boyfriend.  On the night of April 12th her parents thought she was staying in her room, but Lisa snuck out to be with her friends.  She is hanging out with Nate, Saralynn, and Isaac at the local burger place when Lisa's father shows up there.  Lisa forgets her phone, and tells her dad to turn around when their car is struck.  She see her dog run out of the car before losing consciousness.  In the hospital she has hallucinations of her father in the bed next to her.  Her mother tells her he didn't make it.  After being home from the hospital for a week she is still having nightmares of her father and the car accident.  Nate is allowed to come over the following week.  While he is there someone comes claiming they have found her dog.  Lisa tells the guy it's not her dog, and keeps hoping Monty will come home.  Later that night she hears howls outside and sees a tall figure running through the trees.  She goes outside to investigate and thinks she is dreaming.  Her mom finds her in the woods, and Lisa is still confused about the creature she thinks she saw.  The next day she heads over to Nate's before her appointment with Dr. Shein.  Her friends are shooting Saralynn's horror movie for film class, and the costume of the demon nearly scares Lisa to death.  She leaves and heads to her appointment.  Dr. Shein recommends Lisa go back to school and have something else to occupy her mind.  Lisa used to babysit her cousin and Dr. Shein knows of someone looking for a babysitter for their eight year old boy.  The thing is the woman and her son live on Fear Street.  Her friends try and get her to understand the curse of Fear Street is real and she shouldn't go there.  Nate takes her over to meet Brenda Hart and her son Harry.  After Brenda explains what she wants Lisa to do and Lisa meets Harry she accepts the job.  There is one warning from Brenda, don't ever let Harry stay up late.  Lisa starts the next day and everything is going fine.  After Harry is put to bed she see a shadow figure darting across the landing.  She goes to check on Harry, but he isn't in his bed.  She sees what looks like a demon from a horror movie jumping out the bedroom window.  She finds Harry safe but scared in the coat closet. She doesn't say anything to Brenda because she might think Lisa is crazy, and Lisa does need the money.  She tells her mom and Nate about the intruder, but both of them think it's a figment of her imagination. The next day she tells Dr. Shein about the incident.  She thinks Lisa did see something, but it could be from the impact her brain had from the accident.  Friday night they all go and see Isaac's band play.  While at the club Nate's former girlfriend Summer tells her that they have to talk about Nate.  Nate thinks nothing of it, but something is bugging Lisa about the encounter.  The following Monday while she is babysitting, Summer calls her phone.  She lets it go to voice mail, and then hears a noise in the kitchen.  It turns out to be Nate who came in through the back door when she didn't answer the doorbell.  He was checking to see if she was ok.  He leaves, and Lisa hears another noise.  She sees the demon creature at the bottom of the stairs.  She tries to ask it what it wants, but it hisses and spits at her.  It runs out the back door, when she hears a scream for help.  Lisa looks outside and doesn't see anyone.  Brenda comes home only to find Harry still awake.  He was pretending to sleep so he could stay up late.  Just as Lisa is ready to tell Brenda about the intruder, Nate comes to pick her up.  As she gets into the car something catches her eye across the street.  They find the body of Summer clawed to pieces.

I really enjoyed this book, as I have all of the Fear Street novels over the years.  It felt like I was in a horror movie while reading this book.  I really liked the twist at the end.  If memory serves me right I don't think it's been done in a Fear Street novel before this one.  I can't wait for more tales from Fear Street. 

T.B.
5/12/15

Monday, May 11, 2015

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Cady loves to spend summers with her family on their private island with her two cousins and their "adopted" friend Gat. The summer they all turned fifteen was particularly memorable as that was the summer she fell in love with Gat. At the same time, however, it was also the summer of a traumatic accident that stole a number of her memories from that year. After a year of dealing with her amnesia, Cady and her family are back on the island. She's looking forward to reuniting with her best friend because together they make up the "Liars." But things are obviously different as the family home has been torn down and rebuilt, her Liars insist upon not having anything to do with the family that isn't quite the same as it had been, and nobody tells her what happened on the night she lost her accident. As she slowly remembers what happened the year she was fifteen, she recalls a family that constantly bickered, a family darkened with greed and prejudice, a family that tore each other apart. If only Cady could remember what happened to change everything.

It took me a while to get into this novel. It is a little disjointed in the writing. Come the start of the summer seventeen, it switches between the current summer and the one when they were fifteen and sometimes the transitions are not that clear. She throws in these fairy tales that she's rewritten. They don't necessarily add to the story, but through them you can see a reflection of her own story, which is interesting, especially later on when she starts to figure things out. The last one hundred or so pages are the most gripping. It's at that point that the clues to the past become clearer and the reader along with Cady start to figure out what's going on - then and now. I know for me I got an inkling of the truth and desperately wanted to finish just to see if I was right. The payoff is worth it. Come the last half of the novel, the characters become clearer - especially the grandfather and aunts as they fight for power and how the children don't want any part of it. It comes to a point that you can almost sympathize with Cady and her grand scheme - however twisted it may be. The novel builds nicely to the big reveal, once you get past the first hundred pages, although I disagree with the book flap that says it is full of suspense. While there is the mystery of what happened to Cady, it's not edge-of-your-seat like I imagine suspense to be.

Although it took me time to get invested in this novel, I was glad that I stuck with it to the end. 
MMK

Monday, May 04, 2015

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner

This mystery is set in the south.  We know this by the dialect spoken by main character Billy Zeets.
The dialect slows the story down.  Without it this could be an ALA quick pick.  Billy prefers wandering around late at night to school.  He's had a few run ins with the law as a result, but nothing major.  His mother passed a couple of years earlier.  His father was a house painter and was injured so is on disability.  His sister is not especially school or work oriented.  She has a boyfriend, not known to have a good reputation.  It looks as if the family will lose the house.  Billy starts working anyway he can to get enough to save the house, an impossible task.  So, he is mowing yards, helping with local deliveries, doing other odd jobs.  While he is working local boys begin disappearing.  One turns up dead as two more go missing.  At school Billy was tormented constantly, now one of his tormentors has gone missing.  Billy did not really intend to investigate the disappearances even though the reward money would bail the family out.  He just was out and about so much he began to put together things he saw, ask a few questions, then in a brave if fool hardy move checks out his theory and gets taken himself.  The story resolves very satisfactorily.  I enjoyed it.
jdw 5.4.15

Disgruntled by Asali Solomon

Not since I read Tyrell by Coe Booth have I read a literate novel that I could hand to intelligent teen readers with diverse backgrounds.  Kenya's father wants the family to celebrate Kwanzaa, not Christmas.  Kenya's mother is college educated and hopes Kenya will be as well.  But, father is a bit of a hot head and gets in legal trouble, does time, abandons mom in favor of a different woman, charming Cindalou, leaves mom struggling til she meets Teddy Jaffrey and settles in with him.  Kenya's father cannot  support Cindalou and their child so they move in with an artist/rich lady and let her support them.  He has a few kids along the way, does not let Kenya know til all of a sudden he wants her to live with the group.  Since Teddy Jaffrey has proven to be a bad choice for Kenya's mom she joins the group, finds them unacceptable, discovers Teddy has run off with her college fund and pretty much everything else her mom has.  That leaves Kenya and mom without home, college promise, without much of anything except each other.  For a while, Kenya connected with an old classmate who proves to be into drug trafficking and she lands in jail briefly.  Anyway pretty much everything goes somewhat wrong for Kenya on the way to adulthood and she takes it all in stride with humor, grace and intelligence.  kenya is not of a culture that has ever had it easy and so it is that she does not either, despite moments such as attending private girl's school for a couple years where she is honor roll and only minority and getting accepted in a prestigious college.  Kenya is a good kid, she is going to be ok, at least I think so.
jdw5.4/15

Friday, May 01, 2015

Superman, Earth one, VOL. 3

With lovely art and colors we get to see the inside of Superman's life just as he began his superhero days. With people and himself still getting used to who and what he is there are people that fear him and want him gone.

A newcomer from his same birth planet comes to Earth and makes a deal with those who fear superman in order to get rid of him. Little did this same people know that the tables will be turn on them as soon as the super hero perish.

Managing to turn everyone against him, superman is all alone to battle this other superhuman on his own. Will he make it? Or will this be the end of our hero from Krypton?

Loaded with action in each panel this is an issue you must read after you finish the first two volumes, can't wait to read the next one!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos

Sometimes you need to step away from yourself to figure out who you are and what matters. Dark Dude explores that journey for one teen.

Rico is a young Latino boy growing up in 1960s Harlem. The problem is that he looks like a white boy, which leaves him torn in his identity since he's not white, but the Latinos don't count him as one of them either. When his struggles in school lead his parents to threaten military school, Rico makes a drastic decision to run away with his best friend who nearly died in a horrible accident while on drug. Looking for a fresh start, they head to Wisconsin to stay with an old buddy of Rico's. While Rico and his friend start to find their places in the world, Rico discovers that you can't escape all of your problems.

Although this novel takes place in the '60s, it is a timeless story about identity and family. Aside from mentions of hippies and full-service gas stations, it's easy to imagine this story happening now. The target audience definitely feels male, but the message is for anyone. It speaks of the people of the world and how even the most picturesque place will have its problems. It talks of overcoming your demons and finding your place. And it talks about family and the undeniable draw they have on your life.

This book has the potential to speak to a number of impressionable teens as they fight to figure out where they fit in their cultures, family and the world in general. It looks like a long book and that might deter some readers, but it is easy to get through and worth the time.
MMK