Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sarah Addison Allen's The Sugar Queen

Until recently, I have been reading mostly thrillers and mysteries.  By today's standards, some of the violence and gruesome scenes can effect the way I see the world and myself.  Dumb, I know.  But I'm addicted to fiction and sometimes I internalize too much.  To break the spell, I have to switch genre and get an attitude adjustment.

And I have fallen under a spell, by Sara Addison Allen. I have already read Garden Spells, her debut novel, and I loved it! I didn't see myself reading another of her novels, but a friend loaned it to me and I'm glad she did.

The Sugar Queen also takes place in North Carolina, where southern belles and the romance of The South still exist. Allen mixes together ideals of southern belles, magic, and romance together to weave a tale that is certain to lift your spirits.

Josey Cirrini, daughter of famed Italian Marco Cirrini and beautiful southern belle Margaret, is trapped in her life. Living in a small town, everyone remembers her as a child, and as daughter of Marco and Margaret Cirrini. Her mother wants to force her to be caretaker, punishing her for her existence. Josey wants forgiveness and permission to leave.

Feeling trapped in her life, Josey traps herself into her closet which is stashed with junk food and magazines. What she doesn't expect to find is hardened Della Lee, who has a past and a story to tell.

Combined with Della Lee's efforts and a new friendship with Chloe Finley, Josey finds herself and everything she's ever wanted.

Veronica Roth's Divergent

Did you like The Hunger Games? I think you'll like this one better!

Roth creates a world broken into five factions, based on how they believe democracy failed. If you live in Abnegation, then you believe that the leaders were selfish. If you live in Dauntless, then the leaders were cowards. If you live in Erudite, then you believe that citizens didn't seek enough knowledge. Candor is for those who felt lying led to our demise. Amity is for those who believe that the world isn't kind enough.

When a citizen turns sixteen, he is required to take a special aptitude test to help determine which faction he will live in. The results of the aptitude test aren't the only factors in making your decision.  But you have to choose wisely.  If you decide to transfer into another faction, then you abandon your family and your old faction, adopting the new motto "faction before blood."

Beatrice Prior is sixteen, and she will be taking the aptitude along with her brother.  Beatrice's results are inconclusive, and she will have to choose her faction based on how she feels and her obligations to her family.

I recently learned that this book is part of a trilogy, and I don't even care.  I devoured this novel and will wait patiently until May, when the next installment is released.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Suzanne Weyn's Distant Waves

Weyn incorporates fiction with historical fact in Distant Waves.

An intricate tale is woven around several characters, some real and some fiction.  The Taylor sisters are from Spirit Vale, which is based on Lily Dale in New York.  They find themselves on board Titanic, having seen several premonitions of the ship's demise.

The plot is more complicated than five sisters on board a ship destined to sink.  The author weaves in back story including scientific experiments of Nikola Tesla, who historically was not on board the ship. Weyn also managed to include several of the more famous passengers into her story.

Distant Waves is geared more toward girls between the ages of 11 and 13. Aside from having a limited demographic, I really love the way Weyn wrote this novel.  This is a wonderful opportunity to get kids into reading fiction, and brushing up on a history lesson or two.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Glen R Krisch's Where Darkness Dwells

Where Darkness Dwells weaves together the folks of Coal Hollow, an old and almost destitute mining town. The story begins when two boys disappear after going on "one last adventure." One of the boys, George, is brutally murdered and the the other boy, Jimmy, can't be found.

The town offers the explanation that an animal mangled George's body, but it doesn't sit well with Ellie (George's little sister) and Jacob (Jimmy's little brother). Meanwhile, a transient with a history is drawn to an abandoned house that once belonged to the Blankenships. Cooper can't explain why he's drawn to the house, and he isn't convinced that George was killed by an animal.
Krisch weaves the characters' truths with historical fiction and myth in his thriller. There are some parts of the story that I am hazy on, and that could just be that I just missed it. These are the questions that I have:
1. How is it that the entire Harris family could be killed by The Collectors, and it seems that the town didn't take notice?
2. What is the force that fuels The Underground? Is it demonic? Or perhaps just the evil and pure hatred that Cartwright, Scully, and the triplets possess?

I was sucked in after the first 20 pages or so, and I thought the novel is a good read.  I also downloaded his first novel, The Nightmare Within, and I seem to be abandoning my "hit 'em and quit 'em" philosophy toward books that aren't in a series.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

CJ Omololu's Dirty Little Secrets

Omololu's Dirty Little Secrets tells the story of Lucy Tompkins, who's mother is a hoarder. Lucy's mother wasn't always a hoarder until her father abandoned them.  Since then, Lucy's life has been surrounded by trash and her fear of outsiders seeing how they live.

Lucy holds on to the fact that she only has two more years to live with her mother.  Then she can move out like the rest of her siblings and have a normal life. Lucy finds her mother dead, in the trash-stuffed hallway, of natural causes.

Then Lucy's problems become compounded: she has to call the police, letting the entire neighborhood (and media) see how her mother has made them live, or she can find a way to cover it up. One could argue that Lucy is, in a sense, also a hoarder because she refuses to ask anyone for help or confide in someone.  She holds this secret with her, and lets it decay her psyche.

After finishing the novel, I am left with one question.  What would I do in Lucy's situation?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ellen Hopkin's Triangles- Not for kids

This is another author that I found via Twitter.  When I first downloaded the book, I thought something was wrong with the file or my Nook. There's not anything wrong with either.

The story is a narrative poem, and it makes a regular story unique. The story is told from the perspectives of three women: Holly, Andrea, and Marissa. They are middle aged, regular women that have issues such as infidelity, being a single parent, or having a child with a terminal illness.

What makes the story so unique is Hopkin's style.  The format is narrative poem, with limited dialogue. Throughout the plot, a character will make a reference to another topic or theme.  Then the author will pause on furthering the plot to further explore the mentioned topic or theme.  It sounds strange when I describe it, but it works. It's consistent through the entire novel, and it does help bring further understanding to the character's situation. The best I can do is provide an example, from pages 198-199:

"'Shane, playing David to some kid's Goliath. Only this time the Philistine conquered'.....
The Philistines
Of biblical fame were
too bold for their
er, kilts-eschewing
their lovely
Greek isle homes in a
to conquer Egypt. A
ambition, not to
irrational, iron or no

Aside from providing the reader extra insight, the rhythm and word choice is just beautiful.

Unless I get sucked into another series, I usually have a "hit 'em and quit 'em" mentality in regards to reading multiple texts by the same author. Ellen Hopkins, you are an exception and  I have added more of your work to my reading list....

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers Volume One

Vincent's Soul Screamers Volume One is a collection of three different stories from the same series.  The stories all focus around one character, Kaylee Cavanaugh.

My Soul to Lose
In the first installment, Kaylee is unaware of her supernatural heritage. She sums up the episodes of grief and the unyielding desire to scream to panic attacks.  When she has a panic attack in public, she later becomes admitted into a psychiatric ward.

My Soul to Take
The second installment picks up right where the first left off.  Kaylee has left the psychiatric ward, and is trying to hide her panic at all costs to avoid a one way ticket back to the psych ward. When young, beautiful girls start collapsing to their death, Kaylee learns that she is not crazy.  She is bean sidhe. Kaylee isn't screaming in panic, but wailing for the departed's soul.  To humans around her, the scream sounds like an earth-shattering screech. To the soul, Kaylee's song is comforting and beautiful.

My Soul to Save
The last installment of the volume happens to be my favorite. When Kaylee and her bean sidhe boyfriend are at a concert, the pop star falls dead.  And Kaylee didn't feel the need to sing for her.  Instead, she learns that people can sell their souls for worldly possessions.  When the person dies, Kaylee doesn't wail because that person has no soul.

I searched all over the interwebs for a song that would represent what I think Kaylee's soul song sounds like, but to no avail. I did, however, find a brief piano riff that makes me think of the Netherworld.

Kaylee's Journey to the Netherworld

The song is from Requiem for a Dream; I'm reminded of evil's intensity and huge sacrifices people make for small pleasures.

If you choose to read Vincent's Soul Screamers, I recommend that it is done in smaller increments.  I read all three stories back to back. I enjoyed all three stories, but reading them in close succession cause me to not fully absorb the story. I also got too comfortable with Vincent's writing style, and found myself predicting events of the plot instead of experiencing them with Kaylee.