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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Flashback October 2010

I’m flashing back to reviews from years past. Here is what I was reviewing in October 2010.

The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan. My review: “The story of Alan, Nick, Mae, and Jamie starts not that long after the events of The Demon’s Lexicon. Demons, magicians, and battles, oh my. . . . This is terrific horror. The demons are chilling in their difference from humans, the magicians terrifying in their belief in their superiority. As with the first book, the risks to body, to sanity, to life are quite real. And, as with the first one, the quartet of teens deal with stress, danger, and risks with one-liners that make me both laugh out loud and want to hang out with them. Without, of course, the threat of doom and danger. You know what it’s like? Redford and Newman at their finest, in The Sting and Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.”

What We Left Behind in Jacksonville by Colleen Mondor. My review: “Bridget, the narrator, is on her way to the Jaycee Annual Haunted House with the rest of her friends. As the high school students giggle and flirt, as cool guy Jack has his hand on her knee, they laugh at haunted houses. Until Bridget says, “I lived in a haunted house.” Quiet descends as Bridget shares about the house her family lived in when she was three. Do not read this story at night, alone in your house.”

The Ring of Solomon: A Bartimaeus Novel by Jonathan Stroud. My review: “Jerusalem, 950 B.C.E. King Solomon (yes, that King Solomon) rules Israel with wisdom and strength. And a ring — a ring that gives him unbelievable powers. King Solomon controls Israel, including the magicians of his court. Magicians control djinni. One of those magicians has a djinni named Bartimaeus. . . . There’s no way you cannot like Bartimaeus, in part because he’s funny, sarcastic, and smart. Does Bartimaeus speak the truth? “Dissemblers as we sometimes are when conversing with humans, higher spirits almost always speak truth amongst themselves. The lower orders, sadly, are less civilized, foliots being variable, moody and prone to flights of fancy, while imps enjoy telling absolute whoppers.” An example of Bartimaeus’s behavior is, despite Solomon’s power, Bartimaeus sings bawdy songs about him and, at one point, takes the appearance of hippo that bears a startling resemblance to one of Solomon’s wives. . . . So, you have action, humor, great characters. You also have a continuation of a series, but set several thousands of years before the other series, so you do not have to have read the trilogy to understand this book. Be warned: once you read this book, you will want to read the entire trilogy.”

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. My review:Themis Academy is a boarding school that believes its students are so good that they never do anything wrong. No, really. They have an honor code, a student code! Themis students are so wonderful they always live up to the honor code! The students know better. A few years ago they started the Mockingbirds. It’s a secret society dedicated to addressing what happens when students don’t follow the rules and end up hurting other people. Alex wakes up naked in a strange boy’s bed. She takes the “walk of shame” back to her dorm room, confused, appalled. Somehow she had sex — twice — with this strange boy. Carver? Carter? Whatever. She lost her virginity to a stranger and doesn’t even remember it. She doesn’t remember his name. She doesn’t remember ANYTHING. If you’re too drunk to say “no”, is it rape? If you’re too drunk to say “yes,” is it rape?”

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland. My review: ” Louisa Cosgrove, 17, is supposed to be at the Woodvilles as a companion for their eldest daughter. Not exactly her choice, but in Victorian England she has to do what her older brother and mother say. The carriage stops and Louisa finds herself at Wildthorn and being called “Lucy Childs.” Her clothes are taken; when she insists she is Louisa, she is told “Don’t get excited. Otherwise we’ll have to calm you down, won’t we?” She is sitting, bewildered, in a huge room being served greasy soup as loud and strange voices surround her when she finally learns what Wildthorn is. “It’s an asylum. For the insane.” Flashbacks trace Louisa’s journey from a little girl who was more interested in how a doll was made than in playing with one to a young woman who wants to become a doctor like her father. Why is she at Wildthorn? Who put her there? And is there any hope of escape? Can you imagine a bigger nightmare than being somewhere you aren’t supposed to be, called by a name not your own? Trapped, with every moment of your life watched and dictated? While Wildthorn is the physical asylum, Louisa’s life outside was sometimes just as rigidly controlled by others. Society, including most of Louisa’s relatives, want her to be a perfect lady, concerned only with social visits, running a household, marrying and having children. Louisa fought that control, and, indulged by her father, studied science and dreamt of attending the London School of Medicine for Women. Louisa has to face the truth; but in facing the truth about why she ended up in Wildthorn she also has to realize the truth about her family members. Who she thought they were, who they really are.”

Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter. My review: “Life is never boring for Cammie Morgan, Gallagher Girl and spy-in-training. Winter vacation in London with her friend Bex turns into something more. No, really, something much more, even for Cammie. She is going to need all her skills, all her talent, and all her friends to figure out who to trust. . . . The Gallagher Girls — the girls themselves — continue to rock. How many books have a school were the students love school? Study because they want to? OK, they’re studying Covert Options BUT STILL. This is a book were learning is cool and exciting and matters.”

It’s a Book by Lane Smith. My review: “Three friends: a mouse, a jackass, a monkey. Jackass holds a laptop; monkey, a book. In dialogue, monkey tries to explain to jackass what a book is and how it is different from a laptop computer. Monkey patiently explains, and explains, that no, it doesn’t do what a computer does (blog, tweet, make noises) because “it’s a book.” Finally, mouse can take no more and says, “it’s a book, jackass.””

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. My review:In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen survived the brutal Arena and won the hearts of a nation. In Catching Fire, Katniss was thrown back into the Arena. In Mockingjay, Katniss wonders if she can ever truly be free of the Arena and the Games. . . . When it comes to violence and murder, whether it’s in the Arena or in a rebellion or in a government, is causing injury and death ever acceptable? This, ultimately, is the question Katniss struggles with, over and over, as well as dealing with the consequences of her actions (and inactions). She has caused the deaths of others. What does that make her? Does motivation change what you do? Does it matter if it’s self-defense, survival, war, revenge, or preventing something worse? . . . In Mockingjay, Collins shows that it’s not just reality shows that manipulate the truth they show, it’s also other shows including news shows and documentaries. Take it a step further and it’s not just what the camera shows, it’s what the viewer wants. Public Katniss is equally a creation of the citizens of Panem and what they want and need: a hero. As I read reviews of Mockingjay that were disappointed in Katniss and the resolution to her story, I wondered which Katniss the reader had in mind, Real Katniss or Public Katniss?”

Presenting . . . Tallulah by Tori Spelling and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. My review:I know, I know. A picture book by a celebrity author. But you know what? I LOVE Tori Spelling. From 90210 to Awake to Danger (based on a YA book by Joan Lowery Nixon) to Mother, May I Sleep With Danger to her reality shows with her husband, Dean.”

The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green. My review: “[Erin's Aunt Kate] has left Erin a Pink Crystal Ball. Shake it, ask a question, get an answer. Turns out? This Pink Crystal Ball can make wishes come true. Does the Pink Crystal Ball make wishes come true? The first “wish” — and remember, like Jeopardy, it has to be phrased like a question — is the silly type of question three half-bored teenagers would ask a child’s toy. “Does [hot senior] Spencer Ridgely think I’m smexy?” The answer is “consider your fate to be sealed.” Shortly after, Spencer Ridgely, who shouldn’t even know Erin exists, calls her “smexy.” Which, by the way, is smart plus sexy. . . . Erin (sensible, practical, boring) discovers that she believes that wishes come true, just be careful what you wish for. Free will remains, and wishes can be undone. Wishes made for other people have their own danger. The role of magic is so subtle, that readers could argue that their is no magic.”

13 Words by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Maira Kalman. My review: “Thirteen words. Bird, despondent, cake, dog…. Oh, just read the book. It’s Lemony Snicket, so of course it is funny.”

Jane: A modern retelling of Jane Eyre by April Lindner. My review: “Jane takes Jane Eyre and updates it; Jane Moore is a nanny for Nico Rathburn, a rock star. Having Mr. Rochester turned into a rock star is brilliant. Jane, as ever, sees herself as quiet, invisible, next to him and his rock star/ model/ famous friends. The two, of course, fall in love and then… Oh man, do I really have to have spoiler notices?”

Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty. My review:Moriarty’s books are about the students at wealthy Ashbury. The tone, spirit, and themes of each book differs; characters shift from main to supporting to absent from book to book; Ashbury remains the same. What also remains the same is the fresh, constantly changing ways to tell the story, using letters, emails, post-its, journal entries, school reports. Because each book is unique and stands alone, you don’t have to read all the other books. Also? Moriarty’s books are FUNNY. It’s a combination of the characters being funny, in their observations and thoughts and what they say, and how Moriarty tells the story. While funny, Moriarty’s stories are about serious subjects. The Ghosts of Ashbury High (while I read Dreaming of Amelia, I’ll use the US title to be less confusing) addresses an issue that lurked in the background of all the Ashbury books: the socioeconomic differences between the “haves” of Ashbury and the “have nots” of everyone else and the impact of privilege and wealth on the lives and choices of the teens.”

Wildwing by Emily Whitman. My review: “[In 1913,] Addy enters a locked room . . . , sees a strange contraption, enters and finds herself in the year 1240. In her present, she’s nothing, a servant. In the past, she can reinvent herself into a lady. Time travel! And romance! Addy is initially mistaken for a lady because her modern clothes, even though they are those of a servant, are better quality than those of people around her. After a brief visit to the past, she plots more carefully, takes a medieval costume from the local theatre company, and returns to the past to see if she can pull of being a real lady. Fifteen days, she tells herself. Stay fifteen days to see if she can pull it off. The plan works better than she even dreamed, because Addy stumbles upon a shipwreck and somehow is mistaken for a survivor of the shipwreck, Lady Matilda. In a comedy of errors, Addy assumes the identity of a lady, blames her lack of knowledge of local customs on a head injury, and begins to enjoy being waited on instead of waiting on.”

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. AC says:

    I’ve shared your Tori Spelling love since 90210, but then I fell in love all over again with her autobiographical works (which I listened to- Tori narrating). So funny! I love the scene where she describes trying to see on the ultrasound if her unborn child would have her “old” nose. :)

  2. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    AC, She narrates her own audiobooks? LOVE. Must find!

  3. Eliza says:

    I just finished reading the Ashbury High quartet and really loved them. What I loved the most were the friendships among the different set of girls. Their love and abiding loyalty for each other. You mess with one, the others will take you down. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good epistolary novel.

    Jacyln Moriarty’s writing is right up there with Melina Marchetta, one of my absolute favorite YA authors. What’s in the water in Australia that makes such great YA authors?! Just wish more would make their way to the US.

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