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

Flashback December 2010

I’m flashing back to reviews from years past. Here is what I was reviewing in December 2010. You can see a lot of Morris and Nonfiction finalists!

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride. From my review: “Sam is your typical slacker – college drop out, working at a fast food restaurant to pay the bills for his tiny apartment, hanging out with his friends. Until the day he accidentally breaks the headlight on a Mercedes while playing potato hockey with his best friends, Ramon and Brooke. The car owner goes from angry at the damage to downright scary as he asks Sam who gave him permission to live in Seattle and why he hasn’t consulted the Council. With that chance encounter, Sam starts finding out secrets — secrets he didn’t know about, secrets he didn’t want to know about. Sam thought Seattle and his world was normal. Turns out, it’s full of supernatural beings including necromancers. Turns out, Sam is one of those beings — he’s a necromancer. As in talking to and raising the dead.”

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel. From my review: “If you were me, “biography of Janis Joplin” would be all you need to know to pick up this book. Angel tells about Joplin’s life, from her childhood and teenage years in the 1950s in Port Arthur, Texas, to the early 1960s as she began singing, leaving Texas for California and New York, becoming the singer for Big Brother & the Holding Company in 1967. Three short years later, Joplin was dead from an overdose, leaving behind such a huge body of songs that I was surprised at just how short her professional singing career was. . . . What a shame that Joplin died so young; how unfair, because many others who did what she did were lucky enough to survive the rock and roll lifestyle.”

Ishmael (Star Trek N0. 23) by Barbara Hambly. From my review: “Spock goes back in time. To Seattle. In the late nineteenth century. And meets three brothers, Jason, Jeremy, and Joshua Bolt. . . . YES. David Soul! Bobby Sherman! Here Come The Brides, a TV show that ran from 1968 to 1970. And yes, some of you may have noticed that Spock’s father is there also. It is an actually published honest to goodness real book that is a crossover between a science fiction show and a historical show, both short lived and both from fifteen years before this book was published! Though, based on my own childhood TV viewing, in the early 1980s Here Come The Brides was being shown on afternoon TV.”

Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw. From my review: “As the book explains, this isn’t the Indiana Jones version of archaeology; it is the scientific version, of analysis, of tests, of careful study. It does so by examining four different hominin discoveries, organizing it on a timeline of the oldest (Turkana Boy, 1.6 million years) to the Iceman (5,300 years). The discoveries themselves took place at different times, in different locations, and each was significant or unique. Disclaimer: I find the subject matter of this book fascinating. Learning about the past, discovering what people ate, burial practices, all from bones? How amazing is that? The problem is, I have to be careful when I review or analyze because when I say “great book” is it a great book because of the topic matter or because of the writing.”

The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston. From my review (which as I was reading, and remembering this book, I began crying, because The Freak Observer is that good): “Loa Lindgren has had a year of heartbreak and loss. Her younger sister died; one friend left town, another was killed in an accident. Her family is shattered first by the loss of a beloved child and next by the economic stress of job loss. . . . At first, Loa Lindgren’s life seems harsh and brutal. “I have a little yellow green blush of bruise under my jaw. . . . I could raise my hand and tell the whole class what I learned about pressure and force when my dad clobbered me.” Ah, the reader thinks as the pages turn, this will be a book about an abusive family. The reader would be wrong. Loa’s younger sister Asta died the year before from Rett Syndrome, a disorder where for the first eighteen months of a child’s life everything seems fine and then the child stagnates and regresses. For years, her parents took care of their daughter. Woolston paints a picture of a loving family despite the stress, a working class family where the father works hard and comes home at night and reads aloud to his family and his dying daughter. He names his daughter after the names in books he reads: Asta Sollilja. (Yes, I am the nerd who researched what book her father was reading….) . . . Loa’s father is not a violent man, he is a man moved to violence because he watched a beloved child die, he lost his job and sees his wife and daughter working to put food on the table, and he is moved to the violent act against Loa because she has come home in a police car after having witnessed a friend die in a truck accident which may be suicide. Loa thinks, “What’s the difference? Why am I not a dead girl? I don’t for a minute know. I look at my dad. He can’t let himself be sad. He can’t let himself be frightened. But I’ve forced this moment. The fear jumps out of his eyes and into me like a hot spark. ‘You could’a been the dead one.’ That’s when he hits me with the plunger, because I could have been the dead one. He hits me because it is easier to be angry than to be afraid. I could have been the dead one, but I’m not.” This is a story not of the toll that caring for an child takes on a family, it is the story of what happens to the family after that child who has been the center of the family dies.”

Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool by Odo Hirsch. From my review: “The Bell family did some great things generations ago; they received the Bell House and the surrounding land. In exchange, every twenty-five years a Gift must be made. Cornelius Bell gave the first Gift: an enormous marble statue of himself. The next Gift was a copper spire. The third Gift was a bronze bell. The time for the Bell Gift is approaching, and everyone watches to see what the Bells will give this year, including young Darius Bell. His father, Hector Bell, is responsible for the current Bell Gift. Problem is…. the Bell family has the Bell house. And the Bell name. And the Bell history. And a lot of Bell pride. But not a lot of money. As the day of the Gift rapidly approaches, Darius wonders what his father can possibly give.”

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey. From my review: “What is that noise? Is it the Wendigo outside the window? Is it a vampire lurking in a basement? No, it is only the sigh of contentment (yes, contentment) that The Curse of the Wendigo is every bit as wonderful, fabulous, horrifying and thought provoking as The Monstrumologist. You hear something more? Why, that would be the sound of me turning all the lights on, of locking all the doors, of checking to make sure there are no open windows so that I can sleep tonight. Oh, I won’t sleep soundly…. but hopefully, I will sleep. As Yancey muses having read Will Henry’s journals, “The central question, the thing that woke me up in the dead of night shivering in a cold sweat, the notion that haunted me as I fought to go back to sleep . . . Could monsters be real?”

Havoc by Chris Wooding. From my review: “Seth, back in the real world, has just recovered his memories of the dark and dangerous world of Malice. He has barely time to grab a few things, including the mysterious Shard, say good-bye to his puzzled parents, before the monsters of Malice come for him. Meanwhile, back in Malice, Kady and Justin (along with the metal cat, Tatyana) race to find Havoc, a group of rebels who are fighting Tall Jake, the evil ruler of Malice. Somehow, Seth has to find a way back into Malice — and Kady and Justin have to find a way to survive.  This is a sequel to 2009’s Malice. Yes, you should read Malice first. As explained in my review of Malice, Malice is a horror comic that kids can enter: “a nightmare landscape with hellish mechanical creatures that attack, kill, tearing teens limb from limb.” By the time the kids realize that living a scary story is much different than reading one, it’s too late: at worst, they are dead; at best, they are trying to survive Malice with the hope of finding a way back to the real world.”

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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.

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