Marriott, Zoe. The Name of the Blade
November 11th 2014 by Candlewick Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Mio needs a sword for her costume as an anime character, so borrows the 500 year old katana that her grandfather told her not to touch until she was 16. Odd things happen (lights going out, attacks) when she has the katana, and she eventually figures out that her late grandfather was very wise but died before he could give her all of the details. Mio's parents are on their second honeymoon, and Mio is conveniently staying with her friend Jack's family, so the two girls are able to deal with the evil cat monster that wants to sword and keeps attacking everyone around Mio, even dragging off Jack's sister Rachel. Luckily, Shinobu shows up to help. He looks familiar, but that is because his spirit has been trapped in the sword and calling to Mio since she was young. Together, with the help of Hikaru, a kitsune (fox spirit) who is not terribly reliable, they must figure out how to save not only themselves from the monster, but the whole world.
Strengths: I really liked this one. I liked Mio, I liked the way the book was written, and I liked the inclusion of Japanese folk lore and characters. The London setting was great as well, and there was lots of action and adventure. Jack (who is a girl) seems to perhaps be more interested in girls, but this is mentioned in passing and not dwelt on, which was a great way to deal with it. Definitely going to invest in this series. There are so many fantasy books out there, but this one stood out for me.
Weaknesses: The Walker UK covers are SOOOOO much better. What's with the weird blue and yellow cat? May see if Baker and Taylor has the UK version, which show more action and generally look more intriguing. If this is a case of whitewashing covers for the US market, it was the wrong decision!
Rock, Gail. A Dream for Addie
February 28th 1975 by Random House (NY)
Visit a fun Addie Mills Page.
Okay, it's not unicorns pooping rainbows, but it was certainly a lot happier than most of what I've read lately! Also very, very dated. Alas.
Addie and her friend Carla Mae (who is eating at her own house and also at Addie's, therefore getting "a bit on the chubby side". On second helpings of oatmeal, mind.) are thrilled to find out that Constance Payne, a famous Broadway actress, has come back to town to sell her parents' home. Her parents were a wreck, her father a drunkard, but they had a huge house. Addie's goes over and not only asks Constance for an autograph, but asks her to dinner. Constance also ends up judging a 4-H sewing contest/fashion show where Addie showcases her "Rickrack Rhapsody" dress, but unfortunately, Constance is drunk as a skunk there. Undeterred, Addie asks Constance to give her friends acting lessons. Again, Constance ties one on and is inappropriate, so of course Addie decides she is a troubled woman. With her grandmother's help, Constance moves into Addie's father's bedroom, where she stays for three days in Grandma's best nightgown being waited on hand and foot. It turns out that she is only a waitress in NYC, and not even at a very nice place, which is why she is such a hooch hound. Not wanting to go back to NYC, Constance takes Addie's suggestion to stay in town and giving acting and piano lessons to the local children, which she does for years and years and enriches everyone's lives with her culture.
Strengths: While the premise is depressing, I loved the "can do" attitude. Neighbor in trouble? We can fix that! Addie is headstrong, loves her father and grandmother, doesn't obsess over the fact her mother is dead. Her dress is laughable, but she thinks it's great. Nice details of everyday life.
Weaknesses: Today, Constance's alcoholism wouldn't be treated as lightly (anyone see Arthur when people thought it was actually funny instead of sad?) or cured so quickly. The father would be considered borderline emotionally abusive. And poor Grandma. They are just going to work her until she's dead, aren't they? Still, this was a fun read. I loved that there was a problem, but it just got solved with a minimum of handwringing!
Again, Open Road Media has republished this series. The first two have been checking out in my library because they have Accelerated Reader tests, but I don't know if anyone will pick up this one.