Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Catching Up

Janet Lee Carey's Dragon's Keep was a good, solid Medieval-ish fantasy for fans of Tamora Pierce's Alanna series. Roasalind was born with one dragon's claw on her hand, which her mother has carefully kept from public view, but she is destined to save her kingdom. Of course, her kingdom is besieged by dragons, which presents a bit of a problem. This book was compelling to read, and I really liked the setting and the prose style even though I wasn't crazy about Rosalind, disliked her mother, and didn't find anything unusually original about it. I will buy this one, but perhaps it was the ancient British setting and the dragons that seemed a bit trite. Well-written, though, and fun to read.

Now that I've damned that one with faint praise (although I did enjoy reading it), I feel bad waxing enthusiastic about Leslie Margolis' Boys are Dogs. Annabelle has to move to a new school because her mother moves in with boyfriend. She gets a dog to compensate for all of the changes, and starts to read a dog training manual. She finds that it works just about as well on the boys in her school who are being annoying, typical middle school boys. This one was fun because it was very true to life, and I can see my more astute girls trying these techniques!

For more girl empowerment, there is Laura Schaefer's The Teashop Girls. Annie's grandmother runs a funky teashop that is suffering because of competition from chain stores. She and her friends set out to help the shop, while dealing with interpersonal problems, cute boys, problems at home and the everyday difficulties of being a teen ager. This was light and fresh and just the sort of thing that I enjoy. Teaming this with Naomi Shihab Nye's Going Going and Adam Selzer's Pirates of the Retail Wasteland would make for social statement reading!

Ben Mikaelsen's Ghost of Spirit Bear falls into the "Fans of The Outsiders" category, dealing with an inner city school and problems with gangs and violence. In this sequel to Touching Spirit Bear, Cole returns from spending a year on a remote island learning to deal with his anger in the aftermath of his beating of Peter. Cole and Peter still have injuries that make them the target of bullies. Using the tribal philosophies from the first book, the two try to foil the bullies and improve the atmosphere of their school. While this is a little pat, I did enjoy it and think that it sheds a positive light on inner city schools that is sadly lacking in other stories.
Two older titles: Barbara Brooks Wallace's Ghosts in the Gallery is another great Victorian orphan book that fans of Lemony Snicket will like. Many of these titles are out of print, but hopefully you are lucky to have this author on your shelf. Perennially popular, these are good to use as historical fiction for lovers of mystery and horror. Vivian Vande Velde's There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around was a good twist on ghost stories, being set in a suburb that isn't spooky, and ties in some history nicely. Brush both of these off if you have them.
Disappointments: Robin Merrow MacCready's Buried was a little too creepy. Spoiler Alert: Claudine's mother is an alcoholic who frequently takes off for days at a time. This time, Claudine tries to look after herself, and obsessively cleans their mobile home and the garden. Unfortunately, this is mainly because her mother did not run off, as Claudine is telling everyone; she died after hitting her head and Claudine buried her in the garden. This one didn't have a good conclusion-- Claudine didn't end up in jail for abuse of a corpse? A little language, too.
I love Walter Sorrel's First Shot and Fake ID, but Erratum was very different from his usual work and too similar to some other things I've read. Also included iconoclastic main character whom I did not like. Jessica finds a book that describes everything that happens to her but can change if she changes situations; she is supposed to use it to save the world. After The Other Book, Endymion Spring, and even a little bit of Inkspell and Maze of Bones, I was not pleased to be chasing through a weird and every changing library where there were evil librarians and frequent explosions. Tired of saving the world, as well. Not a bad book, just one that didn't appeal to me. Do check out the author's other titles, though-- he does a GREAT modern, realistic pshychological mystery!
Think I'm caught up from over the break now!


  1. Had not heard about the sequel to Touching Spirit Bear. Very exciting. That's one of my all time faves!


  2. We had to read Touching Spirit Bear in school last year. Too gory for me, but I'd recommend it to guys. I loved the Teashop Girls, though!