July 2007


I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up this book. I adore Garret Freymann-Weyr’s other books, WHEN I WAS OLDER, MY HEARTBEAT, and STAY WITH ME. I think that she’s an absolutely brilliant writer. Her characters are always amazing. Her writing is always beautiful. Her stories are much, much more than the usual predictable stories (as I often think when struggling to write something new, fiction-wise, it seems, when I look at my overflowing bookshelf, that every story worth telling has been told).

So I’m not certain as to why I didn’t read THE KINGS ARE ALREADY HERE sooner. I wish I had! I think the authors other novels are marvelous, and this one does not disappoint. It’s a quick read, at less than 150 pages, but still a powerful, moving story. Despite its slim size, it is an intense story that holds more substance than many books three times larger.

It is a story of obsessions. Phebe and Nikolai both live their lives orbiting not around the sun but around their respective talents: ballet for Phebe and chess for Nikolai. To both of them, that is everything. They do not see much need for human relationships, for normal lives.

Right before they meet, though, Phebe is beginning to let her mind wander as she dances, to think of things that are not ballet. At the advice of her teacher, she decides to spend the summer with her father in Switzerland to clear her mind, and that is where she meets Nikolai.

Nikolai believes that Stas Vlajnik, a legendary chess player, can help him to improve his game. And, of course, to him, that is everything. Phebe, understanding the obsession, orchestrates a search for Vlajnik to help Nikolai. That summer in Europe, though, she is doing more than helping Nikolai; she is finding out that she is not only Phebe the ballerina, but Phebe the teenage girl, the person.

This is a wonderful little book. Breathtaking, even. It is an intelligent, emotional story that, like all of Garret Freymann-Weyr’s work, is something of a must-read.

Five Stars

BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS by Shannon Hale is completely awesome. It’s based on an obscure Brothers Grimm fairytale. It is fantastic. I reviewed it for Curled Up With a Good Kid’s Book but the review won’t be posted until September, when the book is released, so I just wanted to tell you to go ahead and pre-order this one now!!

I was going to wait and blog about this one tomorrow, but I couldn’t sleep (yes, I’m still up at 5:30 AM), so forgive me for any fuzziness/mistakes in this post, as I haven’t slept since yesterday. My mind is too busy, with various things, to sleep.  Including this book, of which I intended to read a chapter of before going to bed but ended up reading the whole thing.

Yes, it really is that good. I don’t want to give away too much, but I’m going to have to tell you more than what’s on the back cover because that is very vague which is all well and good, but don’t read on if you are very very anti-spoiler.

At the start of the book, everybody in Mena’s group of friends, who all happen to be from her church, hates her for doing the right thing in a situation where that meant going against what her friends did. So she’s starting high school not only friendless, but with people actually knocking her books out of her arms in the hallway. The atmosphere at home is a bit chilly, too; her parents seem to have sided with her church.

There’s one bright spot in Mena’s day, though: science class. Ms. Shepard is a really amazing (and really weird, but in a good way) teacher, and her lab partner, Casey, isn’t too bad either. Soon, Mena’s got a new crowd: Casey, his big sister Kayla, and her friends.

Kayla, however, is a very outspoken and opinionated sort of person. So getting involved with her pretty much means that Mena’s not going to be suffering the freeze-out from her church in silence for very long.

First of all, I have got to say I LOVED Kayla. Mena was a great character, too–they all were–but Kayla was by far my favorite. I guess she’s the outspoken, intelligent person I want to be but don’t have the guts to be. Ms Shepard is another fantastic character; she’s a science teacher I wish I could have! Josh, Casey, Mrs. Connor–I could go on about how great all of the characters are, but you get the idea.

EVOLUTION certainly talks about controversial issues, but it’s not in a heavy-handed Christian fiction sort of way. The topic of evolution obviously comes up, and it is nicely addressed–not as evolution vs. intelligent design, or evolution vs. religion. I read a comparison somewhere of this book to the movie SAVED (brilliant movie, by the way, see it!), I can’t remember where, and that was right on target (not that Mena gets pregnant or anything, just in the way the issues are addressed).

I love the characters and the story in this book, but it’s also just a very well-written novel. It obviously flowed well, if it had me in its clutches all night! Robin Brande is pretty much brilliant. This is a smart, absorbing novel sure to find a fan in anyone who reads it!

Five Stars

PS: You can win a copy of this book and other cool prizes by participating at its website.

You may have read my review of KITTY GOES CALIFORNIAN. It’s a great book, but maybe you don’t have a big book-buying budget. Well, you can read it for free online! Go! Read! I appear to be the only one to ever have reviewed this marvelous little book, but that doesn’t mean the rest of you can’t read it! Come on, it’s great, it’s a good summer read, and it’s free!

Here‘s a great summary of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS in haiku form! **SPOILERS**

An interesting interview by The Disco Mermaids of four fifteen year old girls about their reading.

Here’s some distressing news: those big comfy chairs in your favorite bookstore? They may soon be gone.

Here’s a nice article that might answer some of the questions you were left with after the ending of HP 7. **SPOILER ALERT** (obviously)

Okay, I kind of missed my one-year blog birthday. It was July 24. But isn’t that exciting?

In other exciting news, my local independent bookstore, Malaprops,  is beyond awesome. They have some great author events lined up for the next couple of months! In just over a week, it’s the wonderful Kerry Madden, author of GENTLE’S HOLLER, and then in September it’s Charles de Lint! I had a total fangirl moment when I read that on the website. I actually squealed. THE BLUE GIRL is one of my favorite books ever, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of his most recent YA novel, LITTLE (GRRL) LOST. And I will actually (I hope) meet him! And this is the fantabulous bookstore where I met John Green, who is fantastic. And then, in November, they’ll have Alan Gratz. He wrote a couple of books I haven’t actually gotten a chance to read yet but they sound great from his website.

Anyway, that’s my exciting news! I hope you all have fabulous indie bookstores near you, too. If you do, check out their schedules! You never know what you might find!

First of all, let me say I loved this book. I was called away from it after reading only a dozen pages, and Livy Two’s distinctive voice had already found its way into my mind. When I stepped outside, I saw the mountains that I, like Livy Two, call home, half-expecting to see one of the novel’s colorful characters step out of the woods behind my house.

I suppose that my experience reading this book is a little different from that of most readers, as I’ve lived most of my life in the same mountains as Livy Two. We’ve walked the same streets, breathed in the same mountain air. And Kerry Madden captured it perfectly.

Livy Two Weems is a twelve-year-old girl growing up dirt poor in a family with nine kids in the Western North Carolina mountains in the 1960s. Those mountains are her home, but she’s always wanted to see beyond them–that’s why she loves the lending library truck that comes to Maggie Valley so much. Livy Two knows the magic that books can have, taking us out of our everyday lives and off to far away places. Livy Two also has a passion for music, making up her songs about her life in the holler and strumming her guitar.

Money’s always been tight, but now life is getting even harder for the Weems family. Livy Two wants to help, but she’s not sure she knows how. Even when a terrible tragedy strikes her family, though, Livy Two has to try and stay strong, and keep singing her songs.

I loved this book. GENTLE’S HOLLER is a beautiful, hopeful, moving story that any reader will love. Starting with Livy Two, it’s full of strong, three-dimensional characters. Every one of them stands out in my mind–no easy task when just the family has twelve people (and one heroic daschund) in it. Grandma Horace with her collection of glass eyes, Louise with her paintings, Daddy with his roasted peanuts and dreams for writing a big banjo hit. Every one the characters is amazing. Livy Two’s voice is especially fresh and original and real.

Creating brilliant characters is not Kerry Madden’s only strength; the setting of the story is just as masterfully described as the characters. The mountains in the 1960s seemed just as real to me, as I read this, as those present-day hills outside my door.

Kerry Madden is an amazingly talented writer. I’m just glad there’s a sequel to GENTLE’S HOLLER, and I won’t be wasting any time before picking it up!

Five Stars

UNDER THE ROSE is the sequel to the fabulous SECRET SOCIETY GIRL, and it’s just as good as the first book! Amy Haskel (society name “Bugaboo”) is a member of the prestigious secret society Rose & Grave at the prestigious Eli University. Her club is the first to include women, and that’s meant some difficulties for them in the past–and many of the the chauvinistic patriarchs of the society aren’t about to change their minds about it now. However, Rose & Grave is now also dealing with another scandal: society secrets have been leaked. Who’s the leak? And why? Who can be trusted? Who is a traitor?

This book is just as fascinating and fun as the first in the series. The believable, interesting characters are back. Diana Peterfreund’s writing does not disappoint–this book can just as easily take you away for an afternoon without the realization that time has passed as SECRET SOCIETY GIRL!

If you loved SSG, you’ll love UNDER THE ROSE. And if you haven’t read Diana Peterfreund’s first novel, what are you waiting for?!

Five Stars

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