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#38 Impossible

#38 Impossible

Author: Nancy Werlin

Impossible tells the story of Lucy Scarborough, a teenager living in Massachusetts who discovers that her family history is tied to the folk ballad "Scarborough Fair". Cursed by the Elfin Knight, each successive generation of the Scarborough women are doomed to go insane, but not before giving birth to a baby girl and perpetuating the curse. It's now Lucy's turn and she's determined to break the curse by carrying out the three seemingly impossible tasks of the song. She must first make a shirt without a seam or the use of needles, find an acre of land between the sea and the beach, and then sow that acre with a single grain of corn. Lucy is lucky. Unlike Lucy's mother or the generations previous to her, Lucy has loving foster parents and friends who are willing to support and help her. Lucy is not alone and she hopes that will make the difference.

I really liked the way Werlin tied together the history of the song "Scarborough Fair" to the plot and it was refreshing to read about a teenage girl who wanted nothing to do with the paranormal/fairy world. The novel's greatest strength is Lucy's characterization. She's mature without being unbelievable and she's very determined to stand up to the evil which has destroyed her maternal family line. Overall, I enjoyed the novel but I think the last third could have used more tension. It seemed to be lacking in something--maybe the Elfin Knight's motives or the consequences of not breaking the curse could have been more strongly stated. Regardless, I thought it was a fun read and I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another Werlin novel.

#37 A Duty to the Dead

#37 A Duty to the Dead

Author: Charles Todd

It's 1916 and battlefield nurse Bess Crawford is traveling home on the hospital ship Britannic when the ship is torpedoed by a German submarine. The ordeal sends Bess home to her parents to recuperate. While home, she decides to carry out a promise she made to a patient, Arthur Graham, who died under Bess's care. Bess travels to Owlhurst, Arthur's childhood home, and delivers the message entrusted to her by a dying Arthur. Bess is surprised by the reaction to Arthur's message--Arthur's mother and brothers show little desire to decipher or carry out his dying request. Her promise fulfilled, Bess decides to go back home. However, circumstances force Bess to spend more time with the Grahams and gives her an opportunity to learn more about Arthur's family. Driven by a desire to discover whether the man Bess nearly fell in love with was the man she had believed him to be, Bess investigates a murder committed twenty years ago and its long reaching consequences for the Graham family.

I really enjoyed this mystery. I've always liked reading about this time period and Bess is a rather likeable protagonist. She's practical, smart, and knows when to ask for help. She's relatable without being a twenty-first century woman transplanted a hundred years earlier. The mystery itself was satisfying and people got what they deserved. I'm looking forward to the next Bess Crawford mystery.

#32 - #36

#32 Skulduggery Pleasant
#33 Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire

Author: Derek Landy

These were fun reads--plotting was decent and the dialogue was snappy--but they seem a little shallow. I think this may have something to do with Landy's background--he started as a screenwriter--and while he's very good a describing action, he hasn't quite mastered the art of eliciting the more subtle emotions from the reader yet. Landy's writing is all about the broad strokes right now but I have high hopes he'll continue to improve and the later books will be as good as I think they can be.

#34 A Glove Shop in Vienna and Other Stories

Author: Eva Ibottson

Eva Ibottson's short stories remind me of L.M. Montgomery's short stories. Ibottson's stories are more worldly--they are about mistresses, the men who keep them, wives who know and accept, and physical lovers. The main theme to a lot of these stories was that of the great love. Sometimes it's a lifelong love, but other times it's a brief but shining moment in the character's life. I really enjoyed this collection, some more than others, and I wish it was back in print.

#35 Septimus Heap: Magyck

Author: Angie Sage

I really wanted to like this series. I know it's popular and has been optioned by WB (as has Skulduggery Pleasant, someone is obviously looking at the post-HP world) but my overall reaction to it was, "That was okay." I think tighter plotting would have improved the book immensely and I wish Sage hadn't decided to bold certain terms every time it's mentioned because, as a reader, I found it very annoying.

#36 Her Best Friend

Author: Sarah Mayberry

Not one of Mayberry's better efforts. It seemed to be missing some of the humor present in her other work.
I am reading books just fine, I just don't really have the desire to talk about them. But the list of books I've read but haven't talked about is getting long and I don't want a backlog so I'm just going to list them and describe them in a few sentences.

My thoughts on books #24-#31, let me show you themCollapse )

#20 - #23 Various Romances

#20 Best Friend . . . Future Wife

Author: Claire Baxter

#21 Her Best Friend's Brother

Author: Kay Stockham

#22 Take On Me

Author: Sarah Mayberry

#23 Anything for You

Author: Sarah Mayberry

So I had a romance novel weekend. The theme--friends to lovers. I really enjoyed the Sarah Mayberry and Claire Baxter books. I liked the Kay Stockham but did have an issue with it. The hero, upon learning the heroine is pregnant, insists they get married. She doesn't want to and the hero's family immediately pressure her into saying yes. There is a happy medium between "I'll raise the baby alone" and "We need to get married RIGHT NOW!" It was also a bit more angsty (and not the funny kind of angst) than the others and I don't think I was in the mood for it this weekend. Still, I'd recommend any of them with Anything for You and Best Friend . . . Future Wife? being my favorites.

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#19 In Great Waters

#19 In Great Waters

Author: Kit Whitfield

This novel is set in an alternate history where Venice, in the past, made a pact with deepsmen (mermaids) and ended up being the world's superpower. The royal family mated with deepsmen and then intermarried with the other royal families of Europe so to be royal meant having deepsmen blood. But centuries of intermarriage has resulted in a very small gene pool and the royal bloodlines are weak. The heir to England's throne is an idiot, the second and third in line are young girls, and a half deepsman/human boy has just washed ashore in the South of England. This boy is lucky. He's found by a man who chooses to hide his existence and raise him as a future ruler of England rather than turn him into the authorities who would immediately sentence him to death.

Life in the waters is about survival and only the strong survive. Likewise, the royal court of England is the same. Anne, third in line to the throne, needs to figure out friend from foe and how sometimes a person can be both.

I was very impressed with this novel from Kit Whitefield. I liked her portrayal of the deepsmen and how they weren't humans who happened to live underwater. They are primal beings, wholly concerned with survival, and yet there is a directness about their way of life which is rather appealing in comparison to the politics and treachery of life on land. I plan on reading Whitfield's other book, Benighted, based on how much I liked In Deep Waters.

#18 The Alchemy of Murder

#18 The Alchemy of Murder

Author: Carol McCleary

It's 1889 and Paris is the host for the World's Fair. For many visitors, it's a chance to visit the tallest building in the world, the Effiel Tower. For Nellie Bly, investigative reporter, the fair and an epidemic is a convenient cover for a serial killer who enjoys dissecting women. She's followed him from New York to London and now to Paris where a government fearful of revolution and scaring off tourists is doing its best to deny that there is anything wrong. I enjoyed this book despite the fact there were times I wondered if Nellie was too stupid to live. Nellie is in the habit of regretting an action shortly after undertaking said action. This happened more than once and while it wasn't enough to stop me reading, I found it tiresome. I'm also not too fond of Evil Criminal Masterminds who manipulate everyone around them like master puppeteers. I'm still going to read the next book because its about her 76 day trip around the world and I've always wanted to read more about t.

#17 When You Reach Me

#17 When You Reach Me

Author: Rebecca Stead

Despite the fact that it's the 2009 Newbury Medal winner, this book didn't come to my attention until I started following School Library Journal's Fuse #8's blog and the entries on the Top 100 Children's books. There were so many positive comments about this book I just had to read it. That A Wrinkle in Time has a prominent role as Miranda's favorite book ever also had something to do with it. Eleven-year-old Miranda is dealing with the loss of a friendship when she starts to receive notes predicting the future and asking for her help in preventing a tragedy. The story unfolds as Miranda realizes something unusual, perhaps even impossible, is going on and starts to wonder just what is it she's supposed to do to save the life of a friend.

This is a good book but it's not as good as I'd been lead to believe it would be or had hoped for. The writing is clean and precise and the plot holds together very well but the ending which I believe was supposed to make me go, "Oh, WOW!" had me thinking, "Yeah, I figured that out halfway through the book." There is one aspect of the conclusion which has stayed with me but it's something Stead only mentions in passing. Although I'd love to hear more about that part of the story, I cannot blame her for not giving the reader more details that's not germane to Miranda's story. My quibble about the plot aside, this is also a book about Miranda learning about human interaction and how to treat others and the discovery that small kindnesses can lead to great things. That part does live up to the hype.

#16 Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets

#16 Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets

Author: Jude Morgan

Passion is a novel about three Romantic poets--Shelley, Byron, and Keats--and the women who loved them. This took me a long time to read. I think the techniques Morgan used to distinguish the voices of Caroline Lamb, Augusta Leigh, Mary Shelley, and Fanny Brawne seemed like an exercise in writing--they were well done but there were times I felt as if he was showing off. The subject matter also seemed too big for one book. Byron's love life or the Shelley's relationship would have provided enough fodder for one book. Keats relationship with Fanny Brawne seems like an afterthought after the durm und strang of the other two men's lives.

I critize but I really enjoyed Passion. I think I was initially confused by the subtitle "A Novel of the Romantic Poets" but after finishing the book I realized Passion wasn't really about the poets. It was about the women in their lives and the social conventions they were willing to defy for the sake of passion.

#15 Dear Julia

#15 Dear Julia

Author: Amy Bronwen Zemser

This book didn't leave much of an impression. I checked it out from the library because it was about a girl, Elaine Hamilton, who idolizes Julia Child. She dreams of going to the Cordon Bleu cooking school but this isn't a dream which her mother, a politician and a feminist, can support. Elaine makes a friend, Lucida Sans (yes, it's a font), and Lucida talks Elaine into making a "How to Cook" audition video for a local contest. After the only copy is destroyed, Elaine and Lucida have a fight over Elaine's passivity and they stop speaking to each other. Elaine then gathers the courage to enter a cooking contest and, with a lot of help from her brothers and Lucida, wins.

I don't know why I didn't like the book more. Maybe it needed more cooking or a herione with more spirit or more Julia Child. It just seemed to be missing that extra something.

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