October 31, 2010

Spotlight on a few of my favorite...

Happy Halloween all! This week's spotlight shares a few of my favorite witch books - enjoy!

Cabot does not disappoint with this teen book. Jean (AKA Jinx) comes to stay with her wealthy aunt and uncle in NYC to escape her past, but her cousin Tory does not accept her with open arms. Cabot reminds readers how dangerous jealousy truly is. Although I found most of the plot predictable, I still loved taking the journey with Jean. This novel is a bit different for Cabot...it is a cross between The Craft and The Princess Diaries. But Cabot makes the transition flawlessly.

Nell was conceived on May Morning, making her a merrybegot. Nell is being raised as a healer; combine this with her wild nature in 1645, and you have a "witch". Grace is the Puritan minister's daughter - full of beauty, grace, and secrets. The merrybegot and the minister's daughter, a dangerous combination.. But when Grace and her younger sister begin to have "fits", the heat is on to find the witch that is causing it all, Nell. This is an amazing historical fiction novel. I could not put it down. Hearn has conducted thorough research, including the fact that Puritans believed in faeries, one of many reasons they feared the woods. 

17-year-old Sarah moves from California to a small town in Missouri. While adjusting to a new high school is tough enough, the most popular (and handsome) boy in schools asks her to pose as a fortune teller at the school's Halloween carnival. Sarah reluctantly agrees, but her performance is too convincing, and she is asked to continue the charade off campus as well. Then Sarah's predictions begin to come true, and her classmates label her as a witch. To top it off, she is having disturbing dreams about the Salem Witch Trials. What's a girl to do? Luckily she has one friend, Charlie, who, like her, is a misfit (and is also having the dreams).This novel is wrapped in mystery - is Sarah an accuser from the witch trials? Are her currently classmates her victims? Is reincarnation real? Duncan jumps right into the plot, leaving you turning page after page until the end; however, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. It seemed as if Duncan realized she needed to end the book and just did. But the book is so well put together that the ending is just a small mistake that is easily forgivable.

Others I recommend for this Halloween:

Bras and Broomsticks: Magic in Manhattan series
The Everyday Witch
The Worst Witch
Witch Child
Beyond the Burning Time
The Witche's Supermarket
The Lace Reader 
The Graveyard Book
Diary of a Fairy Godmother
Salem Falls
The Widow's Broom
Wee Witches' Halloween
The House of Seven Gables

The list could go on and on and on - what are YOUR favorite Halloween reads?

October 29, 2010

Enchanted by Once a Witch

I love witch children and YA novels. I always have. Ever since I was young and watched Bewitched, I wanted to be a part of a magical world. Harry Potter, my favorite childrens series, allows its readers to do just that - one of the reasons it is so popular. Once a Witch accomplish the task of allowing me, as a reader, to be a part of a magical world that MacCullough has created and that is protected by the Greene family.

Tamsin Greene is a stereotypical 17-year-old, except she was expected to be the most talented witch in her family. There is only one problem - Tamsin does not have a Talent. And while she struggles with being 17 (isn't that enough?) she also struggles with being a part of a powerful family and not being able to participate. Her beautiful, Talented, older sister steals all the glory, set to "take over" the family with the grandmother's passing.

And then one day - the opening of a single door - changes everything for our young heroine. While working in her grandmother's bookstore, Tamsin is mistaken for her older sister. Instead of correcting a stranger in need of help, Tamsin agrees to take on the task. The task is simple - find an old family heirloom. How dangerous can the task (and its seeker, a NYU professor) be?

The author spins a tale of mystery wrapped around and rooted deep within the Greene family. You will fall in love with this quirky family, a family that contains secrets Tamsin must uncover. You will be treated to a new take on the witch lifestyle (it's not all broomsticks and potions you know). And you will love Tamsin, a young woman who wants to be accepted, who wants to be loved, and who wants to be Talented.

Through a fast-paced plot, MacCullough conjures up a fantastical creation of self-discovery, teen angst,  family secrets, and all things witchy.

This book receives an enthusiastic two thumbs up. All lovers of YA should add this read to their collection.

October 24, 2010

Spotlight on Salem Witch Tryouts

I love reading anything to do with Salem, and I love reading young adult witch books. This book did not disappoint.

Prudence Stewart, the "it" girl of Beverly Hills High School. She has it all, including a family secret that lands her and her family in Salem, Massachusetts. See, Prudence comes from a long line of witches, a secret she was very aware of...but now it is necessary for her to attend a high school designed for her "kind." Enter Agatha's Day School, the one place Prudence cannot seem to grasp. As a "mortal" she was perfectly fine in Beverly Hills, but now that she is allowed to be herself, she cannot seem to come to grips with how to survive - her classes, her classmates, her new

Now that Prudence is allowed to be a full-time witch, she has to trade in her Beverly Hills pom-poms and tryout for Agatha's cheer squad via a broomstick. Easier said than done, especially by this witch, who is currently failing Witchcraft 101.

Will Prudence be able to cast a spell at her new school and be as successful as she was in her old school?

October 17, 2010

Spotlight on Hex Hall

Debut author Rachel Hawkins takes the supernatural teen genre to a new level. She incorporates the usual - witches, vampires, faeries, werewolves - and puts a new spin on their world.

Just when you thought your teen life sucked, we are introduced to Sophie Mercer, witch extraordinaire. Only, there really isn't anything extraordinaire about her, unless, of course, being a witch falls into that category. She attends public high school, moves around quite a bit, and happens to cast spells that go awry. After one such spell causes chaos at prom, Sophie's public school days are over. Her father has her whisked away to Hex Hall, reform school for those like Sophie, you know, the "freaks" of society - witches/warlocks, faeries, shape-shifters, and a vampire. Her first day is more eventful that her prom fiasco, and she racks up enemies even before she enters the doors. Ah, so it goes when you're a teen witch. The question is, can she survive her classmates as well as the ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her? From page one Hawkins will have you hooked with this world she has created, a world that is not unlike your own.

While Hawkins brings a new, witty approach to this genre, she also captures the dynamics that are typical in high schools - the queen bee, her followers, crushing on queen bee's boyfriend, friendship, misunderstanding, trust, self-discovery. This book is like Pretty in Pink meets Prodigium. (Now, isn't that a visual?)

I am a sucker for a great witch story, and Sophie's character fulfills my love of all things witches. I enjoyed taking this journey with Sophie, moving from a normal life to one at the reform school in GA. (Who knew GA could be this cool?) Hawkins really captures the experiences and frustrations of being a teen girl, you know, because there is a bit of Sophie in all of us. Sophie's character brings a breathe of fresh air where witches are concerned, and her vamp roommate, Jenna, is definitely worthy of more page time. And lets not forget the hotness that is Archer, a character that will cause hearts to skip and readers to swoon.

And did I mention the plot twist will leave many of you gasping out loud? Seriously, she is a sneak, that Rachel Hawkins.

October 13, 2010

Team Zombie OR Team Unicorn?!

Have you read the latest, greatest in YA yet? If not, what are you waiting for?! Zombies vs. Unicorns is one of the most creative YA novels I have read in a while. The concept is fabulous, the stories are devourable, and the authors are some of the best in the business.

You will be delighted with learning how to care for a baby killer unicorn, which is necessary in today's uncertain times. You'll read how to outsmart the adults and escape into a world that has been over-taken with zombies. You will be treated to a tale of love and devotion, zombie-style. And, you'll experience the pressure of trying to keep a town safe from zombies, even when those zombies are your family and friends.

A few of my personal favorites:
"The Care of Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" - Diana Peterfreund
"Inoculata" - Scott Westerfeld
"Princess Prettypants" - Meg Cabot
"Cold Hands" - Cassandra Clare
"Prom Night" - Libba Bray

And the best part of this anthology? While you're asked as a reader to pick a side, the truth is, all of the stories warrant their own level of awesomeness, cleverness, and devourness. In other words--read this book! It is worth your time.

Now, are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn? They're both vicious in their own ways, and all authors make a strong case for their team. For me, it's a draw!

October 7, 2010

Spotlight on Never Slow Dance with Zombies

In the spirit of Haunted Happenings kicking off today in Salem, MA, I thought a teen zombie novel would be appropriate.

Lowe has delivered a zombie book for girls. The premise is simple: Margot & Sybil return to school one morning to discover the student population has become zombies. Instead of running away screaming, the two girls set out to make themselves the "queen bees" of the school. Margot wants to be the most popular girl while Sybil simply wants everyone to get along. So desperate for a boyfriend, Margot decides the zombied school jock will just have to do, even if he wants to eat her family. With the help of Mr. Taft, the school principal, the girls spend seven weeks with zombie classmates, trying to keep themselves from becoming zombies while trying to discover how their classmates became zombies in the first place.

This was a fun read, and I would recommend saving it for a time when you just want to read a bit of light fluff.

October 6, 2010

Let the debate begin - zombies OR unicorns?!?!

Zombies, unicorns, ya authors, oh my! Oh yes! The world of YA has now met its match in the guise of an age-old argument...which is better, zombies or unicorns?

This anthology takes on two teams: One for zombies and one for...you guessed it, unicorns! Each team offers a convincing argument through short stories, clever plots, and all things zombies & unicorns. That's right ladies and gents...you're getting a two-for-one deal with this clever novel.

Each corner contains the best in YA literature right now. Everyone from Cassandra Clare to Meg Cabot provide you with an ever-clever list of short stories that will surely keep this debate going. While the ultimate goal is to pick sides, all authors provide such convincing arguments as to which is better, that I believe it is safe for me as a reader to conclude--it's a draw!

With zombie short stories such as "Love Will Tear Us Apart," "Cold Hands" and "Prom Night," zombie lovers will be intrigued to continue shifting through, first reading the zombie stories and then being lured into the unicorns. But do not be fooled, these aren't your mama's unicorns! Readers will be pleased with Meg Cabot's "Princess Prettypants," Naomi Novik's "Purity Test" and Diana Peterfreund's "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn."

The anthology also includes a delightful introduction on which is better (zombies or unicorns) by the creators, Justine Larbalestier (team zombie) and Holly Black (team unicorn). "If you're strong enough to read through all the stories, you will know by the end of this anthology which is better: zombies or unicorns."

Whether you've read the book or not, let the debate begin here...which team are you on and why?

October 5, 2010

Just in time for the Halloween season...

Victor Godwin, budding scientist, is not too thrilled with his mom's new tenant. Who is he? Where are his references? And why does he look like Benjamin Franklin, who's been dead for 200 years?

After 200 years of peaceful sleep, Ben is back! And he's lost - "I am simply an old man, lost in time" - or is he? Believing he may be the last of the Prometheans, Ben does not give up. He inspires Victor to trust and to believe...no matter the results. While Ben is running around town eating as much electricity as he can (oh, the irony), Victor remains faithful and searches for answers, not just for Ben, but for himself. And with the science fair just around the corner, a ruined project, and one of the greatest minds available for consultation, the results are fantastic...or disastrous. You decide! 

This short novel packs a lot of punch. While the idea seems a little far-fetched, it is no more so than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. As a matter of fact, I think this idea is more original. McElligott and Tuxbury present a fun tale for boys (girl readers are welcome) of science, fun, and the importance of letting life happen.

Enthusiastic two thumbs up! Definitely worth adding to your shelf.

A new tradition

Washington D.C. is one of my favorite cities to visit. Everyone should visit the awesomeness that D.C. has to offer at least once within his/her lifetime. I felt it was important to bring my son, and it was half-way to Salem, MA. Little did I know that this visit would create a new tradition for our family, the Will pics. That's right, the one souvenir my son wanted was a Shakespeare action figure, which we've simply named "Will." This is the first of Will's pics...stay tuned to see "Where in the world is Will..." He's already done a tone of cool things...lets see where the day will take him next.

And the adventure continues...

After spending two days in D.C. viewing all things American, I have shifted my focus to all things Haunted! That's right, I'm in Salem, MA spending four days enjoying all things wicked. And let me tell you, this is THE place to be this time of year. The enthusiasm from the residents is contagious, and if Halloween is your cup of tea, take a trip here to get your "season" on! They have it all - including a Hello Kitty witch:

That's right - you know you've landed some place "cool" when you're able to purchase Hello Kitty in either a witch costume, which I did, or as a sparkly vampire, which I passed.

While I've visited this enchanting city before, it is another world to visit in the time of Haunted Happenings, and haunted it is. Every turn encompasses history. You never know what you'll find. My recommendation: get in your car, visit here without a plan, and discover all that there is to discover in this magical place - Salem, MA.

Stay tuned to see what happens next; after all, I will be here for four full days!

October 2, 2010

Spotlight on What They Always Tell Us

With the sad news of bullying leading to yet another teen suicide, I thought this was an appropriate choice.

James - he's the older, confident brother. He's popular, smart, and an athlete. So why didn't his brother come to him instead of...

Alex - he's a high school junior trying to figure out his life. His friends have abandoned him and all for a reason he cannot figure out...or can he?

Wilson's debut novel is of two brothers trying to figure things out - life, love, each other. Wilson is a new author, but there is a lot of promise in his honest story-telling. He presents the reader with a tender representation of a teen questioning his sexuality and what that could mean to his family, but especially to his relationship with his brother.

Welcome Infernal Devices series

Cassie Clare returns, and boy does she know how to make an entrance! Her loyal fans will not be disappointed with this prequel to the series that made her famous, The Mortal Instruments.

Magic turns dangerous in this new series, and Tessa Gray seems to be its most intriguing weapon. From the start Clare does not give our new heroine a break. She grapples with her missing brother, the Dark Sisters, the Magister’s want of her, and a boy who will love her unconditionally versus a boy who cannot seem to love. Through it all Tessa is an endearing character that loyal Clare followers will enjoy; she has just as much spunk (if not more) as Clary Fray. Although Clare has already established the Shadowhunter world for readers, this prequel paints a fresh picture, one the reader will not soon forget. Think you know the Downworlders? Think again.

Oh yeah, and there are vampires, warlocks, demons, and…well, you get the picture.

I give this book three loved its—Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!

Three characters to watch and love: There is an echo of fan-favorite Jace with Clare’s new character, Will Herrondale, as well as the introduction of Henry and Charlotte Branwell, a married couple in charge of running the Institute.