Friday, June 3, 2016

Read in May

Last month I read the following:

1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail - Cheryl Strayed
2. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life - Henry Cloud
3. Moloka'i - Alan Brennart
4. Becoming Grandma - Lesley Stahl
5. Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge

picture credit:  Mihrap by Osman Hamdi Bey, 1901

Friday, May 20, 2016

Juliet Immortal review

Juliet Immortal
by Stacey Jay
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
August 2011

First line: "Tonight he could have come through the door - the castello is quiet, even the servants asleep in their beds, and Nurse would have let him in - but he chooses the window, climbing through the tangle of night flowers, carrying petals in his clothes."

I was pleasantly surprised by the reinterpretation of this Romeo and Juliet story. In this version, Romeo and Juliet are traveling through time, inhabiting the bodies of star-crossed lovers who've had near-death experiences. In each incarnation, Juliet, who is working for the Ambassadors (presumably the good guys) has a limited amount of time to get the couple back together again. Romeo, who sacrificed Juliet (and in some ways, himself) to the Mercenaries in exchange for eternal life, catches up with her, possessing a newly dead body each time, and tries to foil her plans.

This go around, Juliet finds herself in the body of Ariel Dragland, a shy blonde teenager in the small California town of Solvang. After a reckless driving accident, Romeo is in possession of the body of Dylan, the school bully and sometime crush of Ariel's. There are a few hints that are dropped that all is not right - Juliet/Ariel has never seen Romeo track her down so quickly before. She's noticed that the gaps between each mission are growing shorter and shorter. Nurse, her Ambassador handler, has gone missing. She's beginning to wonder if the Ambassadors have her well-being at heart after all.

As Ariel, she's landed in the middle of a tricky situation. Ariel's been recovering from severe burns she received as a child. Years of surgery have restored her looks, but not her confidence, as she copes with a strained relationship with her single mom, and an overbearing best friend, Gemma. I had trouble visualizing Ariel's ugly/pretty look - she's supposed to be a former burn victim, but she's also supposed to have an elfin, delicate beauty, with scars that only add to her unique look. Juliet explains that once she's inhabiting someone's body, she picks up their language, memory and abilities, and she's pleased that she and Ariel share a "soul gift" - both are talented artists. I liked the kind of maturity and distance that Juliet brings to the situation. When Ariel is in a fight with her mom, Juliet decides to let some matters drop, instead of escalating the situation. They end up having a heart-to-heart talk that is very healing for them both. Juliet is very conscious of wanting to leave her host's relationships better than when she found them, which made me wonder how and what her former hosts remember after she leaves them and returns to the void she inhibits while waiting to be pulled to Earth again. The last thing Juliet expects is to be slammed with "love at first sight" feelings for sensitive and kind Latino transfer student Ben. Unfortunately, she feels duty-bound to stick to her mission and try to fix him up with Gemma, who is glowing with the aura of true love. Juliet also has to avoid Romeo/Dylan's attempts to kill her - he truly comes across as a psychopath, coming up with whatever threats and lies that cross his mind just to try to distress her. Ben, on the other hand, is a total fantasy - no high school boy in the world has ever been so kind and virtuous and good. He instantly falls head-over-heels for Ariel/Juliet and within a few days is already talking marriage.

I was curious if readers not familiar with Solvang, CA would get the references to Danish windmills, tourists, and of course, easy access to wine country, with most high school students finding it easy to host bootleg wine parties.

The ending has a number of surprising twists. I had a few of my own favorite pet theories brewing, and I sure didn't see that ending coming. I had been hoping that Juliet would realize that she'd been a dolt - that every time she'd been deposited into someone else's life mid-stream, it was actually a chance for her to grab a chance at happiness and realize there is no such thing as a "one true love" pre-destined by fate. I was shocked by the revelation of Gemma's relationship with a teacher, and more shocked by the Ambassadors cold admission that they were going to somehow use the psychic power of the relationship, which suits them just fine. The actual ending felt like a bit of a muddle to me, with time traveling, alternate realities, awful fates for most of our modern day characters (if we find out what happens to them at all!) and Romeo getting the last word. Normally, I'm not one to recommend a book with such a let-down of an ending, but it was still such an enjoyable read - brace yourself for the oddness at the end and you will enjoy it. I really liked the characters of Juliet/Ariel and Ben, they made the book worthwhile for me.

Compare to:
Hexed - Michelle Krys
Everneath - Brodi Ashton
Dead Beautiful - Yvonne Woon
Wondrous Strange - Lesley Livingston

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Real Life Quidditch Skydive

Nobody will ever convince me that skydiving is a good idea, but these fellows seem to be having fun.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Read in April

Last month I read the following:

1. The Ring and the Crown - Melissa de la Cruz
2. The Autobiography of James T. Kirk - David A. Goodman

picture credit:   Tatyana from Evgeni Onegin Elena Samokysh-Sudovskaya

Friday, April 29, 2016

Afterlife review

by Claudia Gray
March 2011

First line: "Sunrise is coming," Balthazar said.

Vampire-in-training Bianca is dead, but still around as a mostly non-corporeal wraith. Her star-crossed lover Lucas has unwillingly been turned into a vampire. How much of a romance can this be with two leads who are both dead, only one of whom has a body??

Bianca and Lucas both still have that very restrained, mature approach to life - possibly because they're both only children, raised in circumstances where they don't interact much with other people their own age. (In Bianca's case, her parents and family friends are not just decades older, but in some cases, centuries older.) At several points in the story, it felt as if Bianca and Lucas were college seniors, not high school seniors. Their loyal vampire friends hunky Balthazar and quirky, about-a-thousand-years-behind-the-times Ranulf as well as human Vic all get the opportunity to assist Bianca and Lucas as they fight their way back to Evernight boarding school and attempt to figure out if there's any cure for their predicament.

We get a lot more of Evernight Academy's headmistress Mrs. Bethany's backstory in this novel, and the mystery of how and why the wraiths are connected to humans being admitted to the secretive formerly all-vampire academy is revealed. Did I miss something? Whatever became of Balthazar's sister, the threatening and insane vampire Charity?

Gray shocks readers yet again, with another surprising twist at the end of this book. While dramatic endings should be expected by now, it's honestly, a turn that readers will not see coming. It wasn't the ending I was hoping for. I want to say more, but I don't want to spoil it, either. The ending wasn't satisfying, but it didn't want me to make me throw the book across the room either. Much like Romeo and Juliet, it seems that Bianca and Lucas are not destined to make a life together after all.

Compare to:
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side - Beth Fantaskey
Marked - P.C. + Kristin Cast
Blue Bloods - Melissa de la Cruz

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Read in March

Last month I read the following:

1) You're Never Weird on the Internet - Felicia Day

picture credit G. Cooper Reading by Hulton Archive

Friday, April 1, 2016

No Foolin'!

I thought we'd have a little fun at the library this April Fool's and had planned on putting out this "joke" self-check out. But, much like Google's April Fool's mic drop flop, it was not to be. Our real self-check out machine chose that day to go on the fritz - and a little joke like this might be funny, when you can point to the self-check just behind the patron and say, "Just kidding, it's right there," is NOT funny at all, when you've got to deal with troubleshooting a computer that's down. Rats. Maybe next year.


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