The President’s Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth

vampireThis probably seems like a book I wouldn’t read, but I loved it. I really liked the first one and just recently remembered it and saw this sequel was on the shelf at the library and grabbed it. After reading The Rocks, which was like an elegant multi-course meal that I savored and enjoyed for a long time with all kinds of nuances and flavors, this was like sitting on the couch greedily consuming a whole bag of Doritos. Nothing subtle, slow, or elegant about it. But deeply enjoyable and satisfying. Some people (not me) might even say kind of trashy. It was super. Were you a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Then read this. Do you like conspiracy theories? Read this. Do you like a fast paced book that you can read in two days and don’t have to think about? Read this.
What I found so interesting about this (and liked) is that this isn’t just some kind of horror (which I don’t read) gore fest for no reason. In this sequel the President’s Vampire, Nathaniel Cade, and his handler Zack, are facing just the latest threat to America, a horrific supernatural fighting machine. And it’s not some isolated occurrence-it all has to do with arms deals, the Middle East, shadow government, and all kinds of stuff that gets in your head a bit and makes you start to wonder about some of the horrors of the world (though it’s doubtful reptilian humans are behind it for real.) One of the things like I about the way this is written is that Cade has lived through many presidents, so there are often references to what really happened during other administrations (i.e., who shot JFK and why.)
It’s all told with a sense of humor and bit of fun, which makes any of the gorey action easy to handle.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas

thornsAn exciting faerie book that felt steeped in traditional elements of storytelling, especially fairy stories, but was sexy and exciting.  Feyre is so poor her family barely survives, yet she is the only one who does anything about it. She’s a hunter and that’s how they manage to live.  One day she shoots a wolf, but it was no ordinary wolf. Feyre is taken into the faerie world where she lives with Tamlin in a court where magic is changing and everyone has a mask fused to his face. It’s mysterious and she knows there is more going on that she is told. This felt very Beauty and the Beast like to me, but then there was much more to it. Political machinations, revenge, and of course a love story. I thought this was marvelous, vividly created, and can’t wait to read the sequel.

Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

22445886One day I was looking around on this blog and came across my entry for After the End. I had forgotten all about that book and  how much I enjoyed it. The last sentence was ” I absolutely cannot wait for book #2 as this really left you hanging.”  You’d be surprised how many of my reviews end that way and then I forget all about them.  The good news in those cases is that the book is already out and no hold list or anything. I promptly got it at the library.

Picking up right where we left off Juneau and Miles are on the run.  She has just performed the rite on him and is waiting to see if he lives. And if so, will he have the special longevity that Juneau and her clan do? This sequel was terrific. I pretty easily remembered things as the author did a great job of filling you in on everything in a natural way.  Part survival, part adventure, part thriller, part one-with-Nature.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

25163300I loved this so much. At first, the cover alone was so beautiful, so go right ahead and judge this book by the cover. Janet is bright but does not have a bright future. She lives with a father and brothers who are cruel and treat her terribly.  Any hope of furthering her education is shot down quickly by her father. She longs for something better and somehow finds the courage to set out and make it to Baltimore.  The wages she’s seen advertised for a hired girl seem outrageously high and she knows she is a good harder worker, so that’s what she sets her sights on.  Janet is fortunate to encounter quite a lot of good luck, but she’s also super plucky.  I loved  the fascinating historical stuff and details about being a hired girl. Janet is a devout Catholic and she land with a Jewish family. Each is practically unknown to the other and this was a wonderful aspect of the story.  As I read along I realized that this book reminded me so much of Anne of Green Gables. Not the same story, no, but Janet is so much like Anne. She’s smart and thirsts for knowledge, she forgets herself when she is excited and passionate and talks out of turn and forgets her station, she has exasperating adventures, she warms the hearts of a cranky old person, and she is crazy for romantic tales and feelings. Like Anne, Janet writes in a flowery way, and I can see that while I thought this book was fantastic it may have a specific audience rather than just flat out widespread YA appeal.

A Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright

melendyIt’s no secret that I am a fan of Elizabeth Enright.  And that of all her books the ones with the most special place in my heart, my most beloved childhood books, were those about the Melendy family. I have written about them here, here,  here, and here. This summer I began reading aloud all of the books to the kids (who are presently 8 and 10, 7 and 9 when we started.)  This was, as you might guess, a very special experience for me. I loved rereading my favorite books and was super relieved that the kids seemed to enjoying them as well. Because let’s be honest-it would have stunk if they grumbled or said they were lame.  But I’m happy to say the cheerful family, Enright’s beautiful writing, and engaging stories stand the test of time.

And then we read the last book, Spiderweb for Two. And this is the one book that I had never actually read, so it was new to all of us. I have say-I was pretty excited. And a little nervous. What if it wasn’t as good as the others? The big difference in this book is that Mona, Rush, and Mark are not there. Mona is living in the city and Rush and Mark are at boarding school (there’s an unwritten book there that I’d like to read.) And that is also the premise of the book–with those three away Randy and Oliver are left at home and feeling mopey. But then a mysterious letter arrives with a convoluted clue. It’s the first of many and this secret treasure hunt lasts all year long. Each chapter is unraveling the mystery of the latest clue, and usually has an adventure or story to go with it. And of course, there is a marvelous surprise at the end.  Though I can’t say I loved this one as much as the others (partly because of the lack of the older kids, but probably in large part due to lack of familiarity), it was still wonderful. We couldn’t wait to find out the secret, who was behind the clues, and how the year would turn out.

I solicited a quote from Tabby as I was writing this as she says: “Spiderweb was really interesting. It was really anticipational, or however you say it. and the end was really nice.  Overall I give it five stars up.”  “I loved all of them.”

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

marvelsI really liked Wonderstruck and the Invention of Hugo Cabret, so was pretty excited to read Selznick’s latest. A beautiful deep blue cover with golden illustration and gleaming gold edged pages, this book looks enchanting and special from the get go. It is the same tremendous size and heft as Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, and the same storytelling method-large illustrated pages (wordless) and then text. I especially liked the non-text sections of the story. And as for the story? It goes in such an unexpected and strange (but charming) direction. Selznick is an impressive researcher and the afterward is a must-read. Without giving anything away, but so that I remember for myself-it focuses on generations of a family of actors and a present day child trying to unravel the mystery of them and how his reclusive uncle fits in with it all.

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

basilIt’s been two months since I posted and while I have read books in that time, there has definitely been a lull. I found myself in a few weeks long reading rut, which was just terrible. So now it’s time to play catch-up and I’m going to not necessarily go in order, but start with the book that helped me get out of the rut. Nothing was capturing my attention. I checked books out and returned them. I was distracted and uninterested. But mopey because I wanted to be reading. I had taken my son to a doctor’s appointment and put my old copy of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler in my purse because I thought that he might finally like to read it. Instead, I opened it up and started it myself. And, oh! Wasn’t it just what I needed? A tried and true story, one that I knew I’d love, but also had been so long since I read it that it was wonderful to get reacquainted with.  The funny thing is, as I read I kept recognizing things as particular parts/styles that I had loved as a kid.  For example, Claudia keeps getting mad at her brother Jamie’s ungrammatical sentences and saying “What kind of sentence is that?!” I wouldn’t have remembered that on my own, but as soon as I saw it in print remembered that I had loved that part very much. (I still found it funny.) The book was a lot shorter than I remembered. It seems that all the things I thought of as the “highlights of the book I still remember” actually are, simply, all the parts of the book.
There’s a reason this book won the Newbery Award and remains a classic. It’s so marvelously well-written. Konigsburg doesn’t shy away from great sentences, language, and vocabulary.  And Jamie and Claudia are neither perfect nor perfectly wicked. In fact, I can remember taking great pleasure then (and did this time too) whenever their less than attractive traits were described. And then, of course, there’s the whole premise. I have never visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art that I did not imagine Jamie and Claudia bathing in the fountain, or imagine what I myself would do if I were hiding in the museum.
For now my son still hasn’t read it, but I sure hope he does because, while things like the automat are a bit dated, it’s still a great story.