Review of Princess for Hire, by Lindsey Leavitt

Princess for Hire

by Lindsey Leavitt

Disney Hyperion Books, New York, 2010. 239 pages.
Starred Review

I got a copy of Princess for Hire at ALA Annual Conference 2010 and had it signed by the author — and then I didn’t get it read because it didn’t have a due date. Honestly, for some reason I thought it was a story about a contemporary teen who happens to be a princess look-alike, or something like that. Now, I thought I’d get to meet Lindsey Leavitt at ALA Annual this year, so I started reading Princess for Hire. The stars on the cover should have tipped me off: That wasn’t the plot at all. No, it involves magic! I read this book on the flight to Long Beach and was completely enchanted.

13-year-old Desi Bascomb lives in Sproutville, home of the Idaho Days Potato Festival. She has a summer job that involves wearing a groundhog costume in front of the Pets Charming pets store in the mall. She is humiliated in front of her crush by the girl who was once her best friend.

But then life opens up for Desi. She learns she has “magic potential.” She gets to work, on a trial basis, for an agency that provides substitutes for princesses who need a break from being royal. The agency uses magic to make the substitute look exactly like the original, as well as get the subs back only an instant after they left.

Desi gets a great variety of jobs in this book. Her first trial job is a B-movie actress princess in an insect costume who doesn’t like meeting her fans. Then she goes to replace an overweight daughter of a sheikh. She causes some trouble at a dinner — completely out of character for a princess. But the agency gives her another chance with an Amazon princess due in a coming-of-age ceremony and finally a more traditional princess who lives with her Nana in the Alps — and Desi gets to meet the heartthrob prince of the tabloids and make a difference in the princess’s life.

But Desi’s not supposed to make a difference in anyone’s life. And the Princess Progress Reports aren’t working. Will she lose her job, her chance to live her dreams, away from Sproutville?

This book has plenty of variety, lots of humor, some good insights about life, and makes for very fun reading. This was perfect reading for a flight, and kept me wide awake and smiling. I wish I had read it sooner, but am happy that now I won’t have to wait to read more about Desi.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Blood Spirits, by Sherwood Smith

Blood Spirits

by Sherwood Smith

DAW Books, 2011. 488 pages.
Starred Review

It’s hard to talk about this book without saying too much about its predecessor. Yes, you definitely should read Coronets and Steel before you read Blood Spirits. When we left Kim, she had found out a world of information about her grandmother’s secret life. She’d been kidnapped more than once, she’d met long-lost family, and she’d gotten involved in political intrigue and fallen in love. She’d also discovered that she has the Sight, and she saw some truly strange things in the kingdom of Dobrenica.

But in the end, she decided not to get between the man she loves and his duty to his nation. She fled, expecting him to get married, and wondering if the traditional magic would happen and Dobrenica would disappear from the outside world.

Well, Dobrenica didn’t disappear. But Kim decided to get a teaching job and to try not to think about Dobrenica. But it doesn’t work, and then Kim has a strange vision of Ruli, her look-alike cousin, the woman who married the man she loves. Ruli is begging Kim for help. Kim decides to go to Dobrenica.

Her timing is bad. Ruli has just been found dead, and even Alec considers himself responsible for her death. Kim’s showing up then makes the case against him all the worse.

This story includes political intrigue, a murder mystery, and, yes, blood spirits threatening the kingdom. There’s more sword fighting (Kim is a skilled fencer.) and shifting alliances and even Kim’s grandmother faces her old love.

Here’s Kim talking to a Dobrenican girl and discovering she’s not the only one who sees strange things:

Tania refused to sit down, so I collapsed on the bed, as she said without preamble, “When I was little I talked to ghosts. Many ghosts. I see them all around, though most are silent and like fog. But my family, they thought I lied, to gain attention.”

I sat up again. “You talked to them?”

She brought her chin down in a single nod.

“But no one believed you?” I began to pull off my boots.

“No one but my sisters. Theresa because she loves the stories about ghosts. Anna because she knew I never lied.”…

“First, how do you talk to them, and second, what made you decide to tell me these things?”

“I do not know how I speak to them,” she said, her slender hands open as I reached for the wardrobe door. “It happened more when I was small. Rarely since. No one else could hear them. It was not always about things that made sense to me. As for why I’m telling you this, it is partly because of what you said when you came to the lens maker’s, but also because of this man.” She pointed at the wardrobe.

“What?” I jumped back as if I’d been electrocuted, leaving the wardrobe door ajar. “What man?”

She pointed. “He stands there, with a cigarette.”

Sherwood Smith is a master of the fantasy genre, and this book isn’t quite like any other. More swashbuckling romance. With vampires. And these ones definitely don’t sparkle.

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Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy

His Fair Assassin, Book I

by Robin LaFevers

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012. 509 pages.
Starred Review

Wow. This book reminded me of The Canterbury Papers, full of medieval palace intrigue, but this had supernatural powers thrown in.

The book is set in Brittany, beginning in 1485. Ismae has been told from birth that the scar she was born with, from the midwife’s poison failing, marks her as the daughter of Death himself, an ancient Breton god now called St. Mortain. When the man her father sold her to sees the scar, he is going to have her burned, but she is rescued by strangers and sent to the convent of St. Mortain.

At the convent, Ismae learns the special powers she has as the daughter of St. Mortain. She can see a mark on a person who is going to die. Poison does not harm her. She can see a person’s soul when it leaves his body. Also at the convent, they train her to be an assassin.

“If you choose to stay, you will be trained in His arts. You will learn more ways to kill a man than you imagined possible. We will train you in stealth and cunning and all manner of skills that will ensure no man is ever again a threat to you.”

Three years later, Ismae is ready for her first assignments. But now there is political trouble, and Brittany is in danger of being swallowed up by France. Ismae is sent to the court of the duchess herself, ordered to pose as the mistress of Duval, the duchess’s half-brother.

But at court, things don’t turn out as Ismae has been led to believe they will. Those she was told to be suspicious of seem kind and seem to have the Duchess’s best interests at heart. Those she is supposed to trust seem suspicious. What is right?

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of action and adventure. There are surprise attacks and deaths that Ismae had nothing to do with. And the duchess must marry soon, preferably to someone who can bring an army to her cause. Along the way, slowly and exquisitely, we see Ismae’s heart being won by a good man.

Here’s the situation as it’s laid out before Ismae leaves the convent:

Crunard spreads his hands. “Then you know it is true. The circling vultures grow bold. The regent of France has forbidden that Anne be crowned duchess. It is our enemies’ wish to make her France’s ward so that they may claim Brittany for their own. They also claim the right to determine who she will marry.”

Duval begins pacing. “Spies are everywhere. We can scarce keep track of them all. The French have set up a permanent entourage within our court, which has made some of the border nations uneasy.”

Crunard adds, “Not to mention that their presence makes it impossible to see Anne anointed as our duchess without their knowledge. But until we place that coronet upon her head before her people and the Church, we are vulnerable.”

I cannot help but feel sympathy for our poor duchess. “Surely there is some way out of this mess?”

I have addressed my question to the abbess, but it is Duval who answers. “I will forge one with my bare hands, if need be,” he says. “I vow that I will see her duchess, and I will see her safely wed. But I need information against our enemies if I am to accomplish this.”

The room falls so silent that I fear they will hear the pounding of my heart. Duval’s vow has moved me, and that he has made it on sacred ground proves he is either very brave or very foolish.

This is one book I was very happy to see called Book One. The story in this book does come to a satisfying conclusion, but I want to come back to this world. This book would be excellent if it only had the medieval intrigue and romance, but with the paranormal elements added in, there’s extra satisfaction seeing Ismae’s power far beyond what you’d normally expect of a woman in the fifteenth century.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness
Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

Candlewick Press, 2011. 105 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Battle of the Kids’ Books Contender

This is a novel about a thirteen-year-old boy named Conor whose mother is dealing with cancer. His father recently left them, so they live alone. At least for as long as his grandma stays away. At school, Conor has to deal with bullying. He acts out at times, and everyone, teachers and kids, tiptoes around him because of what is happening with his mother.

“The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.”

The monster comes over and over again. No one else can see the monster. But it leaves yew leaves in Conor’s room. It damages Conor’s house.

The monster tells him three tales. Three tales that Conor doesn’t like. Three tales that pack a punch. When those are done, what is the truth that Conor needs to tell, and will he have the strength to tell it?

The illustrations in this book are atmospheric and creepy, pulling the reader into the dark, sinister setting. Everything about this book works.

However, let me just say that if you’re a recently divorced mother living with your teenage son and you’re experiencing strange medical symptoms, this book is not a good choice. This fact makes me think the book might not be a great choice for someone whose mother actually has cancer. It’s great for building empathy in kids who are not going through something similar right now, but it might be too discouraging if the situation feels at all like it’s matching life. Let’s just say the outcome for the mother is not good.

For me, I had a stroke last July, and thought I’d come off very lucky, with no permanent disability and the stroke never touching my higher thinking. Then in October, I had a weird setback, feeling like I did right after the stroke again. After another setback, I saw the neurologist. He wasn’t very impressed by my low-grade dizziness and feeling “funny,” but then he did a neurological exam. When he saw I was seeing double if I looked up and to the right (my left eye not tracking with my right eye), he told me I’d probably had another stroke! This was December 23rd. He told me to get an MRI done the next week and see him the week after that. I tried to make an appointment to see him, and they gave me January 25th.

Now, I’d been laboring under the belief that the fact I was on Coumadin would keep me from having a second stroke. After this appointment, I had some days off because of Christmas. After Christmas, at work I noticed that now I was seeing double if I looked up and to the left. I called the neurologist’s office and they told me to go to the ER, but the ER didn’t find anything new wrong. I had more days off for New Year’s and felt awful but just wasn’t sure what the symptoms meant.

Then I read A Monster Calls for Heavy Medal blog’s shortlist. Can I just say this was really bad timing? When I originally had the stroke, I wasn’t very scared because I had no idea what was going on and I hadn’t read about all the bad things that can happen as the result of a stroke. It was a holiday weekend, I felt awful, and my neurologist’s office was closed. And I’m reading a book about the recently divorced mother of a teenage son dying. Is it so surprising that I freaked out? (Actually, after I thought about that connection, I decided to blame my freaking out directly on A Monster Calls, and then I felt much better.)

So, all this is to say: This book is outstanding. It’s atmospheric, powerful, well-written and hard-hitting. But be careful when you read it.

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Review of Drink, Slay, Love, by Sarah Beth Durst

Drink, Slay, Love

by Sarah Beth Durst

Margaret K. McElderry Books, New York, 2011. 386 pages.
Starred Review

I normally am not much of a fan of vampire books. In fact, I enjoyed the Twilight series because it didn’t read like a vampire book at all. I almost quit on this book after the first two chapters, but I like Sarah Beth Durst’s writing so much, I decided to persevere. I was glad I did!

In the world of Drink, Slay, Love vampires are not sparkly and nice. They have the traditional features of not having reflections, hating holy water, and combusting if they are exposed to sunlight. Pearl and her Family do hide from humans in their mansion with underground catacombs. But at night they go out and feed. It turns out that vampire venom causes wounds to heal quickly and also causes humans to forget. So they can prey on the same humans often, and no one is the wiser.

Pearl’s family has been selected to host an upcoming Fealty Ceremony for the King of New England, so they need to prepare a large feast. But soon after they get the news, Pearl gets stabbed by a unicorn.

Her Family doesn’t believe her. Of course unicorns don’t exist. They think some slayer came after her. But then Pearl discovers that now she can walk around in daylight. Her family is appalled, but they think of a way they can use this turn of events.

“‘You will solve a problem for us,’ Mother said. She began to smile too. This was more alarming than Daddy’s smile. Pearl wasn’t sure she had ever seen Mother’s face curve into a smile. It looked unnatural, as if the porcelain-doll face had cracked. Her eyes didn’t change. Only her lips curved.

“‘Oh?’ Pearl said. ‘Wonderful.’

“‘For the Fealty Ceremony, we need to supply enough humans for the king and his guards to quench their thirst. However, obtaining the dozen humans needed with our current hunting grounds is problematic at best and extremely risky at worst,’ Daddy said. ‘One or two at a time can always be managed, but that many at once . . .’

“Mother chimed in, ‘Our hope is that with this new development, new opportunities will present themselves.’

“‘You want me to find the king’s dinner in daylight?’ Pearl guessed.

“‘Precisely,’ Mother said.

“Daddy smiled. ‘We want you to attend high school.'”

However, Pearl is changing. Could she be developing a conscience? And she’s actually beginning to make friends. Can she really give them up for the king’s feast? But if she doesn’t, her Family will kill her.

I ended up enjoying this book very much indeed. I did laugh when an element came up that I’ve found in Sarah Beth Durst’s other books, Ice and Enchanted Ivy. It’s an element I really enjoy, though. This time there’s a rather major plot point involved, so I won’t give it away. People who are up on unicorn terminology (for example those who have read Diana Peterfreund’s Rampant) may suspect, but they’ll still enjoy it when all is revealed.

Sarah Beth Durst knows how to write fun books. Enchanted Ivy was good-hearted fun playing off the gargoyles of Princeton. This book has good-hearted fun playing off all the traditional vampire (and unicorn) tropes. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it was a vampire story.

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Review of The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star

Shades of London
Book One

by Maureen Johnson

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011. 372 pages.
Starred Review

On the same day that Rory Deveaux from Benouville, Louisiana, arrives in London for a year of boarding school, someone decides to imitate the murders of Jack the Ripper. The murders are gruesome and horrible, and keep arriving on schedule, with Rory’s school in the middle of Ripper territory. But the worst part about these new murders is that the victims can be seen on the closed circuit TV cameras posted all over London. But the person murdering them cannot be seen.

Then Rory begins seeing people that her friends don’t see. And on the night of one of the murders, one man in particular talks to her, but her roommate Jazza doesn’t even see him. He knows who she is and where she lives.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, because it’s all played out beautifully, with plenty of growing suspense as we begin to figure out, along with Rory, what is going on.

It all leads into a frightening and dangerous confrontation at the end, with a nice twist that assures us there will be more books about Rory. (Though the story in this book is complete, thank goodness! None of that awful “To Be Continued” stuff here.)

Now, call me sheltered, but I had no idea how gruesome Jack the Ripper’s murders were. I thought he just slit people’s throats or something. Using those details definitely raises the stakes in this novel. We want to see the murderer brought to justice, and we don’t want to see Rory fall into his clutches.

The non-paranormal part of the story is entertaining on its own with an American girl trying to fit in at an English boarding school. I fully sympathized with Rory’s horror at field hockey every single day.

I enjoyed the passage where she explains what she learned in the first week:

“Some other facts I picked up:

“Welsh is an actual, currently used language and our next-door neighbors Angela and Gaenor spoke it. It sounds like Wizard.

“Baked beans are very popular in England. For breakfast. On toast. On baked potatoes. They can’t get enough.

“‘American History’ is not a subject everywhere.

“England and Britain and the United Kingdom are not the same thing. England is the country. Britain is the island containing England, Scotland, and Wales. The United Kingdom is the formal designation of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as a political entity. If you mess this up, you will be corrected. Repeatedly.

“The English will play hockey in any weather. Thunder, lightning, plague of locusts . . . nothing can stop the hockey. Do not fight the hockey, for the hockey will win.

“Jack the Ripper struck for the second time very early on September 8, 1888.”

This is a well-written novel of suspense, but with lots of fun mixed in. I’m an avid follower of Maureen Johnson on Twitter, where she’s the funniest person ever, so I wasn’t at all surprised to love Rory’s voice. I am not a person who deliberately chooses to read scary books. Yet I thought this scary book was wonderful, and a whole lot of fun. I’m looking forward to future books.

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Review of The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races

by Maggie Stiefvater

Scholastic Press, New York, 2011. 409 pages.
Starred Review

I wasn’t sure I would like this book when I read the cover flap, but ended up completely entranced. All my childhood love of The Black Stallion books was aroused. I started it on the way to KidLitCon, and was awfully annoyed when the plane landed and I had to stop. The second night (when I didn’t have a roommate), I kept reading until I finished, because sleep could wait!

Now, I haven’t read any of Maggie Stiefvater’s other books. I’ve pretty much had my fill of werewolf or vampire books, so I didn’t even try them. But this one is about horses — bloodthirsty water horses.

I thought the author had invented a completely new creature, but I learned in the afterword that there is a strong tradition of Manx and Irish and Scottish dangerous water horses. Of course, Maggie Stiefvater took the idea and made it her own. This is no fairy tale retelling, but an intriguing story with mythic elements.

The book begins with a Prologue set nine years earlier. The heading says we’re hearing from Sean, who we soon learn is 9 years old. Here’s how it begins:

“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

“Even under the brightest sun, the frigid autumn sea is all the colors of the night: dark blue and black and brown. I watch the ever-changing patterns in the sand as it’s pummeled by countless hooves.

“They run the horses on the beach, a pale road between the black water and the chalk cliffs. It is never safe, but it’s never so dangerous as today, race day.”

As Sean watches his father mount the red stallion, he hopes the capall will remember what Sean whispered in his ear: Do not eat my father.

“I am watching the race from the cliffs when a gray uisce horse seizes my father by his arm and then his chest.

“For one moment, the waves do not attack the shore and the gulls above us do not flap and the gritty air in my lungs doesn’t escape.

“Then the gray water horse tears my father from his uneasy place on the back of the red stallion.

“The gray cannot keep its ragged grip on my father’s chest, and so my father falls to the sand, already ruined before the hooves get to him. He was in second place, so it takes a long minute before the rest of the horses have passed over the top of his body and I can see it again. By then, he is a long, black and scarlet smear half-submerged in the frothy tide. The red stallion circles, halfway to a hungry creature of the sea, but he does as I asked: He does not eat the thing that was my father. Instead, the stallion climbs back into the water. Nothing is as red as the sea that day.”

Then the book begins, nine years later, from the perspective of our other protagonist, Kate “Puck” Connelly. Her parents were also killed by water horses, but not because they were racing. Last Fall, they were simply going for a ride in their boat offshore the island, when a water horse attacked and killed them. Now Puck’s older brother, Gabe, goes to work at the Hotel, and Puck keeps things going at home for him and their younger brother, Finn.

Puck and Finn are going into town along the beach with Puck’s beloved ordinary horse Dove when they see the first water horse of the year come onto the land.

“Finn flinches as the horse gallops down the beach toward us, and I lay a hand on his elbow, though my own heart is thumping in my ears.

“‘Don’t move,’ I whisper. ‘Don’t-move-don’t-move-don’t-move.’

“I cling to what we’ve been told over and over — that the water horses love a moving target; they love the chase. I make a list of reasons it won’t attack us: We’re motionless, we’re not near the water, we’re next to the Morris, and the water horses despise iron.

“Sure enough, the water horse gallops past us without pause. I can see Finn swallowing, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his skinny neck, and it’s so true, it’s so hard not to flinch until it’s leapt back into the ocean once more.

“They’re here again.

“This is what happens every fall. My parents didn’t follow the races, but I know the shape of the story nonetheless. The closer it gets to November, the more horses the sea spits out. Those islanders who mean to race in future Scorpio Races will often go out in great hunting parties to capture the fresh capaill uisce, which is always dangerous, since the horses are hungry and still sea-mad. And once the new horses emerge, it’s a signal to those who are racing in the current year’s races to begin training the horses they caught the years before — horses that have been comparatively docile until the smell of the fall sea begins to call to the magic inside them.

“During the month of October, until the first of November, the island becomes a map of safe areas and unsafe areas, because unless you’re one of the riders, you don’t want to be around when a capall uisce goes crazy. Our parents tried hard to shield us from the realities of the uisce horses, but it was impossible to avoid it. Friends would miss school because an uisce horse had killed their dog overnight. Dad would have to drive around a ruined carcass on the way to Skarmouth, evidence of where a water horse and a land horse had gotten into a fight. The bells at St. Columba’s would ring midday for the funeral of a fisherman caught unawares on the shore.

“Finn and I don’t need to be told how dangerous the horses are. We know. We know it every day.”

Then the narration alternates back to Sean Kendrick. He’s nineteen now, and he knows the water horses better than anyone else on the island. He has won the Scorpio Races the last four years, riding on Coll, the red stallion his father rode the day he died. But Sean isn’t racing on his own name. He works for Mr. Malvern, the richest man on the island. He wants nothing so much as to own Coll for himself, but Malvern isn’t selling.

Then Puck’s brother Gabe tells her he’s leaving the island to find work. Puck will do anything to keep him here, for any length of time, so she decides to enter the race this year.

But the island men don’t want a woman in the races. They say it’s bad luck, that she doesn’t belong. But Puck has to win. That’s the only way she can save their home, on which Malvern says he’s going to foreclose.

To add to Sean’s difficulties, Malvern’s son Mutt is jealous. Sean has always told Malvern which horse is the safest, so Mutt can ride that one. But now Mutt wants to win, even if it takes riding a horse that’s more than he can handle.

We quickly get drawn into these characters’ lives. They both love the island and the island’s traditions. They both love their horses. And they both really need to win.

Meanwhile, there’s a long tradition of how the training is done in the weeks leading up to the race, and Maggie Stiefvater has the reader mesmerized as Puck and Sean go through those weeks, Puck facing the hostility of the whole town, and Sean facing Mutt Malvern’s hatred and Malvern’s refusal to let him buy Coll. Along the way, they both are in life-or-death danger over and over again.

This book is brilliant. As I said, all my horse-book-loving little girl passions were aroused! But it had more than that. These horses were faster and far more deadly than ordinary horses, so the stakes were much higher. The author also worked in a realistic scenario of a small island totally dependent on the tourism surrounding its annual race, with young people leaving the island for the mainland. Like The Black Stallion, we’ve got a young man who is the only one who can ride a wild stallion, and maybe the horse loves him back, though wild with everyone else. And we’ve got a girl willing to risk everything to stay on the island she loves. No surprise, there’s romance between Sean and Puck, and it’s beautifully, delicately done. As the end approaches, we definitely want both of them to win the race, with so much at stake.

The one little thing I wasn’t crazy about was the character of Mutt Malvern. In general, I don’t like books to have a stereotypical bully. But Maggie Stiefvater made the situation seem quite realistic and we could pretty easily believe Mutt would act the way he did. She did keep him just the right side of stereotypical. And the interaction between Mutt and Sean definitely ratcheted up the tension.

Yes, I confess, even though I never had a horse, I was a stereotypical horse-loving little girl through books. And this book was like those childhood reads, only more so. I have a feeling I will be rereading this book many times. It is that good.

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Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

by Laini Taylor

Little, Brown and Company, 2011. 420 pages.
Starred Review

This book is incredible. However, I’ll tell you right up front that there was one thing I hated about it: The last three words, those horrible words: “…to be continued.”

Perhaps if I had realized this book was simply Part One, I wouldn’t have minded quite as much. As it was, I was frustrated. The characters are left in quite a fix.

However, if I had known, I might not have rushed to read this, and I’m so glad I did. I will definitely want to reread it when the next book comes out, and to get my hands on the next book just as soon as possible.

I maintain that Laini Taylor’s imagination is advanced beyond the realm of mere mortals. (In fact, the main character has hair of an unusual color, so perhaps this book is simply autobiographical?) This book creates a world out there, parallel with ours, and it takes the whole book to understand the ins and outs, the ramifications.

Karou is a student living in Prague who’s been brought up by demons. She still does errands for Brimstone, bringing him teeth. She doesn’t know what he uses the teeth for, but he does supply her with small wishes. And plenty of money to purchase the teeth.

Just to let you know, the book begins with frank sexuality. Karou’s ex-boyfriend, whom she caught cheating on her, is not-at-all-subtly trying to win her back. He gets a job posing nude in her life drawing class. Her use of small wishes to get rid of him is a lovely and brilliant example of fitting revenge.

But the rest of the book is much more serious, much more dangerous. Angels are coming to earth and placing black handprints on every door where Brimstone has a portal. Karou gets a rare opportunity to find out more about Brimstone — and he has a very disturbing reaction. She’s cut off from the only family she’s ever known.

And then, why is Karou so powerfully drawn to one particular angel?

But the overarching question, the one it takes the entire book to answer, is the one everyone’s asking her: “Who are you?” Karou doesn’t know the answers herself. When she finds out, it will make all the difference.

This is an incredible book. About love and loyalty and war and life and death. A tale not quite like any other I’ve ever read.

“It wasn’t like in the storybooks. No witches lurked at the crossroads disguised as crones, waiting to reward travelers who shared their bread. Genies didn’t burst from lamps, and talking fish didn’t bargain for their lives. In all the world, there was only one place humans could get wishes: Brimstone’s shop. And there was only one currency he accepted. It wasn’t gold, or riddles, or kindness, or any other fairy-tale nonsense, and no, it wasn’t souls, either. It was weirder than any of that.”

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Review of Desires of the Dead, by Kimberly Derting

Desires of the Dead

by Kimberly Derting

Harper, 2011. 355 pages.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Body Finder, by Kimberly Derting, so I was excited when I heard a sequel was coming out, and checked it out right away.

Bodies that have been killed call to Violet. They affect her senses in a strange way, with a scent or a sound or a feeling. And when she senses them, she has to put them to rest. Disturbingly, the one who killed them has the same echo. That was a problem when she was around her cat, a natural killer of small animals. But when she finds a human body, it seems like she should use her abilities to find the killer.

The plot of this follow-up seemed a little more contrived, a little more relying on coincidence than the first book. However, it’s still classic romantic suspense: The heroine finds out just enough to lead her into deadly danger. How can she get out?

It also appears that the author is setting Violet up to join an organization that uses people with paranormal abilities to solve crimes. That will make it more believable, in future books, when she continues to encounter dead bodies.

So, this is a fun, exciting tale of romantic suspense with that one, creative paranormal twist.

At risk of being a stick-in-the-mud, I do want to give a word of warning for those who would care. Violet’s beautiful romance continues. They were best friends all their lives, and this seems like true love, and they will surely marry one day. They decide to have sex.

Now, this is handled sensitively and believably and not graphically. It’s realistic as to how a serious relationship like that would be likely to go with today’s teens. But it makes me a little sad. As in the first YA novel I ever read where the characters had sex outside of marriage, these ones wonder why they didn’t do it sooner. And I’m a little sad they have to wonder. There’s something really beautiful about saving sex for marriage. Because sex is so amazing, giving it only to someone who’s publicly committed to you for life is beautiful. Safe. Loving. Incredible. (More beautiful if they actually keep the commitment, but still….) If I had read this book when I was young and in love and trying to wait for marriage, it wouldn’t have helped. That’s all I’m saying….

But this is a good book, and an enjoyable and suspenseful read. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book, and the romance wasn’t as moving, but then committed love isn’t quite as full of thrills and drama as the beginning of a relationship. Violet gets pulled into danger, and it’s pretty natural for someone who loves her to try to keep her out of that, so it’s natural for her to start having secrets…. It will be interesting to see how things continue on, as this book had all the marks of a series beginning.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.