Let's see if I can remember everything . . this week was a good week for books.
Tess Hilmo, With a Name Like Love (Whitney book). This was a lovely book, about thirteen-year-old Ollie Love and her travelling-preacher father (who goes by the unlikely but apt name of Everlasting Love). Her family arrives in a Georgia town on a sweltering summer day, intending to just stay their usual three days for preaching, but Ollie discovers that a local boy, Jimmie, is in serious need. His mother's in prison for killing his no-good father, and Jimmie's in danger of getting sent to the foster system. Ollie doesn't believe Jimmie's mother is guilty, and she convinces her father that it's their Christian duty to stay long enough to clear her name and help restore Jimmie's family. There were a lot of things I loved about this story: there was just enough intrigue to keep things moving, but I liked the rich characters (for once, a middle grade girl who has strong relationships with both her parents), the unexpected things you learn about some of the townspeople, and the slow, warm, lyrical language of the book. It was arm and sweet and, I thought, wonderful.This is the kind of story that kids and adults alike can enjoy.
Bethany Wiggins, Shifting (Whitney). I enjoyed this book more than I expected to--the YA market is so inundated with paranormal stories right now that I was a little hesitant to pick up another story about a girl who can shapeshift. However, I think this story has a freshness to it, largely because the shapeshifting mythology is rooted in Navajo legend, rather than having the paranormal stuff rooted in more common European folklore. The story begins when Maggie Mae is moved to yet another foster home, in Silver City, New Mexico, just before her eighteenth birthday. There, Maggie has to not only confront the difficulties of a new school, but she has to deal with the shapeshifting abilities that she doesn't fully understand, and the fact that someone appears to be hunting her (or at least asking about her in suspicious and clandestine fashion). Not surprisingly, Maggie's also drawn almost instantly to the rich kid at school, Bridger. The romantic element was a little predictable, but well-drawn, and I liked both Maggie and Bridger. I also liked that Maggie was able to develop a support network in her new town after being essentially on her own for so long. The writing was strong and the pace moved along quickly (you'll notice how many books I read this week?). My only critique is that the last 1/4 of the book wasn't as engaging for me as the first 3/4, but that might be more due to my own preferences than any issue with the novel. I'm just not as into big show-downs with villains as I am the more ordinary complications of high school life and figuring out where you fit into the world.
Elise Broach, Shakespeare's Secret. A friend of mine recommended this book after telling me that the middle grade novel I'm working on reminded her of this one. I can only think that was a flattering comparison! I really enjoyed this story, about a 12 year old girl named Hero who struggles to fit into a new school after her Dad gets a new job working for a museum dedicated to all things Shakespeare. Hero befriends her neighbor, Mrs. Roth, who tells her about the mysterious disappearance of an antique diamond in the house Hero's now living in. Hero gets drawn into the diamond search, along with the cool neighbor kid, Danny Cordova, who doesn't seem to mind that Hero's not exactly popular. I thought the story was fun, interesting (lots of Shakespearean hints and clues to help them find the diamond), and tightly written. A great middle-grade read.
Shannon Hale, Princess Academy (re-read).
Dan Wells, I Don't Want to Kill You (Whitney). This is another book that I wasn't expecting to like, but did. I'm not a fan of horror--I usually avoid it when possible--and I hadn't read the first two books in this series. However, since this is on my Whitney list for the year, I dutifully picked it up. I was swept up almost immediately by John Cleaver's strong voice. (He's been compared to a teenage Dexter, but since I haven't seen the show I don't know how apt that is.) I do know that John has struggled with demons--both his own demons (he's a diagnosed sociopath who struggles to empathize with others) and real demons who've come haunting his town. In this book, John has called a demon to town--with the intent of killing her. But first he has to figure out who she is. The sudden appearance of a known serial killer in their town has John thinking he's found her, but, of course, things aren't what they seem. There was a fair amount of blood and gore in this story--also some descriptive embalming (John's mother is a mortician)--but I wasn't bothered by it quite as much as I thought I would be. Mostly, I got caught up by the story, which consistently surprised and unsettled me. The ending was particularly strong: both unexpected and unexpectedly moving.