Monday, October 29, 2007

Jane-Emily and Witches' Children by Patricia Clapp

This book actually contains two novels that have been republished together. Jane-Emily is from 1969, while Witches' Children was first published in 1982. They seem a bit aged (you can sort of tell they are older) but they are still interesting stories.

Jane-Emily is set in an earlier time period and centers on Louisa, a young woman sent to spend the summer with her niece (Jane) at the grandmother's house. Jane is a very impressionable girl who suddenly becomes fascinated with a reflecting ball in the garden. The ball belonged to her Grandmother's daughter Emily who died at a young age. Emily is described as a manipulative hellion who got everything she asked for and had a fit when she didn't get it immediately. Jane soon begins to see Emily in the ball and has a few possessed moments thanks to the dead child. Louisa, who tries to put no belief into Emily, soon begins to date Adam, Emily's childhood friend/sweetheart. While Emily begins to impose upon their days, Louisa and Jane fear that she might also prevent the young lovers from being together, even if it means taking someone's life.

This novel, while intriguing, didn't live up to its potential. While it did contain a few creepy moments, they were few and weak. Maybe I'm a little jaded by today's standards of suspense (the novel is only 38 years old) but there could have been more. The characters, though, were interesting, particularly Emily who continued to rule beyond the grave.

Witches' Children details the events of the Salem Witch trials. It is told through the eyes of Mary Warren, a young girl who, you might say, gave into peer pressure. Her friends were interested in the powers of Tituba, a woman who could trance herself and read palms. One young girl also appeared to have the ability to "trance herself" and others wanted to try it too. Despite the warnings of bad things to come, they began to "see the devil" and suddenly become overwhelmed with screams and twitches. There was a large group of these children and when one began screaming, it was contagious for the other children, including Mary. Word began to seep out that the children were possessed and the next thing they knew they were claiming townspeople, witches, were pinching them and causing them to act in such a way. Multiple people, despite claims of innocence, were accused of being witches. Soon Mary's masters were charged with being witches and she began to realize that none of what they said was true. That caused her to be charged as a witch. In a great example of the times, merely stating that you were in fact a witch granted you forgiveness and an escape from death, while, as Mary said, " proclaim oneself innocent is to declare oneself guilty" (243). Soon the hype dies down, but not before most of the accused "witches" were hung.

While Witches' Children felt like a bit of a slow read (possibly due to faltering interest in the novel), it was intriguing to read it as a human nature story. The impact that these girls had on the town was utterly amazing. Scream a little, cry out someone's name, and suddenly that person is on trial. Mary knew that it was wrong and she was able to cease such behavior, but most of the girls weren't willing to give up the power they had. They were able to condemn anyone who'd wronged them in the past. And the way that people of authority gave into it and kept pushing until the point that people gave the answers they looked for...sheesh! The human nature aspect of this novel was amazing.

By today's standards these novels are a little mundane, but overall they weren't bad. You just had to approach them in a slightly different manner.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Everlost by Shusterman

This story takes place in a site between life and afterlife. In this place some foods like lovingly made birthday cakes, transportation like the Hindenburg, buildings like the twin towers, land where disasters have occurred and so on exist and kids ages 15 and younger can exist there, have adventures there, get stuck forever in a rut there. A few older kids have discovered how to reign, have power over others there, as long as they don't share the secret of going into the light...Nick and Allie discover the lies of Mary who seems sweet but isn't, the very scary Haunter with powers he will share for a price and the much feared McGill who they barely manage to escape after many adventures. Not my favorite Shusterman book but not a bad scary adventure story. Jdw 10/24/07

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ghost Hunting True Stories of Unexplained Phenomea from TAPS

The Atlantic Paranormal Society or TAPS is based out of Rhode Island and was founded by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. They are a paranormal investigation group that goes to houses, hotels, restaurants, battleships, lighthouses, ect. and they use the scientific approach to determine if a place is haunted or not. They use tape recorders to get Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP for short. They also use thermal imaging cameras and video cameras to try and catch any evidence of a haunting. They also use any personal experiences to help validate if a place is truly haunted, especially if there is evidence to back up the personal experience. This book chronicles some of TAPS early cases (which haven't been shown on TV) from a girl being possessed to a church that was haunted to a place with 2 good spirits and 1 bad spirit. It also chronicles a lot of the cases seen on the Sci-Fi television show Ghost Hunters which airs on Wednesday nights on Sci-Fi. A few worth mentioning are a light house in Florida where almost everyone on the investigation saw a black mass lean over a railing in the light house and said hello in a little girls voice (the evidence on TV looked really cool) to the WW II battle ship USS North Carolina to Rolling Hills Asylum in New York to The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, the setting for Stephen King's The Shining.

I really enjoyed this book, and liked reading about some of TAPS early cases. This book is for anyone curious about ghost hunting, or who just like to read true tales of hauntings from around the United States. If you want to see Jason, Grant, and the rest of TAPS in action watch Ghost Hunters Wednesday nights at 8 pm on Sci-Fi channel, and watch out because you may think you are alone but you may not be.

T.B. 10/23/07

Monday, October 22, 2007

La Historia de Ana By: Jenna Bush

This is a true story, based on the work the author did with UNICEF . By the way, the author is one of President Bush's twin daughters. This account in this particular book, can take place in any country of the world. I believe it relates to an event in a country in which I lived for 37 years. Time magazine of Oct. 22/07 mentions Jenna Bush's book, and it is in the Republic of Panama. Ms. Bush in her book includes many photos that are familiar to me.

What happens to Anna, and her sister is common in Latin America. The two sisters are left orphan, because the Mother dies of HIV positive. So Anna, and Isabel go to live with their grandparents.The Grandmother is gone daily for 10 hours to work as a waitress. The Grandfather is a construction worker, who works odd hours. He spends more time at home with granddaughters. On several occasions he sneaks in the girls room, and violates their sexual privacy. The girls fight him off . The Grandmother is never home when this happens.

The girls tell their grandma, but she does not believe them. The girls have no place to turn . Ana went to School and got good grades and had friends. Ana arranged for her to move to her best friends house for a while. The Mother was Yolanda, and was willing to house Isabel her younger sister. After a while, Ana went to an Institution were boys and girls where living. Everyone at the Institution had HIV in different stages. Ana had her own bedroom , so that was good. The meals were o.k. Ana still attended, and eventually graduated from High School. Ana met a boy that she fell in love with, his name was Beto. They loved each other so much , but the young man was HIV that was very advanced. They had a baby girl named Beatriz. Fortunately, the baby was not infected by the the virus. Ana had taken medicine since she was 13 to prevent the virus from carry over to any off-spring. The baby was tested for the Virus every three months and did not have the HIV Virus.

This story is based on a real event , that can take place in any country to anyone.

Read this book, when the Library has it in English. It should be arriving soon. It is a good book to read.

LRD 10/22/07

Friday, October 19, 2007

Yellow Flag - Robert Lipsyte

Race car driving has been a part of Kyle's family for generations. Kris, Kyle's brother, is the star driver of the family. Kyle is like the black sheep because he wants to play his trumpet and not drive a race car. Kyle is part of a quartet in the high school band. When Kris gets hurt at one race Kyle has to fill in for Kris. After the race Kyle feels what its like to be in a race and get good standing. Kyle's dad tells him that he needs to fill in for Kris until he gets better, and Kyle's friends start to question his commitment to the quartet when he starts missing practices to practice for the next race. Once Kris heals from his injuries their sponsor has grand plans for the brothers to race and even have another car built, similar to the one Kris and Kyle have been racing in. In the end Kyle doesn't give up music but doesn't give up racing either. I don't watch NA SCAR or any race car driving but I did enjoyed this book. It shows how pressure from you family can affect you and your friends and even things you love, like Kyle playing the trumpet. There is pressure all around and Kyle does a good job in handling his family and friends, and in the end deciding what he really wants to do.

T.B. 10/19/07

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz

This book is currently on order. When it arrives, it is definitely one to look into if you like creepy novels.

Derik is destined to work in his parent's diner, but that's not what he dreams of doing. He wants to be a filmmaker and finds the opportunity of a lifetime in a reality TV film contest. With the soon to be demolition of the towns mental institute, Derik decides to film a group of teenagers spending the night there. Each volunteer has his/her own agenda. Liza joins to have more team activities on her college applications, Tony and Greta see this a chance for publicity in Hollywood, Mimi wishes to connect with her Grandmother - a former patient, and Chet wants a night away from his alcoholic father.

Upon first entering the asylum, Liza admits to having odd feelings that the place doesn't want them there, that things aren't right. Needless to say, things are a little creepy in the asylum, particularly how they keep finding things related to one patient. Could she be trying to contact them beyond the grave? If so, what does she want? And why does she have to find freaky ways of communicating?

This was a book that I couldn't put down. I became just as invested in the patient as did the characters. I wanted to know her story. The creepiness was also nicely done. It wasn't too over the top, but enough to give you chills as you read. At the same time, the novel wasn't just about the ghosts. Part of it was about the characters figuring out themselves and connecting with each other. The characters explore whether or not they are victims of past behavior or if the images they present to the work are their true selves. Also, people who wouldn't normally associate grow close and there even are a few budding romances. It's a subtle social commentary, but it's enough to do the trick. It was nice to see how this book, initially sets out to scare, offers more in terms of character development.

This book is definitely worth the read. It isn't a blood bath horror fest, but sometimes scary is more than blood and guts. It's a psychological thriller that even forces you to think about yourself.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sun Signs by Hrdlitschka

A fast easy to read "novel" written in a series of e-mails among 4 students in a virtual/on-line high school. This story nevertheless takes a look at some important issues. Some questions that are considered but not definitively answered are : Can you really fall in love with someone on-line? How much of a writer's personality comes out in e-mails (without hearing a voice or seeing body language)? How much of what people say in e-mails is true, partially true, outright lie, lie just to have fun? and How much does a belief system and a positive attitude (or the opposite) affect your happiness, sadness, health? Kayleigh has several distant study buddies from taking on-line high school classes. None of the four goes to regular high school. All have different reasons which slowly emerge. Kayleigh now has a science research assignment. Her teacher allows her to research astrology and whether it is accurate in it's predictions. Three distant study buddies agree to read their horoscopes and report to her. They become her source for data. It appears that the the project is ruined when it is discovered that one of the participants is providing false data. Teacher insists she continue anyway using the data whether true or false and writing her conclusions. This all happens while Kayleigh is being treated for cancer. She is a Gemini, sign of the twins and writes in a diary to her secret twin where we learn of her struggles, hopes, fears, successes and failures. Recommended.
JDW 10/4/07

Monday, October 01, 2007

First Shot by Walter Sorrells

Two years ago David Crandall’s mother was murdered and no one had been arrested. His father, the headmaster of the private school that David attends, turns out to be the prime suspect, but there’s no hard evidence. That is, of course, until David witnesses his father burying something in the middle of the night that just happens to look like a rifle…

In the meantime, David doesn’t feel he has much to live for. In fact, he feels like an appendix, relatively useless (his words). The only thing he has to look forward to is shooting and working up to the prestigious honor of First Shot during graduation. Suddenly, though, he’s got competition in new student Misty Clearly. The two become friends as she pushes him to become a better shooter and he pulls her into the mystery of his mother’s death. Certain things just don’t add up. At his mother’s death she had in her possession a painting and a key. When David talks to the people who found his mother (an old childhood friend) he learns about a secret in the tunnels under the school, but the safe that the key belongs to was empty. Things start to fall into place, though, when he learns his mother hid important clues behind her painting. Soon the real murderer wants those papers and doesn’t mind sacrificing David in efforts to obtain them.

This book turned out to be really thrilling. Once the investigation of his mother’s murder got underway, it was a roller coaster ride of suspense and then a calm, only to be hit again with more action. The end, though, left me a little disappointed. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the wrap up of his mother’s investigation. The killer got what he deserved in a great tie in with David’s passion for shooting (David didn’t kill the person so that didn’t give anything away), but how the police concluded his guilt remained unexplained seeing as the evidence was destroyed. That brings up another point – two words: Zerox Machine! If a crucial piece of evidence is a piece of paper, always make copies! You don’t need to tell the bad man that you have copies, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Paper is very easily destroyed so you need to cover all bases. But really, that was my only pet peeve about the book. Just the ending, I didn’t get it. How was the innocent man freed? Who was the witness, what evidence did he provide?? Otherwise, David is a likable character with an enjoyable personality and I loved the flow of the suspense. Also, I like how his passion with shooting, and some of the techno-lingo fit into it all. During the competition for the First Shot and the explanation of some shooting terms, my eyes at first glazed over, but when I got to the end, I was like, "Dude, it fits! Nicely done!"

Great mystery! I’d been disappointed in other young adult mysteries but this one holds up.