Untamed (House of Night novel, book four)

Untamed (House of Night novel, book four) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, 2008.

I read the first three books of this series earlier this summer, and then the fourth book came out. I loved the first book (Marked), while I felt the second and third books were just kind of. . . for lack of a better word. . . okay. However, I hoped that the fourth book would be better. I wasn’t holding my breath when I started it. It didn’t take long until I got into the book. This one “sucked” me in much quicker, which was great!

The series takes place at a House of Night, where teens and young adults who have been “marked” to become vampires (the marks a kind of henna colored tattoos of moons on their forheads). In this story, they do not have to die, really, to become vampires. Except, a new kind of vampire has formed. . . young marked vamps who did not survive “the change” and died. Except now the have bright red marks. . .

Zoe Redbird is the rising star – she’s already a full vampire with tattoos over her body that form with each accomplishment. She’s also only been marked for four months. She will be the new Priestess, and she knows that something evil is going on with the current Priestess. . . the question is, what? Zoe and her friends are back, after some major rifts, working together to try to solve the mysteries.

I really enjoyed this fourth book!

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901, Arizona Territories: a Novel by Nancy E. Turner (1998)

First, let me say I loved this book, eventually. . . and it is “adult fiction”.

I borrowed this book on the spur of the moment a couple of months ago (July), and read the first few pages. They seemed rather depressing, and I didn’t continue, partially because the book was due by then. However, a week or two ago, I was informed that the author goes to the church I’ve gone to the last couple of weeks. This book was nominated in 2007 to be the One Book AZ book. (By the way, I’d like to see Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald for One Book AZ 2008!!) So, I tried These is My Words again. It is not easy reading. . . several people die in just the first 41 pages or so. However, by then, I had to know what happened. I have to say that this is the kind of book I’ve appreciated for years, since I was a kid (historical fiction in journal/diary format).

Wow, I was sorry when I reached the end of the book. Fortunately, there are sequals. There are several very sad portions, and some wonderful portions (for instance, I didn’t realize the University of Arizona here in Tucson was the first university in Arizona) about the joy of reading and education. Sarah never got to go to school formally, but studies on her own, and eventually passes the 12-grade exams. She moves into Tucson with her husband, even though she hates being in town, so that her children could have the privilege of going to school. She runs a ranch on her own. Sarah is a very strong woman. If you go to the author’s website, there are pictures of the woman Sarah is based on. Sarah is based on the author’s grandmother’s diaries and experiences.

An excellent read! I highly, highly recommend it!

Evernight by Claudia Gray

Evernight by Claudia Gray (2008)

I read this book last week. It is a new teen vampire novel. I enjoyed it more than (*gasp*) Twilight when I read that book when it first came out. The author really sets up a surprise in the middle of the book that I did not totally expect, which made it fun to read. The story starts out with the main character, Bianca Olivier, moaning about having moved to a new school and how she misses the small town she’d grown up in. Now she is in a snooty boarding school where her parents are new teachers, and she has very odd classmates. One of the classes offered is “Modern Technology”, where the students learn about iPods and how to program a microwave. It turns out this class is for vampires who are several hundred years old who need a class to learn about technology. I found this rather silly, but the rest of the book was very good. I liked it better than the House of Night books I read earlier this summer. I did not like Evernight as much as the Vampire Academy series (I read the second book in this series earlier this summer.)

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief a memoir by Ann Hood (2008)

“Grief is not linear. People keep telling me that once this happened or that passed, everything would be better. Some people gave me one year to grieve. They saw grief as a straight line, with beginning, middle, and end. But it is not linear. It is disjointed. One day you are acting almost like a normal person. You maybe even manage to take a shower. Your clothes match. You think the autumn leaves look pretty, or enjoy the sound of snow crunching under your feet.

Then a song, a glimpse of something, or maybe even nothing sends you back into the hole of grief. It is not one step forward, two steps back. It is a jumble. It is hours that are all right, and weeks that aren’t. Or it is good days and bad days. Or it is the weight of sadness making you look different to others and nothing helps. Not haircuts or manicures or the Atkins diet.

Writing about Grace, losing her, loving her, anything at all, is not linear either. . . Grief doesn’t have a plot. It isn’t smooth. There is no beginning and middle and end” (52-3).

This a very small, short book, but oh, so heavy. I could not put it down! I saw it a week or two ago on the new nonfiction shelf at one of the branch libraries, and I just knew I had to check it out.

I learned from this book that not only do older people sometimes die of a virulent strep infection, but supposedly otherwise healthy five year old children. I knew when I started this book what would happen. It says so on the book flap.

Ann Hood arrived one day in April of 2002 to pick up her 5 year old (whom she’d had at age 39) daughter Grace from ballet class, and the teacher told her that her daughter had possibly broken her arm. So they go to the ER, where they said yes, it was broken, and that the pediatric orthopedist might want to do surgery, but that is could wait a few days. Grace started running a fever, but her pediatrition wasn’t that concerned. However, Ann was concerned and took Grace back to the ER, where they still didn’t think anything serious was going on. Two days later, after surgery and intubation, Grace died in her parents’ arms, while they are singing her Beatles’ song, Grace’s favorite music.

This book is about Ann’s grief, and how she deals with it. How she deals with it differently from her husband (Lorne). How their son (Sam!) deals with it. How Ann could finally deal with sorting through Grace’s things. How she could not tolerate the song “Amazing Grace” anymore. How she gave up her love affair with the Beatles, because all things Beatles reminded her of Grace. How they missed having a little girl, but found, now in their 40s, that they could no longer conceive, even with IVF. How they adopted a baby from China. Annabelle did not, could not, replace Grace, but she brought hope and laughter back into their lives.

Bewitching Season

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle (2008)

I heard about this book from the YALSA listserv. It is a by a first-time author, and I feel it is very well-done.

It is unlike a lot of other books with fantasy themes. Magic exsists, and amongst the well-to-do families of London in the mid-1800s, when Queen Victoria is about to take the throne. Twins Persephone and Penelope are witches, but no one in society is to be made aware of this. They are also being presented out in society, with the hopes of making good matches for husbands. Their neighbor is also grown up, and showing much interest in Persy. Pen is much more interested in society, while Persy is extremely nervous and upset by the prospect of balls and dinner parties. Meanwhile, their teacher/nanny who was also teaching them magic on the side (and their mother supposedly doesn’t know) is now missing, and the two young women are having dreams about where she might be.

This is a well-written book that I highly enjoyed because it brings historical fiction, fantsy, romance, and some mystery together in a fun way.

Undead and Unworthy

Undead and Unworthy by MaryJanice Davidson (2008)

Okay. . . This is the seventh book in the Betsy Taylor series. I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as several of the previous books of the series. Perhaps it is because a few of the characters died and because it just was not as humorous! Where was the funny quirkiness I’ve come to expect from the author? I just didn’t feel it this time. In previous books, the humor comes from ridiculous situations such as finding out that her newly discovered half-sister, Laura, who teaches Sunday School is actually the daughter of Satan, an extremely good daughter of Satan. In this newest installment of the series, I wanted to ask the figurative question: Where’s the beef?

The Fiends are loose. Their minds are returning and they are remembereing who the are. So . . . they want to kill Betsy, because she’s the vampire queen. It’s not her fault they were made into vampires, and made to become feral, dumb creatures.

The entire book was boring, with the exception of The Ant (her now-deceased young stepmother, whose body was taken over years earlier by Satan, gave birth to Laura, who was then given up for adoption) coming back to haunt Betsy. This is really the only fun part, to me, of this book.

Chalked Up

Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics’ Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders and Elusive Olympic Dreams by Jennifer Sey (2008)

I couldn’t put this book down, and I read it in a few hours. (This was also perhaps helped by some insomnia, but still . . . )

Apparently this was a much-talked about book in gymnastics circles earlier this year when it came out. I was not aware of it when the title caught my eye from a display at the Mission Branch library a few days ago. Prior to actually reading it, however, I looked up the author’s website and blog. I didn’t recognize her name, though if she was in gymnastics in the ‘80s, I really might have seen her on tv at some point. I watched gymnastics back then, wanting to take part, knowing I was too old and too big all at the same time. Sey won the 1986 US National Championships. She was worn out and exhausted, and with lingering injuries before the 1988 Olympic trials.

This book really shows me that I would have never had the guts to do it. Sey says that as a kid, she really, really wanted it, and tried hard to be good enough. However, she was never good enough, at least in her mind. Her coaches all managed to point that out often as well. Even when she was little, age 7, her coaches kept telling her she wasn’t going to get anywhere if she was scared. (I would have been too scared. I might have liked the floor tumbling routines, but doing the same on the balance beam?? No way. I tried a somersault on the balance beam once in a beginner’s gymnastics class, and that was enough.)

Sey is quite critical about the coaching styles in the elite level of gymnastics. She admits that to stay competitive that she had to keep in shape even while she was recovering from injuries, but she does ask why no one in elite gymnastics puts a stop to pressuring, insisting that gymnasts keep ruining their bodies to achieve an often elusive dream. She also brings up the parents. I get the sense that her parents were not necessarily pressuring her at the beginning, but by the time Sey reached the elite level, her parents and family had rearranged their whole lives to focus on her goal. By the time that Sey was burning out, her mother was pushing her to kept trying to go on, to reach the ’88 Olympics. Sey admits that during all of those years, she did not or could not recognize the sacrifices her entire family was making for her. She feels bad now for a lot of things.

Sey is also very candid about her “diet” strategies to lose weight, and how weight was/is such a big deal in elite gymnastics. She is also candid about how she would peel the skin on her fingers as a way to cope. This is not always pleasant reading, but then I did not expect this book to be a pleasant happy read.

One part of her life that I wish she’d gone into more was her decision about a breast reduction (after she quit gymnastics, she matured and gained weight, and was not happy with the size of her chest). She does express that when she had her first son, she felt like she was not good enough because she could not produce enough milk for her baby due to the breast reduction. I feel like there is something lacking here, though. After all of the details (“despite the self indulgence”, page 279), then she kind of skips through life now. (And I wanted to know more about her BR, given that I understand, at least to some degree.)

I do like Sey’s Afterword. She feels like a failure in everything she does now. Ever since she attained success at a young age, she says, “It is inevitable that anything less than number-one status provokes feelings of failure. . . I work myself to the brink of exhaustion to suppress the feelings of not being good enough.” However, she goes on to say that really she is not a failure, that she is trying to do her best to raise her two little boys, that she forgives her parents and thanks them.

The nice thing is that she does have an online presence, and you can go to her web site and find links to articles and pictures from her years in gymnastics in the ‘70s and ‘80s. http://www.jennifersey.com