Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Caster Chronicles #2)

November is Not Alone
Strangely, all of the books I chose for this month included a character that was orphaned, partially orphaned, or adopted. While this factors strongly into some of their personalities, all of them have amazing powers of determination and a desire to overcome the obstacles in front of them...and of course, none of these kids are alone. They all have strong allies helping them on their paths. Remember that sometimes, it's how you deal with what you are given that helps decide who you are.

Ethan and Lena survived the Sixteenth Moon...but at what cost? Lena's Uncle Mason is dead, and Lena blames herself. She is pulling farther and farther away from Ethan, and he doesn't know how to help her. To make matters worse, there's a new song on his iPod: Seventeenth Moon. Apparently, the Caster world isn't satisfied with Lena's choice of both light and dark...and she'll have to claim herself once again.

Ethan is having a hard enough time with his own problems. His dad is coming back from the mental hospital, and Amma seems to be on edge after Macon's death. Nothing he does seems to help, and everytime he touches Lena, there's physical pain. If they aren't careful, pretty soon a fire Lena going dark?

The more Lena wants to be left alone, the more Ethan despairs at being able to help her. It isn't until cousin Ridley, the Siren, shows up that he really starts to get angry. He knows something is going on, and who's that guy Lena's with? Who is John Breed....and what is he doing with Ethan's girlfriend?

Oh yeah, Ethan's having visions again. But this time, Lena isn't sharing them. These visions are of Abraham, Macon's grandfather, or Macon himself...but something is different. People are recognizing him in his visions, Abraham calls out his name. Without Lena for support, and not knowing where to turn, he asks Marian the town librarian (quit with the jokes) and Keeper for the Lunae Libri for help. Marian thinks Ethan might be a Wayward, a mortal who is destined to show a lost Caster the way. Could it be possible?

He's working at the library for the summer, and befriends Marian's summer intern. Liv is British, and brilliant. She has a penchant for astrology, and wants Ethan to show her around town. At the State Fair, things come to a head. Lena, Ridley, and John show up and cause all kinds of trouble...and Lena gets the wrong idea about Liv. Pretty soon, things are catching on fire, and the three Casters have disappeared. Ethan doesn't know what to do. He's losing Lena.

Determined to do whatever he can for the girl he loves, he, Link, and Liv follow them into the Caster tunnels...armed with a gift from Ethan's mother Lila: a Arclight. The only thing capable of capturing an Incubus, and possibly their only weapon against the dark forces that are working against Lena. To their surprise, Ridley joins them...she knows about Lena's mother Sarafine's plan. Let's just say the news isn't good. The four of them, armed with help from some unlikely sources, set off to find Lena and John. Will they make it in time? And in one piece?
"I was still thinking about Lena, despite the deafening roar in my ears, until Link's voice was drowned out altogether, and I heard Seventeen Moons. Only now the words had changed.
Seventeen moons, seventeen turns,
Eyes so dark and bright it burns,
Time is high but one is higher,
Draws the moon into the fire...
Time is high? What did that even mean? It wasn't going to be Lena's Seventeenth Moon for eight more months. Why was time high now? And who was the one, and what was the fire?" (Garcia and Stohl pg. 76, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Caster Chronicles #1)
Fallen by Lauren Kate
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Garcia, Kami and Stohl, Margaret. (2010). Beautiful Darkness. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Linger by Maggie Steivfater (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2)

Sam can hardly believe it, he almost doesn't trust his cure. He keeps expecting to turn, and have to leave Grace behind...but no amount of cold can bring back the wolf anymore. They have survived the winter, and it seems that there is a chance for normalcy.

Now Sam's attention turns to the new wolves...what was Beck thinking? Who could possibly have chosen this half-life? He is concerned about these new recruits. Isabel is the first to notice wolf activity. She still grieves for her brother, and blames herself...but an unlikely friendship has grown between Isabel, Sam, and Grace, born of common loss and hardship.

The new wolf is Cole. Cole loves being a wolf. Being a wolf is simply staying alive, nothing more complicated than that. No screaming fans, no overbearing fathers, no string of meaningless girls or increasingly more dangerous ways to turn off his brain. Just being. So why is he human again? More importantly, how does he turn back?

Isabel is the first person to see Cole change, or rather, encounter him changed...since he walked right into her house, stark naked. She gives him some of Jack's old clothes, and something to eat. Sam is convinced that his early change is due to his new wolf status, and brings him back to Beck's to learn the ropes. They don't exactly hit it off. Cole's irresponsible behavior and general lack of concern for losing himself to 'the wolf' are not exactly endearing to Sam...who has fought so hard, for so long to be human. Not to mention, Cole isn't exactly honest. The scariest thing is that Cole doesn't seem to be able to stay wolf, even in the cold...

Something is going on with Grace. At first it seems harmless, just headaches and fevers...but it's getting worse, and she's having crazy dreams. One night, Sam wakes up and Grace's fever is off the charts, and she's screaming in pain. Several trips to the hospital come up empty, but it seems clear what is really going on...even if no one wants to talk about it.

Will they find a way to save Grace, and coexist with Cole? This is the second book in the series...not as good as the first one, but I'm interested in what will happen in book three. My advice to Steifvater? Less romance, more other stuff...but I'm pretty biased.
"I had begun to think that I wasn't going to change back into a wolf. But this miserable in-between - I got up, went to the back door again, stood in the frigid wind. I gave up after about ten minutes and retreated back to the couch, curling around the turmoil of my stomach. My mind darted throught the gray halls, though my body stayed still. In my head, I walked down the hall, through unfamiliar rooms in shades of black and white. I felt Isabel's collarbone under my hand, saw my skin losings its color at I became a wolf, felt the microphone in my fist, heard my father's voice, saw him facing me across the dining room table," (Steifvater pg. 157, 2010).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater (April 2011)
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Stiefvater, Maggie. (2010). Linger. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech

Sophie can't wait to get started on the journey. She is sailing all the way to England with her cousins Cody and Brian, and her uncles Dock, Mo, and Stew; sailing to see her Grandpa Bompie. It's a new adventure for her, as she's never met these cousins and uncles before. We learn that Sophie was recently adopted...and that creates some friction during the journey.

As the only girl aboard the boat, she struggles to prove that she's worthy of more than just cooking and cleaning. As they get to know each other, it becomes more apparent that Sophie knows her way around a boat better than some of the adults even! Every day she writes in her journal about what has been happening.

The boat they are sailing is Uncle Dock's baby, the Wanderer, a 45-ft. sailboat that has seen better days. But they band together to whip it into shape, and while it may not be the most beautiful vessel, it is certainly sea worthy. To pass the time, they all decide to teach something they know. Many choose to teach something that will help them on the boat, but Cody decides to teach everyone how to juggle.

Cody tells his side of the story in his "Dog Log". He tells about the dynamics of everyone on the boat, and about Sophie's contribution: telling Bompie's stories. Their cousin Brian is baffled by this, and everyone is a little uneasy, as Sophie has never met how does she know his stories? But Sophie insists that Bompie told them to her, and sidesteps any mention of her being an orphan.

As they start their serious leg of the journey all the way across the ocean, tensions begin to run higher. Being all cramped together, never getting completely dry, having to hold onto their plates while they puts everyone on edge. Cody and his father Mo fight, Mo and Stew fight, Dock pines away for his lost love Rosalie, and then there is the storm. Will they make it to Bompie? Can they survive one more night together? Is Sophie a liar and a fake?

Creech weaves a powerful tale about family, and being yourself in this Newberry Honor book. I can't begin to touch on all the nuances and special moments, but this a powerful coming of age book. I must admit it said some things I needed to hear at age 29, so I recommend it for children, teens, AND adults.

"The sea, the sea, the sea. It rolled and rolled and called to me. Come in, it said, come in. And in I went, floating, rolling, splashing, swimming, and the sea called, Come out, come out, and further I went but always it swept me back to shore," (Creech pg. 1, 2000).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Creech, Sharon. (2001). The Wanderer. New York: Macmillan Children's Books.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

Lucy has her life lined up. She's getting good grades, has plans for college, runs Cross-Country, has a loyal best friend, and a family that loves her...well, an adopted family. Last but not least, she has a date to the prom: cute, shy Gray Spencer...who may be more than just a prom date. So what's that black cloud hanging over her head about?

It's her mom, well, her biological mom. Miranda is a local crazy, and recently she has started showing up at Lucy's school. She's always singing that song, "Are you going to Scarborough Fair?" It's not quite like the famous one, by Simon and Garfunkel...and it's haunting, sometimes torture for Lucy.

She decides to put it out of her mind as much as she can. Especially since Zach will be coming home soon. Zach has been her neighbor, and one of her best friends, since they were very little. He's away at college, but has decided to come back home for the summer. He lived with Lucy's family, Soledad and Leo, for his last year of high school after Zach's parents moved to Arizona. It's been decided that he will stay with them again, and Lucy is looking forward to having him around. She knows that he will listen to her doubts and fears about Miranda without freaking out.

Things seem to be going well, she picks out a prom dress, and the big night arrives. One of her mom's new employees, Padraig Seely, joins them for dinner...which seems odd, but his presence seems strangely fitting once he has arrived. When Gray pulls up to pick her up in a new Mini Cooper, the night seems destined for perfection...until Miranda shows up.

She starts yelling and throwing glass bottles from her cart at them. Miranda elbows Soledad in the face, and keeps at it...the next thing Lucy knows, Gray is in his car driving away, Leo has wrested the shopping cart full of ammo away from Miranda, and the police have been called. How could she do this? How could Miranda ruin everything like this?

We're going to skip ahead a little, so as not to ruin anything...but suffice to say, Lucy is pregnant. Just like her mother Miranda, Lucy is a pregnant teen. Her perfect future seems completely out of her reach, and she's not sure what to do. On top of everything else, Zach has found Miranda's diary from before Lucy was born. There are crazy ideas in it, and Lucy wonders if these are just early signs of Miranda's later madness...but maybe there is some truth. Is it possible that she's a victim of the Scarborough curse?

Suddenly the song has so much more meaning...the three impossible tasks: make a magical shirt without seam or needlework, find an acre of land between the salt water and the sea strand, sow it all over with one grain of corn. Can she possibly find a way to complete the tasks in the few weeks left before the baby is born?

Werlin does a masterful job of weaving fantasy into a realistic setting, and connecting them with folklore and familial ties. This provides an interesting take on the "teen pregnancy" genre, and a really heartwarming tale of how banding together with your family and friends can get you through even the toughest of times.

"'What are you going to say, then?'
'That you're having trouble being the one who takes, instead of the one who gives,' Lucy could feel the shock on her own face. She saw Sarah smile before she went on. 'I understand that. But, Lucy, you have to learn to accept. And you have to learn to accept with - well, with grace, just the same way that you give. You've given plenty to me, in the past, whenever I needed you...So now, you get to receive. From everybody in your life. It's all right. It's more than all right,'" (Werlin pg. 258, 2008).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Extraodinary by Nancy Werlin
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Werlin, Nancy. (2008). Impossible. New York, NY: Dial Books.

The Hollow People: The Promises of Dr. Sigmundus by Brian Keaney

Dante is a ward of the asylum, which basically means he does whatever he is told. He cleans up the messes no one else wants to clean, he washes dishes, mops floors, brings prisoners their food...all because he had the misfortune of being born to an inmate who ended up taking her own life. He has been cursed to an existence of servitude and being grateful for the mistreatment he receives, for who else would take care of him?

Bea was born to privilege. Her father is a scientist on the island, and she is approaching her coming-of-age ceremony, where she will recite the Promises of Dr. Sigmundus. She, unlike the rest of her classmates, is not looking forward to receiving Ichor. She knows that once she does, all her originality will be gone. She will no longer care about being different, or feel anxious. Everyone tells her that after the ceremony, everything will be fine...but that isn't how she feels.

A chance meeting between these two gives them both new perspective. It seems that Dante is immune to Ichor. He understands her hesitation, and uncertainty. She shows him the picture of the place she sees in her dreams, and it's almost as if Dante has seen this place before. He doesn't scold her for having dreams like everyone else. Bea knows that she shouldn't talk to someone below her station, but finally, here is someone who understands. They decide to meet again.

A dangerous prisoner has been brought to Tamagar, the island dedicated to housing criminally insane patients like Dante's mother. Ezekiel Semiramis, however, doesn't seem to live up to all the rumors surrounding him. Dante is ordered to bring him his meal, and is shocked to hear that Ezekiel knew his mother...he even alleges that Dante's mother didn't commit suicide, but was murdered! But can he trust the words of a killer?

Events transpire that ends in Dante and Bea both being ostracized, and them having to trust Ezekiel. He has the power to stop time, it seems, and organizes their escape. As they make their way out of Tamagar, and leave their old lives behind them, what does their future hold?

The group travels to the ruined city, and learns that much of what was taught as truth is more like propaganda. Ichor was developed to diminish resistance, and only this small band of citizens, known as the Puca, is fighting to regain independence from Dr. Sigmundus.

This futuristic dystopia takes place in an alternate reality. Great for sci-fi/fantasy lovers, but may be more difficult for those who enjoy more realistic settings.
"In the distance, a stone tower loomed out of the mist like an enourmous finger pointing towards the sky. All around her, the once-magnificent architecture of the city was beginning to take shape, and Bea turned around slowly in a full circle to take it in. 'All this is mine,' she said out loud. Then she corrected herself. 'All this is ours.' But even as she spoke, she was aware that something was starting to go wrong. The silence of the ruined streets was suddenly shattered by a harsh, unidentifiable noise. She covered her ears with her hands, but it made no difference....Then, with a sudden, fierce jolt, she woke," (Keaney pg. 25-26, 2006).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

The Cracked Mirror: The Promises of Dr. Sigmundus (book 2) by Brian Keaney
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness

Keaney, Brian. (2006). The Hollow People: The Promises of Dr. Sigmundus. New York, NY: Knopf.