Monthly Archives: April 2015

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

Laia loves her brother, but she knows he is pushing the limits of their marginal life. She fears her brother is involved in the Resistance, a group that is actively trying to bring down the Empire. When Darin is arrested and her grandparents killed, Laia makes the decision to save her brother, no matter the cost. And the cost is that Laia must become a slave of the Empire, her role as a spy for the Resistance her only hope to free her brother.

Elias is a son of the Empire. One of their elite, he is being trained to become a Mask, a ruthless fighter. Yet, Elias is as much a slave as Laia, for he hates how the Empire treats its people, how he is expected to kill without remorse for their purposes. His only hope is escape, his plan carefully thought out.

Laia and Elias think they have different goals. But as their paths cross and their stories weave together, it seems they may not. Together, it seems, they may achieve something more. For change, they are told, is coming. It is foretold.

“This life is not always what we think it will be,” Cain says. “You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”

At first glance, you might think this is another retelling of a dystopian society story, aka “The Hunger Games.” In that, you would be wrong. This story is unique, the world built in the form of Rome, complete with swords and brutality and their own form of gladiators. The language is lyrical and compelling. The story builds slowly, but in such a gripping way that you can’t put it down. Laia is a strong female character, driven by her quest to free her brother, the only family she has left in the world. Elias has family, a mother who seems to hate Elias to the depths of her soul. Elias, a product of hate, sees the hate and violence around him, and tries to understand his place in it. His struggle gives him a complexity, and you sense that he is the keystone to change the entire world.

I loved this book. I loved Laia and Elias, and the only thing I did not love was the book’s ending. While initial information at publication indicated that this might be a standalone title, it is clear that another book must follow. Elias Venturius must be allowed to burn and ravage and destroy. The story would not be complete without it. (Do you hear me Sabaa Tahir? There must be another book!)

This is a young adult title, but it is a strong enough story that it will certainly have adult appear. I should know. I’m an adult, after all. 🙂

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The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, by Edward Kelsey Moore

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, by Edward Kelsey Moore

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, by Edward Kelsey Moore

Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean have been friends since they were young, their favorite meeting spot is their table at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat Diner. Labeled “The Supremes” by the folks of the town, the trio have grown up with the wise advice of Big Earl, who presides over the All-You-Can-Eat with wisdom, humor, and good food. The story begins with the death of Big Earl. His death sets the Supremes on a course to reflect on their 40 year friendship, and to reflect on the choices they’ve made in their lives. Odette, the fearless one, has to face something fearful. Clarice must make peace with her marriage and her husband’s wandering ways. But it is Barbara Jean who must face the greatest challenge of all….she has to set right a wrong, track down a lost love, and find a way to ease the desperate grief she still carries over the death of her son.

This story unfolds gently, giving us glimpses of the past and of the present as the heart of each of the Supremes is revealed. We meet the members of the Plainsview, Indiana community, and come to love them as the Supremes do. It is a story filled with warmth, friendship, humor, ghosts, tragedy, and hope. How the author is able to so capture the hearts and souls of the three central characters–who are aging, black women–is astonishing. This is a wonderful tale.

Edward Kelsey Moore was born in Indiana, and received a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. While he now lives in Chicago, his novel is filled with the essence of a small Indiana town. His website says he is working on his second book, and I am already looking forward to it.

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Filed under literary

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, by John Himmelman

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, by John Himmelman

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, by John Himmelman

Isabel was the best bunjitsu artist in her school. She could kick higher than anyone. She could hit harder than anyone. She could throw her classmates farther than anyone. “But,” said Isabel, “Bunjitsu is not just about hitting and kicking and throwing. It is about finding ways to NOT hit, kick, or throw.”

And so, we meet Isabel, also called Bunjitsu Bunny. This is an early chapter book where each chapter tells a tale of Bunjitsu Bunny. A few of these tales are variations of a familiar story, such as the tortoise and the hare. But Isabel brings her own wisdom and Bunjitsu Bunny skills to the mix, and you end up with something refreshing and fun. Zen wisdom is woven through the book, but Bunjitsu Bunny’s exploits are never preachy or heavy-handed. Rather, Bunny is charming and spunky and she is surrounded by good friends. For me, this book gave me the same warm, fuzzy, wondrous feeling I get when reading Winnie-the-Pooh or Little Bear stories. Those stories were about animals we could call friends, but they were also something deeper, in that they shared with us truths about life and love and friends. Bunjitsu Bunny’s tale is much the same, with martial arts action and striking art. Very enjoyable, and a book to recommend to those hard to please, reluctant readers.

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The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

You know those Japanese movies that feature creepy, dark-haired, evil spirits that go on a killing rampage as they seek vengeance for some perceived wrong? You know, like “The Ring” or “The Grudge.” If you haven’t seen the movies, you’ve seen the movie trailers, so you know what I mean. (View the trailer for “The Grudge” here, if you need a reminder.)

Okay, so this book, “The Girl from the Well,” features such a ghost. She was wronged in death and tossed down a well. And now, she seeks vengeance against those who kill children. Sounds creepy and scary, right? Well, not so much, but perhaps, in this case, that fact does not matter.

“The Girl from the Well” is told from the point of view of the ghost, and as the story opens, she is drawn to a young man named Tarquin who bears some unusual tattoos. The boy seems to be cursed, as an evil energy follows him like a dark, angry cloud. The ghost is intriqued, and soon, she meets Callie, Tarquin’s older cousin. Callie has always been close to Tarquin, and continues to try and look out for him. Callie is very aware of Tarquin’s tattoos, and the unusual aura he seems to project. Yet, she doesn’t know the true reason for Tarquin’s trouble until she meets the ghost. And then, facts and dead bodies start to pile up like cordwood. Can Tarquin be saved? Callie and the ghost race to find a way to do just that.

This is not a scary book. Rather, it is a gothic tale, one reminescent of a fairy tale or myth. The point of view of the ghost is an interesting one, and the bits of Japanese folklore and history add a nice bit of exotic spice. While the book was not perfect…the point of view voice at times was odd, as it seemed to “float” over the story and reveal it from different characters’ perspectives randomly. The initial change of location to Japan caused the plot to slow down, and I found myself skipping a few pages in order to get back to the ghostly action. However, the story was unique enough for me to finish. This is listed as book 1 of the Girl from the Well series, and while I don’t know if I would be interested in reading the series, the first book was quite enjoyable. This title is a young adult title, but would be appropriate for younger teens who’d like to read a creepier tale.

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Filed under horror, younger readers