Sunday, December 8, 2013

Apologies for the Long Delay

Blog followers, please accept my apologies for the long delay in posting new reviews. Sadly, my son, Thomas, a wonderful young man with some serious challenges in life, passed away on October 4. Some of you may remember reading about him in a post I wrote from 2012 on Terry Trueman's work. As a result, I have taken a brief sabbatical from my work here to mourn his passing. I will be resuming the regular reviews very soon. I hope you will indulge me in posting my goodbyes to Thomas here.

Thomas Allen Forson, 3/31/1991-10/4/2013

To my sweet, precious baby boy. You have gone and left us…to that place I used to sing to you about many nights when I would feed you before bed and you would smile up at me. That place there is “sugar in the rock and the honey don’t stop” and now you can taste that honey without fear. This is one of those moments when the language I have is too inadequate to express to you the jagged grief and the heavy anguish I carry in my soul without you. How can the sun continue to rise and set without my precious Thomas? I hope you know, Tommy, the fierce love I have for you. I loved every single second of being a Mommy to you. From the moment you pounded on the wall in the morning to come and get you ready for your day to the final meal I fed you at night, I delighted in being the one to care for you and play with you, even if I never felt worthy to be a Mommy to such a pure spirit. You warmed me to my core with your tight hugs and your easy giggles. But oh how I worried over you and felt sorrow for you. So very many times I would watch you play with your toys and wonder about the meaning of your life. I was often sad because I thought your life was such a small little thing and that you were being cheated out of so many experiences. There were too many “nevers” in your future—and yet through all of that watching I had no idea that I was studying a very important class; me, the schoolteacher with all of that purchased higher education, all of those years of instructing students in classrooms, Mrs. Forson was getting her most advanced degree from a highly-skilled, master teacher. Small life indeed! What a fool I was. Thomas Forson modeled empathy, tolerance, piety, innocence, love and kindness, (although I have to say Tommy’s lessons on being gentle needed some work, since no one who ever got a hug from Thomas could ever call his touch gentle). Even his frustrations were fleeting and easily replaced with smiles. In my sense of superiority I missed the obvious fact that Thomas had already learned the lessons we common souls spend a lifetime struggling to master. Tommy had a life with a powerful purpose that schooled everyone who knew him and he never said one word—how amused he must have been to watch us all care for him and worry over him, amused to watch us obviously feeling so much smarter and wiser than he was. If I weren’t so humbled by my grief today I might giggle myself at the ridiculous irony of it. 

And now sweet boy, I must end this short letter. So I’ll say to you one last time, like I sang to you in your favorite bedtime song on our last night together, “don’t you weep Little Baby. Come and lay your bones on the alabaster stone and be my ever-lovin’ baby.”

Monday, September 30, 2013

Review of The In-Between by Barbara Stewart

St. Martin's Press
The In-Between
by Barbara Stewart
3 Scribbles

To be released, November 2013

The new house in Pottsville was supposed to be a fresh start for Elanor Moss, a place to put her failed suicide and unpopularity to rest. Instead, the new home becomes a place to recover from the tragic car accident that left Ellie near death and half of her family dead. However, Ellie’s new home does offer one good thing—her new best friend, the captivating and mysterious Madeline Torus.  With Madeline’s help, Ellie may have a chance to be a new and improved version of herself. 

Ellie has always struggled with depression and loneliness; according to her mother, Ellie is “up and down like a yo-yo.” But when Madeline arrives, Ellie has hope for her future. Madeline is the girl Ellie has always wanted to be; she has good taste, good looks, and loves Ellie for who she is. Teens may identify with Ellie’s feelings of angst and isolation, as well as her fear of losing Madeline. But Ellie’s voice is not to be trusted, especially when it comes to her relationship with Madeline. Very short chapters move from choppy descriptions of Ellie’s life at school, and the changes she is making, to lovely, yet dark, sections of prose poetry that provide insight into her character. An insight however, that is suspect because in her own words Ellie is an actor who could “win an Academy Award” for the person she has fabricated to play her part. I found myself feeling more and more hopeless as Ellie becomes numb under the influence of medication and she falls further and further into depression. But then in a brilliant move on the part of the writer, Ellie’s mother discovers a photo of Madeline—a photo that casts doubt on Ellie’s mental instability. Is Ellie actually mentally ill or is she being haunted? I had to keep reminding myself that the story is told in the voice of Ellie—is Ellie to be believed? And while this uncertainty adds depth to the story, it frustrated me because I needed to know whose narration was trustworthy—and I simply could not know this to be certain. What I also found a bit perplexing about the story is the family’s lack of support. Ellie’s mother is so solid, yet, despite her drive and talent, Ellie’s family is unusually isolated—as evidenced by the cemetery scene. Even if the Mosses moved a state away from their previous home, don’t they have any family or friends to come to their aide? If this is the case, then Ellie’s family is just as isolated as she is—no wonder she feels so alone. Or perhaps when there is a tragedy of such great magnitude in a family, one is truly alone, and the solitary cemetery scene demonstrates this. Either way, it just seems odd that no one from their old hometown cares a lick about them. Readers who enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher will likely enjoy this eerie work about a truly tortured girl, although they may walk away with more questions than answers.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review of The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead


The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines #3)
by Richelle Mead
5 Scribbles

The female students at Amberwood Prep are in trouble. There’s a murderer in town, killing the youngest and prettiest of girls. Mrs. Terwilliger suspects it’s a witch intent on absorbing the girls’ youth, power and beauty, but because she has personal connections to the witch in question she must rely on Sydney’s help to find the killer. Can Sydney overcome her aversion to magic long enough to come to Terwilliger’s aid and put a stop to the killings?

As a die-hard Mead fan, I hesitate to review Mead’s work because it’s always so engaging and the plotting is so well done! Truthfully the main conflict above only scratches the surface of the massive amounts of action that occurs throughout. And the character development taking place in this book is superb. The conflict between Sydney and Adrian that began at the conclusion of The Golden Lily is set aside in the wake of the murders, and the two return to their established friendship to try and catch a killer. Or do they? The romantic tension between these two is palpable—will Sydney finally grow a backbone and realize that the doubts she has about the Alchemists and the intolerance she has been taught is not the whole truth? Will she realize that magic may have a place in the world, and that not all vampires are evil? And more importantly, will playboy Adrian finally abandon his partying ways and stick to his new-found chivalrous ways? While markedly different from the romance between Dimitri and Rose in the Vampire Academy series, this potential romance packs just as much heat—in fact, it’s probably a relationship that many of us find we can relate to more easily, because the protagonists are, for the most part, everyday people. Yes, they may be witches and vampires, but neither has any real super-skills or can fight like a ninja! The difference from our reality is that Sydney risks everything and everyone she has ever known and trusted to grow that backbone and “have” Adrian. For many of us, such loss would not be worth it. Additionally, a new little romance is blossoming—will Eddie and Angeline stay together or will Jill take the plunge and reveal herself to Eddie? And just when you thought it was all being worked out, a new character is added to the mix that will shake up Amberwood, and Sydney, in a way the reader never anticipated! I’ve already pre-ordered The Fiery Heart, set to be released November 19, 2013.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review of A Million Suns: Across the Universe #2


A Million Suns: Across the Universe #2
by Beth Revis
5 Scribbles

The killer in book one has been captured, and Elder is beginning his leadership on board Godspeed in the aftermath of the discovery that Godspeed will never see the new planet. However, when Elder’s first command—discontinue the mind-control drug FIDIS and let the people function as free individuals—is executed, all hell breaks loose. Now Elder must try to manage the chaos and find out who is now killing people on Godspeed. And Amy? Amy discovers clues left for her by the killer in book one, clues that may help them land on their new home sooner than anticipated.  

Book two in the series focuses on two main conflicts. First, there is a new killer on the ship, and second, Godspeed is in turmoil. The plot examines life after a dictatorship and the problems that ensue. Elder struggles to keep ship functions running smoothly with a community of individuals unaccustomed to thought, let alone free speech, and Elder’s former friend Bardy does nothing to facilitate the transition. Flaws begin to surface on Godspeed, and the previously drawn utopian ship is revealed for the prison it was. With the ship falling apart, food production slowing, and a new murderer on the loose, Elder has little time to invest in his relationship with Amy, yet Revis skillfully allows Elder and Amy to grow as individuals while at the same time exploring their relationship with one another. Elder struggles with his feelings of inferiority as a leader, feelings that are well-earned. Truthfully, Elder is a very poor leader, and at times it’s difficult to empathize with him or even root for him, but it does allow the reader to wonder if they would do better in his situation. Amy, on the other hand, never loses faith in Elder, even when facing her own grief and a life she never imagined living aboard Godspeed. What I love about the developing relationship between these two is that it is slow to grow. Amy realizes that she doesn’t have to love Elder simply because he is the only guy around her age. All of this being said, it may sound like this book is a bit on the dull side. Not so! Revis, in the same riveting style of book one, manages to weave in two mysteries rather than one! And when both are solved, a tantalizing conclusion makes the reader (myself included) scour the library for book three. Truth be told, I’ve already read book three! I gobbled it immediately after I finished this one! This is one series I would totally love to see hit Hollywood. The special effects would be amazing, and the conflicts engaging enough to guarantee a following.