Sunday, December 2, 2012

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell -- Young Adult Paranormal Historical Fiction

This book is a companion to The Vespertine which I have not read. Seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart has experienced the devastating loses of her best friends and her beloved fiance. She's taken to moping about her family's home in Baltimore and visiting the cemetery where she meets a young Edgar Allen Poe fan, Theo de la Croix. Zora's mother worries about the girl's moping but Zora feels she can never be a part of society again and makes plans to become a mail order bride out West. After creating a scandal in Society with Mr. de la Croix, Zora is sent off to her Aunt Birdie in Oklahoma Territory (newly opened to settlers). Shortly after arriving in Oklahoma, Zora's coach is accosted by highwaymen and she's left all alone along the dusty road where she's picked up by Emerson Birch, a local homesteader. Emerson is handsome, yet a bit prickly and Zora isn't sure she trusts him. Birdie warns Zora away from Emerson, but Zora isn't sure what to think; Emerson has been kind and discovered a secret about Zora that even she didn't know. Zora is what the locals call a springsweet, meaning she has the magical ability to find water. Zora has feelings for Emerson she isn't sure she understands. She feels connected to him in some way and is intrigued by their connection. Then Theo comes calling in his fancy carriage and Birdie pushes Zora into accepting his courtship. When Birdie discovers Zora's talent she decides to turn it to their advantage. Zora allows it, even knowing what will come. Does she have the courage to live again? To follow her feelings? This story reminded me a lot of The Luxe novels by Anna Godbersen because of the time period, the high society and the rebellious teen romance. I could have done without the teen romance but parts of it were sweet and done well, mostly until the epilogue which was so far from realistic. I liked the connection between Emerson and Zora and how they slowly come to know one another through this amazing connection they share. The historical details in the novel are excellent. I loved the description of Oklahoma Territory and the history of the land rush. I'm taking History of the West this semester so I appreciated the author's attempt to create a realistic West rather than the mythic West of Buffalo Bill and dime novels. The description of homesteading in Oklahoma in 1890 is the best part of the book. The characters aren't really very likeable though. Not knowing the events of the Vespertine, I couldn't really feel Zora's loss very keenly. I felt sorry for her but I didn't like the way she handled her grief. I didn't really come to know her as a person through the course of the novel. I didn't like Theo very much either. He's a bit of a stalker though he's kind. I liked Emerson a lot and thought the story should have alternated from his point-of-view. I wanted to know more about him. Don't read this thinking it's a true paranormal or gothic like The Vespertine because it's not. The paranormal is more subtle which I really liked. The plot leaves the reader hanging a bit and I expect there will be a sequel. The writing style is very nice. I liked the descriptive passages the best and could easily imagine Oklahoma. I would have liked a bit less drama in the beginning and more about Zora and her special talents. I liked the story well enough to recommend it to fans of historical fiction, especially teen girls. 

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier translated by Anthea Bell -- Young Adult Fantasy

This sequel picks up right where Ruby Red left off - with Gideon snogging Gwen in a church in 1912 after being confronted by their missing relatives and shot at. Poor Gwen is confused about Gideon's feelings for her and she seems to have attracted a new sidekick - a ghost of a demon who won't leave her alone. Gwen wonders who was out to kill them and why; why did Lucy and Paul steal the chronograph and what is her role in all this? The plot of this book provides a few answers but creates more mystery! On a routine elapse to 1948 Gwen has an unexpected encounter with someone she knows she can trust. That person gives her a clue that creates a bigger mystery about what role she is to play in the future. Her unflappable best friend Leslie sets off to do some research while the demon Xemerius looks through walls and spies on people for Gwen. On top of everything else, Gwen is given a crash course in everything her beautiful, talented cousin Charlotte already knows, which makes Gwen even more nervous about time traveling. Will she ever figure anything out? Being with Gideon makes it much more easy (especially when he's kissing her) but at the same time, he doesn't seem to trust her and she's not sure she can trust him either.  This book is obviously written for young teens. Gwen is a typical modern teenage girl with interests in boys, music and normal things. She's a fine heroine for the story but I prefer her more bookish friend Leslie. I love the addition of the demon; he's my new favorite character and serves as comic relief. I also really like the person who Gwen meets in 1948. That character seems very kind and trustworthy. I also like Lucy and Paul though I can't stand the whole star-crossed lovers conflict, the few glimpses into their travels provide clues and mysteries for the rest of the plot. I think I admire them for what they did, but that yet remains to be seen. I'm not sure I like Gideon. He's a bit mysterious and he confuses poor Gwen. He's a bit of a Mr. Darcy type, I think.  The plot is face paced and balanced between adventure and romance. There's one long tedious section where Gwen has to learn all about the 18th century that slows the pace a bit but the scene that follows is a good contrast and very funny. The story ends with a BIG cliffhanger that serves as a clue to the past and future of the Circle of Twelve. The conclusion, Emerald Green, will not be out for another YEAR! I can not wait that long!! I need some answers and I need them now! This series is highly recommended for teens and adults who don't mind somewhat annoying teenage protagonists. 

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