3. Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo, by Obert Skye
This is one of the books that’s probably been sitting in my pile the longest. Looking at the title and the cover, I just got the impression that it was going to be really dumb and not the kind of thing I’d want to read, so I didn’t. After finishing it, though, I feel like I definitely should have listened to that old cliché- don’t judge a book by its cover. It was definitely kind of silly and and whimsical, but not at all in a bad way. The story is about a boy named Leven, who grows up with his awful mother's half sister (she refuses to acknowledge herself as his aunt) and her drunken idiot of a husband. They live in the town of Burnt Culvert, which was completely destroyed by an awful lightning fire not long before Leven was born, and is in the process of rebuilding. What no one on earth knows, however, is that this lightning fire was not natural. The evil Sabine, who lives in the dream world of Foo, sent his shadows to burn the town down. Sabine, whose dialogue always has "I" and "me" italicized for some reason, wants to unite Foo with the real world so he can rule both. All he has to do is find the portal that Leven's grandfather created between the two worlds, and anyone in Foo can travel freely to and from earth. As Leven soon discovers, only he can stop Sabine. He has to get to the portal and destroy it, as only someone with the same blood as the creator of the portal can do so. With the help of Winter, a nit who can turn anything into ice(people in the real world who end up in Foo develop powers); Clover, a creature called a sycophant who has been assigned to Leven; and Geth, a Lithen who depends completely on Fate to control his life, Leven must fight Sabine and destroy the portal or risk the destruction of both worlds.
4. The Truth about Forever, by Sarah Dessen
This book was the first non-fantasy book I've read so far. I like fantasy books (I'd say it accounts for about 2/3 of my stack), but it was nice to get something a little different this time. The main character, Macy, hasn't been the same since her dad died a year and a half ago. She was going to meet him for a run, and when she arrived, she found him lying on the ground, having a heart attack. She tries to act like she has it all together and everything's fine so she can be strong for her mom, but inside she struggles with feelings of guilt- if she could just have gotten there a little sooner, maybe she could have saved him. In her attempts to prove that her life is perfect and nothing is amiss, she has been dating Jason, the "perfect guy"- record GPA, super genius, a mile long list of extracurriculars, has everything figured out- and when Macy's with him, she feels like she could be perfect like him too. But when he "puts their relationship on hold" for the summer while he's off at Brain Camp, Macy feels like her world is falling apart again. At least, until she meets the members of Wish Catering. In a complete juxtaposition of everything Macy's been striving for since her dad's death, these people have nothing figured out. When she starts working with them, she finds herself in the middle of complete chaos at every job- whether it's forgetting some vital component of an entree or spilling redwine all over the carpet, something is always going wrong. Yet they always manage to turn everything around, and Macy soon finds that the insanity surrounding her is becoming her favorite part of the summer. The people, too, are showing her a new perspective of life, and she feels like she's finally learning to cope with losing her father. Her mom, however, is not so happy with the changes she sees in her daughter. Instead of staying home all night and studying vocabulary of the SAT, Macy's now going to parties and being around people, and her mom sees this as a break in her dedication to her grades. Macy has to show her mom that the changes she's seeing are good, or risk falling right back into her "perfect" world of fake smiles, where nothing is really ok at all.
5. Incantation, by Alice Hoffman
Incantation is another realistic fiction book, but this one's set in 1500s Spain, where people are separated by their religion- Muslims are pushed off to their own quarters, and the few Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity are forced into their own gated part of town, sewing red circles on their clothes to indicate what they are. Estrella and her family live happily with the other Christians. Her best friend Catalina lives just next door, and Estrella spends as much time as possible with her. Soon, however, things in their town of Encaleflora begin to turn nasty. It starts with the burning of Jewish books and escalates quickly into outright punishment for those who do not share the accepted beliefs of the church. Anyone suspected of practicing Judaism while pretending to be a Christian is turned in and sentenced to death. Estrella sees a bulletin in town detailing signs that would indicate someone is secretly a Jew, and she can't help but note that it points directly at her and her family. Soon she discovers that her family has been keeping the truth from her- they aren't really Christians at all, but secret Jews hiding their true identities. From there, things can only gets worse. As Catalina shows her true colors of jealousy and greed, Estrella is forced to watch as first her grandfather, then her mother and brother are killed for their secret identities. With no other choice, Estrella and her grandmother must flee Spain in search of a place where they can live without the fear of persecution for their beliefs.
I was kind of surprised to find a book like this. Most of the time when you think about persecution of Jews, you go straight to the Holocaust, but this book shows that human ignorance and persecution goes back long before that. It actually seemed to me like a cross between the Holocaust and the Salem Witch Trials- it was kind of unsettling to read about the "trials" held against the accused and see the parallels. Once you were accused of being a secret Jew, or a Marrano (pig), there was no getting out of it. Whether you admitted to the great list of offenses you were charged with (witchcraft, magic, medicine, murder) or not, you were already doomed. Even their methods were eerily similar, stoning and burning at the stake being chief among them. This is another book I held off reading, though this one was mostly because I didn't want to read about sadness and persecution. It's certainly not a happy book for the most part, but I think things like this are still worthwhile to read, giving names and faces and lives to those who have been wrongly punished in one of history's many bouts of fear and ignorance.
6. Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead
And with this, I dove straight back into the Fantasy genre, where things are a little lighter. This is the first book in a series about the secret vampire world. In this secret world, there are different kinds of vampires, though. First, we have the Moroi, the living vampires who can harness magic of the elements (earth, air, water, fire), and who drink blood without killing. In complete contrast, there are also the undead vampires, called the Strigoi. These vampires were once Moroi who intentionally killed while drinking. Because of this, they are cut off from magic and life, but at the same time they gain immortality and super speed, strength, and senses. The Strigoi are strenghtened by drinking Moroi blood especially, so the Moroi are in constant danger of attacks. To fend off the Strigoi, we have dhampirs. These are half-breeds, half human and half Moroi. They have no magic, but they are hardier and stronger than the Moroi. They are also, however, almost evolutionary dead ends. Dhampir alone cannot create more dhampir, though a Moroi and a dhampir will have dhampire children. Because of this, the dhampir spend their school lives training to become guardians for the Moroi, protecting them from Strigoi attacks. This series specifically follows Rose Hathaway, a special dhampir. She and her Moroi best friend, Vasilisa Dragomir (Lissa), have a special bond that hasn't been seen in hundreds of years- Rose can sense Lissa's feelings and occassionally even slips completely into her head, sensing everything that is going on with Lissa. This makes her an ideal future guardian for her friend, but first Rose has to get through school, where her free spirit and lax view on the rules gets her in trouble quite a lot. Most dhampir specialize in one element during their school years, but Lissa has not. Instead, she finds that she has rarer powers, such as healing, which make her in possession of a rare element- Spirit. There are those who would take advantage of her power, and Lissa is captured by her uncle, Victor Dashkov. He has a degenerative disease, and he needs Lissa to heal him. Rose, through the bond, senses what is happening and is able to lead the authorities to where Victor is hiding to save Lissa.
7. Frostbite, by Richelle Mead
This is the sequel to Vampire Academy. While trying to keep Lissa safe, Rose is also having problems of her own. She has fallen in love with her 24-year-old instructor, Dimitri Belikov, and found out that he feels the same way. There are a million things to keep them apart, though, like the fact that he's her teacher, and seven years older than her. They are also both dhampir, and set to guard Lissa after she graduates. Dimitri makes it clear that his feelings for her would interfere with his ability to put Lissa first, so their love is doomed to go nowhere. Meanwhile, in the vampire world, a Strigoi attack happens very close to the school. It indicates large numbers of Strigoi, even working with humans to get to their prey. Because of this, the students are sent off to a ski resort in Idaho for the Christmas vacation in hopes of keeping them safe. Soon enough, however, another, worse attack comes close to where they are now. Rose makes the mistake of revealing knowledge of where the Strigoi might be hiding, given her by Dimitri, to her friend, who takes off with two others to attack the Strigoi on their own. This forces Rose to go after them before they get themselves killed, but they soon find themselves trapped anyway. Rose is able to come up with an escape plan, but she is still caught by the Strigoi in getting her friends out safely. Her friend Mason comes back to try and save her, but he is quickly and brutally killed. Fueled by her shock at his sudden death, Rose is able to kill both of her Strigoi attackers before the guardians from her school find them and take them home.
8. Shadow Kiss, by Richelle Mead
This book, third in the series, talks more about Rose and Lissa's bond. They now know that the bond was created when Lissa used her healing to save Rose. They were in a car accident, and Rose technically died, but Lissa brought her back from the dead, bonding the two together, and making Rose "Shadow Kissed." She is quickly learning that this bond is more than just being connected to Lissa's mind, however. She is also connected to the Shadow World of the dead, and she thinks she's crazy when she starts seeing Mason's ghost on campus. She is scared at first, and unable to figure out what he wants, but by the end of the book he warns her just in time of a Strigoi attack on the school. The guardians are able to minimize casualties, but several Moroi and dhampirs were still killed, and some were taken by the Moroi. Using Mason's ghost as a guide once again, Rose is able to locate the Strigoi's hideout and convice the guardians to go on a rescue mission to retrieve the kidnapped members of the school. In the process, however, Dimitri is taken by the Strigoi. Rose fears he is dead as she awaits news from the group sent to retrieve bodies for burial, but she soon finds the truth is even worse than she feared. Some Strigoi are created voluntarily, when a Moroi purposely kills the person he or she is drinking blood from. A human or dhampir, however, can be forcibly turned if the Strigoi drinks and then has the victim drink from the Strigoi. Rose soon finds that Dimitri has been turned Strigoi, and embarks on a quest to find and kill him, knowing he wouldn't have wanted to live as something so evil and unnatural.
So, this is all the books I have of the series, though there are 3 more. I got on Wikipedia and read plot summaries of what happens in the last books, and I don't think I'm going to read anymore. They're enjoyable to read, and the concept is cool, but the books were also irritating. Like, I'm annoyed that Young Adult fiction seems inseparable from drugs and sex. Surely I'm not the only one who did none of that in high school? Yet the way these books talk, everyone does it, and it's perfectly ok. It also acts like it's completely acceptable for a high schooler to date her teacher, which is also disgusting. At the same time, though, a couple things in the book really amused me. The school they go to is set in Montana, and several times it mentioned how the students went to Missoula to shop. That tiny bit of nerdfighteria made me exceedingly happy :) Also, at one point Rose ends up talking to a girl who explains how her name is Jillian, but she goes by Jill. I kind of want you to read these books just for that, Jill :P Anyway, that's not especially important to the plot, so I'll stop now.
Ok, so maybe those weren't brief descriptions; there's just so much to say about stuff! But you're probably used to my wordiness by now, considering my usual blogs. Sorry anyway. I'll try to be shorter next time, but no guarantees :P