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YA Book Review: Need by Carrie Jones

Zara is afraid. Not in the sense that she is worried about whether the people at her new school will like her, but in the how many phobias can she name and add to her list of fears, afraid.

Emotionally numb after the death of her beloved stepfather, she finds herself sent off to live with her distant grandmother. In cold New England. She hates the cold and is not prepared for the adjustments she’ll have to make, but she is even less prepared to deal with the man who seems to be stalking her.

I like the premise of the book.The writing is beautiful and emotive, but something just fell short for me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think I may be in genre overload. It’s possible that too many books on my pile are falling into the paranormal save the world type to hold my interest.

The book progresses through the story at an uneven pace, but once I got through the first few chapters, I couldn’t put it down. There are some plot holes I’d like filled in, especially about the odd relationship between Zara’s mother, step-father and her grandmother (who is her step-father’s mother.)I’d also have liked more information about how one of her new friends ended up in a wheel chair.

The author does an excellent job of wrapping up the story neatly while still leaving plenty of story line dangling for the promised sequel, a sample of which is included in the back of this book. (Which I avoided reading because I don’t want to spoil the next story and would rather wait to indulge in it all at once.)

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Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (YA fiction)

If you are a fan of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, you’ll fall in love with this book.

Even readers who are not fans of old Bill’s works will be drawn into he improbable world where Titania and Oberon are real beings.

As the days draw close to Samhain, the door between the world of Fea and mundane New York City widens just enough to let all manner of fairy folk access to the mundane world from their other worldly realms. The hole in the wall between the worlds is guarded by human changelings. Human children stolen form their parents of ages past brought up in the Fea realms and taught to defend the gap in the gate.

Things get really interesting when the heroine, Kelley Winslow, comes face to face with the truth of her parentage. She falls in love with one of the changelings, Sonny Flannery, and as things progress from bad to worse realizes that the world she knows and even the people in it are not at all what the seem.

I completely enjoyed this fantastical tale. William Shakespeare’s tales are the basis for the story premise, but the author jumps off the deep end from there in her execution of a believable modern day explanation of old Bill’s plays.

Fans of fairy lore and old English plays will be well please to pick up this book.

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Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman

The story opens with an image of 3 ladies. The accompanying text says “Ladies of light and Ladies of darkness…” Both the text and imagery are things that a Pagan child can identify with.

The end of the opening page has the line “this is a prayer for a blueberry girl.” While Pagans don’t specifically pray, the story reads like an incantation one might find at a Paganing or Wiccaning ritual. That is why I am including it in this book review.

Fantasy artist, Charles Vess, illustrated the book with whimsical and colorful images. There are girls of all types who frolic and tumble on the pages.

Many of the short verses can be seen as having a connection to Wiccan ideals. I think this book would make a good welcoming gift to a newborn girl in many Pagan families.

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Priestess of the Forest by Ellen Evert Hopman

priestessforest.jpgPriestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey by Ellen Evert Hopman
$18.95 US $21.95 CAN
ISBN13 978-0-7387-1262-8 360 pages
Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.

A masterful written, fictional, love story based in third-century Ireland, this book animates the basic life style of the ancient Celts. Penned along the same lines as The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Priestess of the Forest examines historical class systems, symbols and life passages as seen through the eyes of the Druid class.

The author, Ellen Evert Hopman, currently the co-chief of the Order of the Whiteoak (Ord na Darach Gile) masterfully moves from writing non-fiction to this historical fantasy. Her aim was to engage the reader while teaching the ways of Druidic practice, ancient Celtic daily life, rites and rituals.

The story begins with the main character, Ethne, alone in her woodland hut. Her peace is shattered when a seriously wounded Fennid warrior is brought to her for healing. As she battles to keep him from death, she falls in love with him and he for her as he regains his strength. Unfortunately for them, the world they know is being invaded by a new religion, one that demands they leave behind their own beliefs and practices.

As with all good narratives, there are good guys and bad guys. Ethne is asked by the high Priest and Priestess to become the King’s bride. As Queen, they hope she will keep the Druidic ways strong in the land. Since we know the book is a historical fiction, the new religion of Christianity will win out in the end, but I kept hoping for a different conclusion. In the end the bad guys win, but Ethne’s personal story has a happy, if bittersweet, finale.

I was fascinated by the brief author interview, which followed the story. Ms. Hopman goes into detail about historical Druids as well as their modern day counter parts. She hopes that this book will be used to further teachings of the rites and passages she included as samples throughout the story line. Also included in the book’s back matter is a very useful recommended reading list of books divided by various categories.

If you are looking for some light reading, but want more than a bit of fluff, this is the book for you. This is a masterfully crafted tale that teaches as well as entertains.

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Circle of Five

Circle of Five Circle of Five
Dolores Stewart Ricco
Kensington Books Fiction ©2003What a surprisingly delightful book! The book begins with a prologue complete with a gruesome child abduction and murder. After that the story focuses on five completely believable women. Despite their varying ages and backgrounds, the women have been drawn together to form a coven. The women were drawn together because of their overlapping beliefs and needs, and like many of us, a witchy lifestyle just fit.

The magic they practice is completely ‘normal’. Their celebration of ritual and use of spell work could have been practiced by any number of real witches. Of course the book is fiction, so the characters and plots do take twists and turns that can hardly be described as everyday happenings. The reader follows the women through the Wheel of the Year as they use their magic and talents to help create a wetland sanctuary and catch the murderer we were introduced to in the first pages of the book.

I couldn’t put the book down. If you like books in the ‘to catch a crook’ brand, you’ll love this novel. Even if you normally don’t read this type of book, I strongly recommend it. I can’t wait for the sequel Charmed Circle due out in November of this year.