The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
Signet, 10th printing, 1988
Genre: Dark fantasy
Once upon a time–there was terror. And dragons and princes … evil wizards and dark dungeons … an enchanted castle and a terrible secret. With this enthralling masterpiece of magical evil and daring adventure, Stephen King takes you in his icy grip and leads you into the most shivery and irresistible kingdom of wickedness … THE EYES OF THE DRAGON.
Book Report: When I was in fourth grade and bored because everyone in my class was reading Island of the Blue Dolphins (god, how last year!) and nothing is duller than following along as people very slowly read something you’ve already read and enjoyed on your own, my mother handed me a copy of Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon, thus beginning a lifelong relationship. Now, many people who aren’t familiar with this particular novel might think it a bit much to hand a Stephen King novel off to a nine-year old (especially one who suffered from an intense fear of the dark and of closets), but TEotD is more a bedtime story than an experiment in terror like most of King’s other works. And it’s the one I most recommend to people who aren’t horror readers, but who do enjoy fantasy. Like I said, it’s more a bedtime story, albeit one of dark fantasy, a real fairy tale, more akin to The Princess Bride than to The Shining. Read the rest of this entry »
Missing Pieces by Norma Fox Mazer
originally published 1995
Harcourt, 1st edition, 2007
Genre: YA fiction, juvanalia
Jacket copy: Jessie Wells doesn’t know her father. He left one day, saying he’d be back in a few hours. But he never came back. Curious about her father, she decides to do some investigating. But she may not be prepared for what she discovers …
Book report: The jacket copy makes it all sound so much more scandalous and interesting than it really was. I mean, those ellipsis, they suggest something nefarious or ominous … and there really isn’t anything of the sort. Jessie’s dad just got bored of having a family, and he wasn’t much interested in his child. Not that it’s a bad book, or anything, but it’s not suspense. It’s about a teenage girl who wants to know where she came from, who doesn’t know anything about her father but that he was handsome and he left her and her mother and never came back. Though she’s always wondered about him, things finally come to a head when a school assignment sends her looking for her family history. But her mother was orphaned young, cared for by an elderly aunt, and Jessie’s father is AWOL–so she decides she must find out anything she can about him.
Along the way we see the difficulties she and her mother have caring for their aging Aunt Zis, who is more and more prone to forgetting where she is and what she’s doing. And Jessie tries to make her two best friends befriend each other, while one BFF’s family falls apart. And she navigates the tricky waters of coming to like her BFF’s crush–and finding out that he likes her, too. And she finds out that the handsome hero her mother married is only one layer of the father she never knew. Read the rest of this entry »
Taking Terri Mueller by Norma Fox Mazer
originally published 1981
William Morrow & Co, 1st printing, 1983
Genre: Young adult, suspense, juvanalia
Book Report: Thirteen-year-old Terri and her beloved father Phil never stay in one place long. By car, or camper, they travel around the United States, going wherever Phil’s restless feet take them, with only each other and their dog Barkley for company. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, they meet a woman named Nancy and her young son Leif while apartment hunting. As they settle in, Phil starts dating Nancy, and it gets serious, while Terri makes another in a long line of best friends, Shauna. It seems like maybe they might be able to stick around somewhere for once, but then Terri’s Aunt Vivian visits, and Terri overhears something that makes her finally question their lives. Why must they always keep moving? Why are there so many inconsistencies in Phil’s explanations? Why won’t Phil ever tell Terri about her long-dead mother? And finally as her suspicions grow Terri wonders what really happened to her mother. Is she even dead?
Once the truth is out, there is no putting it back the way it was again, and Terri is caught between her past and her present.
Caroline B. Cooney, step aside. Norma Fox Mazer (NMF to the initiated) won a Edgar Award for this sucker. If you don’t get that reference, it’s okay, but it’s a major spoiler, so don’t read below the jump if you’re at all concerned about that. Read the rest of this entry »
Babyface by Norma Fox Mazer
originally published 1990
Harcourt, 1st printing, 2007
Genre: Young adult, juvanalia
Book Report: Toni and Julie have been best friends forever. They’ve lived next door to one another since before they were born a week apart, and though their families couldn’t be more different, they get along great. The girls themselves also couldn’t be more different: Julie is a tall blonde extrovert/drama queen, and Toni is a shy petite brunette. Regardless, they are inseparable, spending all their free time together and celebrating birthdays together.
Then, the summer they turn fourteen, Julie’s parents decide they need something different. Her father takes off for Alaska, and rather than be left behind wondering, Julie’s mom takes her two daughters to San Francisco for the summer. Toni is all alone for the first time in her life, and when her father has a heart attack, she feels even more bereft. While staying with her estranged older sister for a few days, Toni discovers a disturbing secret about her family, one that she just can’t get over, not by herself. When school starts up again in the fall and Julie still hasn’t returned, Toni handles it with the help of Julie’s old crush. But when Julie comes back, will she see it as an innocent friendship? Or is it something more?
Norma Fox Mazer was Some Big Deal in YA during the years I was a young adult (and before and after them, too). I remember seeing her name on books at the library on in book orders, but for whatever reason, I never really read any. Except for Silver, which I read in one afternoon when I was trapped in an afterschool program in sixth grade. And I think that’s unfortunate, because what’s I’ve read so far has been excellent. I randomly picked Babyface and Taking Terri Mueller out from the MCL’s catalog, inspired by my inability to recall Norma Klein’s name while looking for books related to the Shelf Discovery Challenge. How fortunate for me. Read the rest of this entry »
A Ring of Endless Light
originally published 1980
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 16th printing, 1980
Genre: Young adult, Bildungsroman, fantasy
Synopsis & Review: Almost sixteen, Vicky Austin’s summer begins with her first funeral. Family friend Commander Rodney is dead of a heart attack that occurred after he saved a wealthy young man who had sailed out into a squall. On top of Commander Rodney’s death, the Austins are on Seven Bay Island to spend the summer with Grandfather, who is dying of cancer. While Vicky tries to reconcile herself to the mortality all around her, Commander Rodney’s son Leo turns to Vicky for love and support, and she also meets Adam, a young man working with her brother John at the marine biology station. Like the proverbial bad penny, Zachary Gray, the young man with a heart condition and deathwish arrives on Seven Bay Island, and it was of course he who sailed into the storm that killed Commander Rodney. All three young men try to claim Vicky’s notice, Leo and Zachary out of friendship and desire, and Adam for his own purposes. He senses an openness in Vicky, something he can use for his private marine biology project, an attempt to communicate with dolphins. As much as he’d like to believe she’s just John’s kid sister, Adam becomes more aware of Vicky as a bright, loving young woman. And when the catastrophe comes, it is that lovingkindness in Vicky, her friends, and her family that will carry her through.
I’m pretty bummed that this is the last of the Austin Chronicles. (I skipped The Young Unicorns for now, because it didn’t hold my interest sufficiently before someone else in Multnomah County wanted to read it, the jerk. Some day.) At least I still have the rest of the Kairos books to look forward to (there’s a helpful chart/family tree in the beginning of this copy). Read the rest of this entry »
Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Harcourt Brace & World, 1st edition, 1968
Genre: Young adult, literature, Bildungsroman
Synopsis & Review: Shannon Lightley was in despair. Tired of being dragged about Europe from school to school in the wake of her divorced parents—her mother a famous English actress, her father a prominent television news commentator—she had taken her last year of high school in a small Oregon town, only to find that she didn’t “belong” in her native America either.
Reached by an old friend of her father’s—a lawyer in Portland—just as she was on the verge of leaving for Europe again, Shannon undertook the assignment he offered her, to track down some odd strangers, living near the local university, who were involved in an unusual will that was being contested. Using an assumed name and working as a waitress in a campus diner, Shannon was entirely on her own for the first time in her life, and as the summer went by, she tried t sort out who she really was and where her future lay. (jacket copy)
At Jenny’s behest (and because I do love Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Moccasin Trail), I checked Greensleeves out from the MCL, and OH MY GOD, I LOVED IT. Greensleeves has a lot to offer: alienation, a world-weary girl expat on the verge of womanhood, investigating a mystery while disguised as her polar opposite, two men who both see through her disguise to the worth beneath, someone finding themselves after high school, and blue eyeshadow. (I love blue eyeshadow. I have LOTS of it) Read the rest of this entry »