#105 ~ Sisters of Misery

October 7, 2008 at 11:33 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies | 5 Comments
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Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelly Hall

A special thanks to Andi from Andi Lit for sending this to me for review.  Her lack of reading time was truly my gain.

Maddie Crane has everything her mother ever wanted, she has a prestigious New England last name and is a member of the Sisters of Misery.  Unfortunately, the pressure of living up to her mother’s expectations and being in this group led by Kate Endicott made life in Hawthorne feel anything but happy and secure.  With the exception of her grandmother, Maddie can’t be herself with anyone.  She isn’t really sure who she is.  When her grandmother Tess allows her estranged aunt Rebecca and cousin Cordelia to return to Hawthrone and live with them, Maddie is hoping to find the sense of belonging she’s been searching for in this life.

What makes Maddie’s story about discovering who she is within her relationships and finding a home for her heart unique is the involvement of the supernatural in a town haunted by its history with witch trials and its proximity to Salem, Massachusetts.  Although her mother likes to brush the fact that her family is more attuned to other dimensions, Rebecca and Cordelia’s arrival in Hawthorne bring it out into the open, at least superficially.  When Rebecca and Cordelia open a new age store in Hawthorne, the Sisters of Misery quickly hone in on it in part of their campaign to ostracize Cordelia.  When a Sisters of Misery induction ritual goes horribly out of control and Maddie, unaware of the intentions of the rest of the group, does and cannot do anything to stop it, her family is never the same again.  It is only then when Maddie decides to let go of fear, stand up against Kate and her ilk, and embrace her family’s gifts.  Hopefully it won’t be too late and Cordelia will forgive her.

Sisters of Misery is targeted to the Young Adult audience.  The main characters are in high school and are facing some of the standard issues presented to girls as they are finishing high school and preparing for adulthood.  I had no issues with the content, but there were sexual situations, hints of sexual violence, and language that took me by surprise given the intended audience.  Much has changed since I last read a Young Adult novel.  I would not discourage any mature teenager from reading this novel.  At the same time, I feel it bears mentioning that this novel has a sharper edge to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  The story moved quickly and I cared for Maddie, Rebecca, Cordelia, and Tess.  It brought back some of the darker sides of high school life and, while there were elements of the supernatural, it felt very true.  I also enjoyed how runes were incorporated into each chapter.  The secrets throughout the story were interesting and well revealed.  Still, there is much left unfinished and I am excited that Megan Kelly Hall is writing a sequel.  I feel that there is something more going on with her mother and I’m hoping this comes to light in The Lost Sister.  I will be first in line to read it in August of 2009 to find out what happens to Maddie, Cordelia, and the Sisters of Misery now that they are college age.

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To buy this novel, click here.

Behind… My September Wrap-Up

October 1, 2008 at 11:30 am | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, LIfe, My Life with Books, Philippa Gregory, Reading | 12 Comments
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My grandfather worked in tool and die.  When he retired, he had his machines in his shed.  One of the things he loved to make the most were cribbage and euchre boards.  He gave this lovely euchre board to me quite some time ago.  Although I’m not sure how to take that on a personal level ;), it really does represent the state of my blog as the month of September has drawn to a close and October is finally underway.  Grandpa will be 91 on the 15th, so happy early birthday from your favorite granddaughter in Virginia!

September really was quite a month.  I participated in two wonderful book tours, I read 11 books (!!!!), the Literate Housewives Book Club officially started (thanks to everyone who has signed up on the forum!), we all celebrated Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and I took a road trip to see one of my favorite authors, Philippa Gregory.  While this will be a month to remember, it has left me behind on my reviews and my comments.  Hopefully October will be a good catch up month.  With my birthday, the girls’ birthdays (Ally – 22nd, Emma – 23rd), our 11th anniversary, a visit from my parents and Uncle Ryan, and a business trip to Boston, it’s sure to be eventful if nothing else.

I read 11 books this month, but I only wrote 7 reviews (including The Seamstress that I owed from August).  That leaves me 5 reviews in the hole.  I’m hoping to have those all written and published by Monday.  Here’s how my reading broke down by category:

General Fiction

House and Home by Kathleen McCleary
Will I Ever Know by Charles Henry
First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
The Torn Skirt by Rebecca Godfrey – review forthcoming

Historical Fiction

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner
Immortal by Traci Slatton – review forthcoming

Young Adult Fiction

Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelly Hall – review forthcoming

Short Fiction

Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks

Non-Fiction

One Can Make a Difference edited by Ingrid E. Newkirk
Good Person Guidebook by Richard Bayer, PhD – review forthcoming
Shrink Rap by Robin A. Altman – review forthcoming

Best Read of the Month:

Honorable Mentions:

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I hope that you all had a happy and prosperous September and will be enjoying the changing of this colors in October.

Guidance for Reviewing Young Adult Literature

September 23, 2008 at 3:29 pm | Posted in Books, Reading | 15 Comments
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I still remember the day that I left Young Adult literature behind for good.  I was in the 8th grade and looking forward to high school when I found a booklet at the library that listed the 101 books that every high school student should read before college.  I don’t remember what books were on that list, but I decided that because I needed to prepare myself that I was too old to read anything childish any longer.  Goodbye, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, and Girl of the Limberlost.  Hello, Catch 22, All Quite on the Western Front, and Jackie Collins (Mom, if you’re reading this, “Junk in, junk out.”  I know…  Sorry!).

Fast forward 24 years (yikes!) and I have finally returned to the world of YA literature.  I finished Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelly Hall last week.  Suffice to say, times and standards have changed since 1984.  As I mentioned in my Sunday Salon post, there were quite a few references to drugs, smoking, sex, rape and attempted gang rape.  Also, the word c*nt is used.  As an adult, I was fine with all of those things (with the exception of my least favorite word) and really enjoyed the book.

When writing my review, I feel like I should look at it form the YA angle because that is the target audience.  My question for those of you who have more experience reading and reviewing YA fiction: are there any content boundaries or standards for YA fiction similar to movie ratings?  If not, how do you define yours?  I would really appreciate some feedback on the YA fiction of today.  I would hate to write a review making note of content that would be considered standard.  Likewise, I don’t want to leave it out and have people wished I had given them advance notice.

The Sunday Salon 09.21.08

September 21, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe | 12 Comments
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The Sunday Salon.comIt is such a gorgeous day today!  This is the first morning I woke up feeling chilly.  A few months from now I’ll no doubt be complaining about this, but it felt really, really good.  I’ll be wearing long pants and a long sleeve t-shirt today for sure.  And, since I’ve finally gotten my seasonal blahs to a manageable place, I can enjoy the cooler weather and the changing of the colors. :)

What a week!  Book Blogger Appreciation Week was an inspiration to me.  Jen at Devourer of Books made my week early on and it just stayed that way.  I enjoyed visiting new blogs and presenting four of the awards and two contests.   It culminated in a wonderful book blogger wide shout out to Amy at My Friend Amy that was really impressive.  It’s amazing what a group of people who don’t know each other can do in such a short period of time. I want to personally thank Trish at Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin’ for the gorgeous button she created for Amy.  It is absolutely lovely!

The Literate Housewives’ Book Club is also back up and running.  After 9 months, we’re giving it another try.  In addition to the blog, I’ve created a forum and will be creating a newsletter.  Our first book is Immortal by Traci Slatton.  A couple of the members have finished the book, but I’m about 10 chapters in myself.  We’re not actually describing the book until we’ve finished, which will probably be closer to the end of the month.  So, there’s still time to join if you’re interested.

In addition to the blogging, I got a good deal of reading done.  I finished Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelly Hall.  I read that novel to help out Andi at AndiLit.  It was really good and I just noticed that in the activity of BBAW that Amy hosted a guest post by the author.  I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the sequel.  I also read and enjoyed The Torn Skirt by Rebecca Godfrey.  I’ll be writing and posting the reviews for these novels this week.

I have a question about young adult literature for those of you who regularly read and review it.  Sisters of Misery is listed in the YA Lit category.  It was about a group of high school aged girls, so that fits YA to me.  However, there were quite a few references to drugs, sex, rape, and gang rape.  Two characters, one of whom is a high school character, smoke.  What really stuck out to me as being inappropriate for a YA novel is my least favorite word, c*nt.  Are these topics and the use of that kind of language acceptable or common in the YA literature of today?  It’s been since the late 80s since I’ve read YA fiction and I know that a lot has changed…

I’m starting Bad Monkey by Matt Ruff and The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory in addition to Immortal for my reading this week.  A lot of great reading is heading my way.

Next weekend I’ll be heading to the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. and I cannot wait!  I’ll have pictures and a report back on those festivities in my next Sunday Salon.  In the meantime, have a great week everyone!

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