Skulk’s anything but a typical paranormal teen fiction. Shapeshifters in Rosie Best’s novel consist of foxes, ravens, rats, butterflies and spiders—no wolves need apply to this world. And, Skulk is urban fantasy in the truest sense of the term, with a rich city-focused setting of London, complete with graffiti and urban wildlife that’s not what it appears.
At the center of this story is sixteen year old Meg Banks, a teen girl who appears to have it all. Her mother’s a highly-respected member of Parliament and her father’s a genius with money. Meg attends an exclusive school that churns out students headed for only the best universities and the brightest futures.
Meg’s perfect parents, perfect school, perfect life is nothing more than a tarnished cage locking in an unconquerable spirit who struggles to find self expression, individuality and ultimately freedom from her cruel and demanding mother and her aloof father.
Read the rest-->
Note: This is the first in an ongoing series from Sandra, retired high school English teacher and current substitute teacher in the same subject area, discussing the classic novels she taught, their relevance to today's teens and pairings with contemporary fiction.
I taught high school literature for twenty-six years, many of the same books year after year. You’d think they would become ho-hum with a huge yawn after a few years.
There’s always something new and fresh that first-time readers bring to a text so it stands the test of time—meaning they relate to the characters and situations regardless of era or setting. Some books are simply universal. The Scarlet Letter, which I've written about previously, stands out for the fresh perspectives my students would bring to them each time I taught these books.
It’s all about making connections and drawing parallels.
I recall one student gingerly holding a copy of The Scarlet Letter between her thumb and index finger. The expression on her face was somewhere between horror and admiration as I shared that I had taught, and therefore read, this book every single year.
“What? You’ve actually read this at least twenty times? That’s that’s—I don’t know what is is,” my student said.
Read the rest-->
I enjoy novels with a bit (or a lot) of the occult and ghost-y elements. As you know, I am a fan of the creepy, so those elements fit the bill perfectly. I've recently read three that I enjoyed and thought I'd share my thoughts with you.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
•Portland, Oregon–––––October 14, 1918•
The day before my father's arrest, I read an article about a mother who cured her daughter of the Spanish flu by burying her in raw onions for three days.
Thus begins a truly fine fantastic debut novel about sixteen-year old Mary Shelley Black. Her father’s been arrested for treason, her boyfriend’s fighting overseas, influenza threatens to deplete the population–it’s a fearsome world, a bleak reality for Mary.
Cat Winters captivated me with her unusual historical novel, In The Shadow of Blackbirds.
Interspersed throughout the book are photographs of the era. Images of this bleak period in American history bring stark life to the words skillfully woven into a story of a young girl who sees the spirit of her lost love crying out to her as she struggles to maintain her own balance in a world twisted with fear and injustice.
Read the rest!
Laura Lee Smith’s beautifully crafted novel, Heart of Palm is long, 449 pages, and each page illuminates the Bravo family, their home and Florida’s landscape. It captivated me with lovely language and beautiful storytelling. It’s alive, vibrant with a sense of the people and place.
With each new twist in the novel, my admiration for Heart of Palm grew.
Heart of Palm brought me into the lives of the Bravo family, a family that at its core is like many families: difficult to define or understand, sometimes dysfunctional, yet complex with layers of love and hurt melding together. Its charm comes from characters and setting.
This is the Bravo family. Their world. Their uniqueness.
The Bravos live outside of St. Augustine, Florida in the fictional village of Utina. Their rickety and once-grand home, Aberdeen, stands along an intracoastal waterway that ebbs and flows to a slow southern rhythm. Named for the chief of the Utina tribe, the land of oaks and Spanish moss is enchantingly beautiful. Now it slowly slides into the 21st century with a culture solidly entrenched in the past.
Real estate developers have no interest in the town’s colorful history. Instead, they have cast a hungry eye on the land, especially the Bravo’s: a marina, restaurants, Starbucks—ah, the endless possibilities to make money. The natural land must bend to progress as the moneyed class sees it.
The plot develops less from this pull of money and more unfurls from the Bravo family, of how each has a secret that slowly unwinds toward resolution.