Gilda Joyce: The Ghost Sonata by Jennifer Allison

I've been a fan of author Jennifer Allison and the hilarious Gilda Joyce since the first book. Gilda Joyce is a fourteen-year-old "Psychic Investigator" and avid writer. She lives by the knowledge in her copy of the Master Psychic's Handbook. Every time she senses something is paranormal, she gets a tingle in her ear.

The Ghost Sonata is the third book in this wonderful series. In it, Gilda accompanies her friend Wendy and the other Young International Virtuosos Piano Competition contestants to England. The mystery starts at the airport. While waiting for the plane, Gilda pulls out her tarot cards and gives Wendy a reading. Though Gilda tries valiantly to put a cheerful spin on possible meanings as Wendy pulls the first two cards, she secretly has to admit this is one of the worst readings she has ever seen. And then the third card Wendy pulls is the Death Card. The group arrives safely in England, but in the middle of the night, Wendy hears an unfamiliar and haunting melody. It keeps playing over and over in her mind, interrupting her thoughts. Then more dark tarot cards from a mysterious deck appear and finally -- the ghostly figure of a boy.
Though the story was captivating, what I love most is the character of Gilda Joyce. Jennifer Allison made her so witty and a phenomenal improviser. When Gilda's brother Stephen tells her to not take things so seriously, I couldn't stop laughing for about five minutes. Gilda is unpredictable and her antics keep me guessing.
Psychic Investigator and The Ladies of the Lake are the first two books. They can be read in any order, all are marvelous, and I highly recommend them.

Five daggers out of five. Surprising, I know.

- Twyla Lee


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie Landau-Banks is a sophomore at Alabaster, a prestigious prep school where one might make acquaintances that will open doors all throughout life. Previously a small and awkward-looking freshman who dominated at debate, Frankie has since, shall we say...developed. And, perhaps as a result of this development, gorgeous senior Matthew Livingston notices her, invites her to a late-night golf-course shindig, and becomes her boyfriend. Frankie is positively thrilled, and loves spending time with Matthew and his friends. But when Matthew starts acting strangely--blowing her off to hang with the guys, freaking out when she touches the ridiculous china dog ornament on his desk, and quite obviously lying to her--she follows him. He ends up leading her to an old theater where she discovers that he is the Basset King, leader of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, which is a secret society that has been active at Alabaster for who-knows-how-long. But Matthew hasn't told her about it, and from the looks of it, he doesn't plan to. Frankie is furious. She knows that she's just as smart than Matthew and his friends, if not smarter. But she's a girl, and the Order is an all-male society.
Does she confront him?
She gets even by becoming the mastermind behind a series of the most epic pranks Alabaster Preparatory has ever seen.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is quite simply excellent. It is the story of a girl who will not stand for being the "simple and sweet" girlfriend and nothing more, who refuses to give in to the panopticon (look it up) of our society, and who has decided that she won't take "no" from anybody. E. Lockhart writes with intelligence and humor, interspersing facts on secret societies that I found to be absolutely fascinating. At one point (or maybe a couple) a bit of first-person was thrown into the mix, which was slightly confusing, but it didn't take away from my like for the book as a whole. I especially appreciated Frankie's transformation over the course of the book, as well as the message conveyed.

Five out of five daggers

Wanting very badly to do something epic...

Only once in a while there comes a book that really and truly means something to me-- and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was one of those books. Not only was it amazingly well written, not only was I incapable of putting it down, but it made me think. Frankie Landau-Banks is a girl who has always been underestimated, and this book is the story of how she goes from being her family's small, helpless Bunny Rabbit to being, truly, a force of nature. If you read anything at all this year, read this book.

Five out of five.

Amazed, happy, and yours,


You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn

When they were younger, Laura and Miles were inseparable. They were more than friends, more than cousins, they were like sisters. They spent their days in the treehouse that Laura's father built for them, playing Once Upon a Time and speaking in a made-up language.

As they grew up, though, they grew apart. Laura flourished in a world of popularity well-suited to her wealth and golden beauty. Miles, on the other hand, retreated into junk food and cigarettes, veiling herself in gothic makeup and facial piercings. She read constantly, preferring words to people. Especially people like the classmates that nicknamed her 8-Mile. Her only true friend at her D.C. charter school the popular, handsome, and talented acting/rapping/breakdancing Jamal, who once stood up for her when nobody else would. Occasionally, Laura and Miles would return to the treehouse of their childhood, passing time together in a Percoset-induced haze. It couldn't come close to the happiness of their past, but was all that Miles had to hold on to. So when Laura--beautiful, intelligent, lovely Laura--commits suicide, Miles is left shattered. She understands why Laura chose not to live, but is heartbroken nonetheless, wishing that she could have followed her on the way out. Wishing that they could have chosen together. With nothing else left, Miles turns to prescription painkillers, that numb-nothing-dream her only respite from the pain of Laura's memory. She's on a dangerous path here, losing all she didn't know she had to high she can't bear to give up.

You Know Where to Find Me is a powerful, well-written story of love, loss, and unexpected healing. It's heart-wrenching, funny, and sometimes even heart-wrenchingly funny. Cohn embodies Miles perfectly, writing with both wit and deep grief that make the novel entirely believable.

Four and one-half out of five daggers.

Hugs, not drugs...


A Salute

Ever since we were small evil ones, our mothers have been there for us.
Reading to us.
Buying us books.
Supporting our blogging endeavors.

Among other things. But, you know.

So, we salute thee, O Mothers!
A very Happy Day to you.

With admiration, sincerity, and love,

Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen

Evangeline Bianca Logan decides to clean the house. She washes the kitchen. She cleans the bathrooms. She tidies the bedrooms. And she finds--under her mother’s bed--the romance novel that will turn her into a serial kisser. Entitled The Crimson Kiss, the book inspires Evangeline to give herself a makeover, change her outlook, and go on a mission to find her own perfect, crimson, Grayson-and-Delilah kiss.

As Evangeline sets off on her mighty quest, she encounters a series of obstacles. Namely, bad kissers. Robbie Marshall attacks. That guy at the coffee shop was a bulldozer. Stu Dillard wants a rating of all things (hoping to out-man Robbie at something). And let's not even talk about Blake Jennings.

But bad kissers aren't her only problem. For one thing, her jerk of a two-timing father won't stop calling. For another, people have started magic-marker-ing her phone number onto urinals. Her grades have started slipping. And, to top it all off, a mistaken kiss leads Evangeline's best friend Adrienne to call their friendship quits.

I must admit, I was worried.
You see, I grew up reading (and adoring) Van Draanen’s Sammy Keyes series (about a snaky and intelligent girl-detective with an affinity for high-tops [a breath of fresh, hilarious, and thankfully Nancy Drew-free air]), which seemed a far, far cry from this pink-covered, lipstick-print-ed, so-very-scarily-titled book. But I just couldn’t resist. And guess what?…I loved it. It made me laugh out loud. It made me cry. It referenced The Princess Bride. And Evangeline was nice and real, just the way I like my characters.

All in all, Confessions of a Serial Kisser is a great book. Perhaps not the deepest piece of literature I've ever read, but it certainly wasn't mindless drivel, either. I still like the Sammy Keyes books better, though (Even though they are middle-grade).

Four out of Five daggers