Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn

Night Dance is a blend of The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Arthurian lore, with Excalibur playing a major part in the plot and Morgana (here known as Morgan le Fey) as the villainness. It’s interesting how the two were blended together, and hats off to the author for the idea of tying in the two storylines.

It also reminded me of Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment (retelling of Sleeping Beauty, set in Russia hehe). I guess in the way the story was narrated, and the way magic was used throughout the story. Morgan le Fey reminded me of Baba Yaga in Enchantment, how they both can change into animals, and how they use primitive magic to call on the forces of nature.

The narration is really fairy tale-ish, like Enchantment, which makes it awkward to read at some points. There’s also a lot of teenage hormones flying about, gaggling girls, clumsy first kisses, etc — it’s quite dramatic, perfect for those experiencing teenage angst, hahaha. I guess that if I’d read it in high school I’d have loved it.

My copy: put up for mooching last year

My rating: 3/5 stars

Holes by Louis Sachar

Again, this is another book that I’ve seen since I was a kid but never got around to reading. My cousin Dianne convinced me to get my own copy after she bought hers, and I decided to read it one afternoon.
It turned out to be a pleasant surprise right from the first page.

Holes is about Stanley Yelnats IV, a kid who has the knack of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, thanks to a family curse cast by Madame Zeroni on his ancestor Elya Yelnats.

Because of the curse, Stanley gets wrongly convicted of a juvenile crime and is sent away to Camp Green Lake for some disciplinary action, except the camp isn’t all that he expected it to be.

Stanley is in for a great adventure that allows him to put the family curse to rest, find buried treasure, survive yellow-spotted lizards, gain wisdom and inner strength, and forge the friendship of a lifetime, along with a chain of coincidences and quirky twists of fate that are delightfully tied in with the story.

The 2003 Walt Disney movie stars Shia Le Beouf and Sigourney Weaver. Let’s hope Disney channel airs this one soon; I think that except for the body type, Shia fits the character perfectly.

Postscript: someone from one of my book clubs read the book recently and commented that it didn’t exactly present something new for the YA genre.

I think that’s exactly why the book is so charming– it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The best young adult books for me are those that succeed without trying to impress you, dealing with issues its readers can relate to but still making it fun.

My copy: trade paperback movie cover, upgraded into hardcover with dustjacket
(I also have the hardcover sequel, plus Stanley Yelnats’ guide to Camp Green Lake in my TBR.)

My rating: 5/5 stars

Photos courtesy of

Wendy by Karen Wallace

Karen Wallace’s Wendy is a novel inspired by the children’s classic Peter Pan, but it is no fairy tale. It is a story of Wendy in a real world, in the dark late Victorian period — A Wendy that has to deal with domestic problems such as child abuse, parental indiscretions, alcoholism, family problems, and other social issues.

I wouldn’t actually recommend it for younger readers, because the summary on the back of the book doesn’t give one a clue that it’s not a tale of magic and wonder… It might actually be quite traumatic for the younger reader, because Wendy’s pain and the poignancy of the story is all too real.

It’s a good read for those who can appreciate it however. Wendy is a troubled child who lives in a world that forces her to grow up, and her best friend Thomas is a 15-year old boy with a case of autism, her very own Peter Pan.

It’s a clever adaptation, neurotic at times, but moving to the end.

My copy: trade paperback, a bit spotty now after living in Enzo’s dorm for about a year… (Brothers, harr…)

My rating: 3/5 stars

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Thirteen year old Salamanca Tree Hiddle is on the trip of a lifetime — a trip that will reunite her with her mother after a whole year of separation. Together with her grandparents, she retraces her mother’s steps to Lewiston, Idaho, where her mother is.

On the road, Sal entertains her grandparents with tales of her new friend, Phoebe Winterbottom. And as she tells them about Phoebe, her own story unfolds.

I first read this 1995 Newberry winner when I was in high school. Many years later, I finally found a copy of the book and I remembered why I loved it so well.

The book mainly deals with loss, a feeling everyone is familiar with, and how different people cope and come to terms with it. Sal is so candid at telling her story that you can feel the truth in what she’s saying, whether they’re hilarious observations about the things happening around her, or her deepest emotions that she tries hard to conceal.

Here are some favorite lines from the book:

“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” – the lunatic

“Everyone has his own agenda.” – the lunatic

“Everybody is just walking along concerned with his own problems, his own life, his own worries. And we’re all expecting other people to tune into our own agenda. ‘Look at my worry. Worry with me. Step into my life. Care about my problems. Care about me.” – Gram

“In a course of a lifetime, what does it matter?” – the lunatic

“…I wished that my father was not such a good man, so there would be someone to blame for my mother’s leaving. I didn’t want to blame her. She was my mother, and she was part of me.” – Sal

“I had brought a chicken in from the coop: ‘Would Mom leave her favorite chicken?’ I demanded. ‘She loves this chicken.’ What I really meant to say was. ‘How can she not come back to me? She loves me.’ “- Sal

“Sometimes you know in your heart you love someone, but you have to go away before your head can figure it out.” – Gram

“You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” – the lunatic

” I knew that sometimes you had to be alone with the birds of sadness. Sometimes you had to cry by yourself.” – Sal

“I tried to picture what the room was like and what room we were in and what she was wearing and what precisely she had said. This was not a game. It was a necessary, crucial thing to do. If I did not have these things, and remember these occasions, then she might disappear forever. She might never have been.” – Sal

“Our heads moved together and our lips landed in the right place, which was on the other person’s lips. It was a real kiss, and it did not taste like chicken… I felt like the newlY born horse who knows nothing but feels everything. Ben touched his lips. ‘Did it taste a little like blackberries to you?’ ” – Sal

“Ben was sitting on the front steps when I got home. He said, ‘I brought you something.’ There, strutting across the grass, was a chicken. I had never been so happy to see a chicken. When I asked him what its name was, he leaned forward and I leaned forward, and another kiss happened, a spectacular kiss, a perfect kiss, and Ben said, ‘Its name is Blackberry.’ ” – Sal

The book keeps you guessing until the end, and you realize Creech has successfully passed on some wisdom beyond Sal’s age and understanding, without making it contrived and artificial.

By the final chapters, I was crying buckets. It’s like finding an old friend, one who knows exactly how you feel. It’s beautifully written, wise, funny, and poignant, all at the same time.

My copy: originally a tattered paperback (got lost), replaced with another paperback from Book Sale, upgraded into a hardcover (library binding) with a tear on the front cover, also from Book Sale

My rating: 5/5 stars