Monday, May 14, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (71)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

I couldn't decide what to read, and ran a Twitter poll, and "four random old books" won, for some reason. I know I haven't done one of these in a while, but honestly I thought they were a bit of my own weird pet project. Do I have secret fans of these posts? Come comment something. I'm super curious about this now.

Anyways, here we go!

The Haunting of Cassie Palmer by Vivien Alcock

Published: First published in Great Britain in 1980 by Meutheun Children's Books Limited, this impression was published in September 1987 by Lions, an imprint of the Collins Publish Group. (This book had a very thorough copyright page.)
Genre: Fantasy MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 155 pages, plus three ads for other books.
Part of a series? No, I don't believe so.
Got via: It used to be a library book, and I bought it when it was weeded.
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Cassie Palmer is the seventh child of a seventh child. This, according to her mother, a none-two-successful medium herself, means that Cassie will inherit amazing psychic powers. But Cassie is reluctant to acknowledge her inheritance and is secretly afraid of the "gift" she might have.

But strange things do happen when Cassie accepts a dare to raise a spirit. Who or what is the terrifying Deverill? Has Cassie accidentally disturbed a ghost, and what will be the consequences?

Thoughts: I read this as a kid, and I remember liking it, but I didn't know if I would as an adult. Turns out, it held up pretty well. There's a decent voice, with a decent plot, and it's very atmospheric. I liked that their mom was fat and it wasn't treated some a terrible thing. Some of the language used about her wasn't amazing, but it wasn't horrible.

It didn't take a lot of time to read, and overall was just fine. I'm not sure if this is one where I'd say they should put out a reprint, but I had a fun time reading it. Two of the books advertises in the back of this are When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson, and The Sara Summer by Mary Downing Hahn and I think those are perfect to describe what kind of book this is. If you saw it in a secondhand store or something, I wouldn't hesitate to pick it up. Or if you read this as a kid and you're curious about it, I wouldn't say you'd be disappointed rereading as an adult.

Also, points on the book for a jab at Flat Earthers. That's just funny. This is a slim little book, and my copy is in great shape, so I think I'm gonna keep it for now.

The Gifting by Ann Gabhart

Published: 1987 by Crosswinds
Genre: If it were published today, I think it would be called a MG paranormal, as the MC is only 13, but it's kind of hard to say with some of these old books. The line between YA and MG was often very blurred back then.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 155 plus some adverts for other books, and, weirdly, for a bookshelf. Only 9.95 plus 75 cents postage and handling!
Part of a series? Kinda, but not really. I'll come back to this.
Got via: A yard sale, I think. There's a Garfield book plate with a kid's name in it, and it has a number on the very first page.
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Ginny had always felt different from the other members of her family. She wasn't as pretty as her sisters, and her brother was too young, and besides, he was a boy. She'd never had a really close friend.

When they moved to a new neighborhood, her life changed. She met Mark and Miss Nellie. Mark was quite simply the nicest guy she'd ever known. Miss Nellie was more of a puzzle. Ginny couldn't figure her out. Was Miss Nellie just an eccentric old lady, or were the rumors about her true?

Thoughts: Okay, first of all, this author now writes as Ann H. Gabhart and has a book called "The Gifted", which is like, inspirational romance or something. Weird, lol. (Also, while this book is tagged on goodreads as "Christian Fiction", the extant of the faith stuff in this is really someone saying they considered something a gift from God, and a couple mentions of church.)

Time for a quick history lesson now! Once upon a time, Simon and Schuster had distribution rights for the all-British-except-for-Janet-Dailey Harlequin, and when Harlequin jumped ship, they came up with an imprint called Silhouette to fill that space and use the resources they had. It went really well, and Harlequin was like "wow, we better get on those American romance writers, they are making the good money" and got busy on that, and Harlequin and Silhouette became probably the two biggest names in romance. Eventually in the 80s, Harlequin purchased Silhouette from Simon and Schuster and they got less competitive, but maintained separate identities until the around 2010 when all Silhouette imprints were rebranded as Silhouette imprints. Read more about that here and here.

This has not been quick.

Okay, well, long history lesson continued, from 1981 to 1987, Silhouette had an imprint called "First Love" which was YA romance, and there were 236 of those. Long story short, they were cheap and generally are not considered to have been amazing, although I personally have some fond memories of some I owned as a kid. Find out a little bit more about them here and here. Eventually, I assume they stopped doing so well, and they renamed the line to be called "Crosswinds" (see, I had a point), which had a line called "Crosswinds Keepsakes" which was very romance-oriented, and straight-up Crosswinds, which was not. It's kind of a weird, line, honestly, with some really random but interesting looking books, and it only lasted for a year and 32 books.

So this technically has a series name on Goodreads, but really it's just the imprint, and this has told you nothing about my thoughts on the book.

While I was doing all that research, something I noticed about the First Love series was that the later it got in the series, the more the plots strayed away from contemporary YA romance. They leaned way more towards paranormal, with lots of hauntings and almost even Gothic seeming settings. I'm speculating a little bit, but I assume that was because of reader demand. (Interestingly, it seemed like there was more demand for diversity. It was nothing huge, but books towards the end of the series seemed to have more diverse protagonists than the whole rest of the run.) That makes it make a lot of sense that the line would eventually split like it did when it was rebranded.

I also noticed that Ann Gabhart's name popped up fairly often in the First Loves series, and having read this actually made me curious about those. Honestly I kind of feel like the cover of this is deceiving. It looks more like a Point Horror knock-off when you could probably give it an updated cover and it'd fit fine in modern middle grade. (Taking out one anti-Native line before giving it to a modern audience, as it's inappropriate and obviously racist.)

The time period of when this is set isn't that clear, especially as they live in a rural area, but it could have easily been earlier than when it was written, and I think actually works well for it. It doesn't seem as awkwardly dated as much as just "historical". The voice also works well for that, and it's still an engaging read. I also liked that the romance wasn't that much. I mean, she is only thirteen, so it's very sweet and more realistic for kids their age.

I actually wish the author had written more YA/MG after the 80s and 90s, as her voice seems great and I'm not into the Christian romance genre. If I ever saw any of her vintage books at a sale or something, I'd totally grab them, though. I'm gonna keep this one. It was good.

Below the Root by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Published: Originally released in 1975, my edition is from 1992 by Laurel Leaf Fantasy.
Genre: While this says fantasy, I would more categorize this as YA Science Fiction, and today we'd probably call it almost dystopian.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 231 plus an ad for Lloyd Alexander books.
Part of a series? This is the first of a trilogy called the Green Sky Trilogy.
Got via: It used to be a library book, and I bought it in a sale.

Summary (from goodreads): When thirteen-year-old Raamo is chosen from all the other Kindar to join the ranks of the Ol-zhaan, the spiritual and governmental rulers of the land of Green-sky, he can hardly believe it. Does he really have the far-reading wisdom of that priestly class?

Apprehensive and intimidated by the secrecy surrounding the Ol-zhaan, Raamo nonetheless takes part in the initiation ceremonies. Not long after his indoctration has begun, Raamo learns - through his special telepathic "pensing" abilities - that everything is not as it appears in Green-sky. The Ol-zhaan have been taking advantage of their high status to keep the Kindar in the dark about much of the history of their people.

Raamo is now in the precarious position of knowing things he isn't supposed to know. What danger awaits him and the unknowing Kindar?

Thoughts: This was freaking weird. But that's probably most likely a me thing more than anything. This kind of science fiction is just not really my thing and this one didn't do much to sway me that way. However, I did research into this as well, and it was quite popular. There was even a video game made based on these which was apparently pretty good and somewhat unique in its features at the time.

And it has also been re-released on Kindle in 2012, which is probably really great for anyone who loved the books as a kid and wants to re-read them or just have them in their collection. They have cool covers, and they're only about 6 dollars which is probably what you'd spend buying a used copy unless you happened to find one specifically.

This is just really a me thing. This has a bit of a Giver or Chrysalids vibe, and I totally get people liking these, remembering them fondly, and even liking them now, but I just wasn't into it. I've enjoyed a lot of books from Snyder, and I would totally read more as an adult, but this one's not just for me. I'm not even going to rate it, because it's so much a "not for me" book that it wouldn't be fair.

Don't let my opinion stop you if you think this sounds interesting. I'm gonna pass this one along and hope it finds a home with someone who likes this genre a bit more.

The Dark Garden by Margaret Buffie

Published: Originally released in 1995 by Kids Can Press, I believe my edition was a year later.
Genre: Paranormal YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 248
Part of a series? Standalone.
Got via: It used to be a library book.

Summary (from the author's website because I didn't like the goodreads one as much): Sixteen-year-old Thea is suffering from traumatic amnesia. She is struggling to find out who she is - and who she is not. As she returns home and begins to rediscover who she is, the empty places of her mind fill up with shadowy memories - but whose memories are they? When she begins to see ghostly figures from the past flitting through the run-down garden behind her parents' house, she wonders if she is living someone else's terrible dream.

Thea finds herself caught between two worlds. In one, her unhappy family seems to be falling apart. In the other, shadowy spirits haunt her with their tragic passion. In both, there is anger and loneliness, but is it possible that a murder took place in the spirits' world?

The bridge between the two worlds is a large garden, where time and place, love and hate become blurred - and where everything is possible.

Thoughts: I really liked this! I actually wish I had read this as a kid. I've had it for years but for some reason I never clicked with reading it, but I wish I had. I would have really liked it, I know. It's such a kid!me book. The writing has held up very well, and it's surprisingly undated, really. There's a few things that date it a bit, but overall, I don't think it's anything that's like "wow, that's awkward".

The story of this is really creepy and interesting, and I love me a good ghost story. It's very satisfying in the way it's unrolled. I kind of figured it out pretty early, but that didn't make me enjoy it any less. I also think it was really well done how absolutely suffocating Thea's family life felt, and how realistic that seemed. That it was set in Canada was also something neat for me. All in all, I really liked this. Honestly, I'm keeping it and I'd reread it, and I'd be really interested in reading more of the author's work.

Also, kudos to the author for having a writing career for longer than I've been alive, and I think it's great that her older books are now available as ebooks. I really think more authors should do that if it's possible. The kindle copy is under four dollars, and I think that's a great price. If you want to read a creepy, interesting ghost story, grab it.

Well, that's three out of four of these were pretty good!! That's a bit of a higher rate than usual, honestly, for these posts. I'm impressed!!

Would you pick any of these up, especially the ones available as ebooks?

Peace and cookies,

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