Title: Lighthouse Island
Author: Paulette Jiles. She is the author of several novels, including Enemy Women.
Readers: Professor Michal, teacher Shannon, stay-at-home parents Colleen B. and Kristi.
Summary: In the coming centuries the world’s population has exploded and covered the earth with cities, animals are nearly all gone and drought has taken over so that cloudy water is issued by the quart. There are no maps, no borders, no numbered years. On this urban planet the only relief from overcrowding and the harsh rule of the big Agencies is the television in every living space, with its dreams of vanished waterfalls and the promise of virtual vacations in green spaces, won by the lucky few.
It is an unwelcoming world for an orphan like Nadia Stepan. Abandoned by her parents on a crowded street when she was four, the little girl is shuttled from orphanage to orphanage, foster-family to foster-family. Nadia grows up dreaming of the vacation spot called Lighthouse Island, in a place called the Pacific Northwest. And beyond the confusion and overcrowding and the relentless television noise, comes a radio voice from an abandoned satellite that patiently reads, over and over, the great classical books of the world-Big Radio, a voice in the night that lifts Nadia out of the dull and perpetual Present. An opportunity for escape appears and Nadia takes it, abandoning everything to strike out for Lighthouse Island in a dangerous and sometimes comic adventure.
Our Take: Such a promising idea, but our readers are in agreement that the execution falls flat. We need solid worldbuilding in dystopian fiction and we never felt like we understood this one.
Title: Ghost Hawk
Author: Susan Cooper. She is the Newbery Award-winning author of several books for children, including The Dark is Rising series.
Genre: Middle-Grade, Historical Fiction
Readers: Stay-at-home moms Kristi, Shawna and Sarah L., librarian Zoe and professor JoLee.
Summary: On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father traded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man.
John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger.
Our Take: We all love the subject matter, it’s a fascinating look at an often overlooked period of American History. You may want to read it before your kids, or save it for middle-schoolers. A great adventure story, but loses some steam in the 2nd half.
Title: Delia’s Shadow
Author: Jaime Lee Moyer. This is her first novel and the first in a series.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Readers: Stay-at-home mom Kristi, policy wonk BakingSuit, metrics analyst Mary and editor Kristina.
Summary: It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side.
Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest.
Our Take: A mix of paranormal, historical and serial killer thrill-age, 3 of 4 readers give it a thumbs up. They do note it was a bit “trite” and “convenient,” though, so if you get kind of picky about these things, you may find yourself leaning more towards our dissenting reader’s opinion.