Another gem from the Newbery Honor books, Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan is an entertaining, funny novel about a delinquent boy who, having been kicked out of school, is forced to be homeschooled by the Applewhite family, themselves an eclectic bunch of misfits. In fact, there are so many characters that in the beginning it’s hard to keep them all straight!
Destiny, the youngest Applewhite, is 4 years old and ends up idolizing Jake Semple, the delinquent boy, along with the basset hound, Winston. Both are attached to Jake’s hip despite his disapproval. E.D, the closest to Jake’s age and the one put in charge of helping him in his education, is the only normal Applewhite. Studious and industrious, she loves learning and doing the right thing. Her mother is a successful writer. Her father a successful director. Her brother, Hal, is a recluse and never leaves his room except in the middle of the night to eat. Her sister, Cordelia, is a composer and choreographer. Her grandpa and uncle make furniture. Her aunt is a poet.
When her father’s current production of the Sound of Music loses its stage, the Applewhites come together and use their talents to save the play by hosting the play in their barn. E.D. becomes the stage manager. Her grandpa and uncle make the stage. Her brother Hal leaves his room to paint. Destiny and Jake both are cast in the play and Jake begins to realize he has talent as well. Her mother and aunt make the costumes.
Throw in a zany wanna-be-film-director and an Indian chef (“passion is necessary to all of life”) along with colorful characters from the small North Carolina town and you have a delightful tale sure to delight and entertain. The character arc of both E.D. and Jake are great with both learning life lessons, discovering what life is about and what gives them job, and learning how all things are possible. Highly recommended. Great for kids of all ages (there’s no love interest or any talk of attraction). Awesome book showing a family coming together in times of crisis. Purely a joy to read!
The sequel to The Bone Witch, The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco, picks up right where we left Tea, the girl who is one of two Bone Witches in the Eight Kingdoms. Feared and disliked for her ability to raise the dead, Tea finds herself raising King Vanor in an attempt to find her mentor, Mykaela’s heartsglass which gives her her powers.
Tea finds herself caught up in power struggle after power struggle as she faces down the Faceless (i.e. bad guys) and finds herself allying with the Heart Forger in order to cure a sleeping sickness that has infected royalty across the Kingdoms. She travels to Daanoris, a place that has banned magic, and is a virtual prisoner as she and her friends attempt to find the Heart Forger and the cure.
Ancient hostilities arise and hidden plots that involve the murder of a king drive the plot as Tea is forced to use dark magic (forbidden to use) in order to defeat the Dark Ones. Judged and banished, her and her lover, Kalen, strike out on their own with her loyal daeva, Azi (picture a flying dragon). “Don’t let me become a monster,” she says to Kalen.
“Life isn’t fair. But you live with it and accept it. There isn’t much to complain when there is little you can do.”
“When it comes to matters of the heart, nearly anything is possible.”
Great read in the same vein as The Bone Witch. The part in the middle where Tea is in Daanoris gets a bit tedious as we have new characters and a new plot to develop, but overall worth your time!
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale
Thank a serviceman today.
“Always be a little kinder than necessary.” -James M. Barrie
My identity comes from being a child of God, and that He recklessly and unconditionally loves me.
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco is a young adult fantasy novel about a girl who realizes she has special powers when she accidentally raises her dead brother from the grave.
And so sparks a journey as we follow Tea in her new life. She is recognized as a dark asha (otherwise known as bone witch). These are few and far between in this kingdom. She is taken in to be trained, leaving all of her family behind except her recently-resurrected brother. He and Tea are linked, and he needs her to survive. When she dies, he does as well.
A dark asha’s main job is to raise and put down daeva, monsters that wreck havoc if left unchecked and must every few years to through this process before they rise on their own. Asha also entertain nobility, serve as bodyguards and are good fighters, and wield magic helpful to the kings.
There are various kingdoms, which currently are at peace and those who wish to wield more power known as the Faceless who remain hidden. An unknown Faceless has raised a daeva dragon. Tea’s teacher is too ill to put the daeva down so Tea must do so herself with a little under 2 years of training. She knows she can die, but she cannot allow other innocents to die either.
“Duty means doing something not because you like it but because you’re supposed to,” Tea’s brother, Fox, tells her.
“Everyone is a puzzle made of interlocking tiles you must piece together to form a picture of their souls.”
“Always strive to do the unexpected.”
Great read. Very stock in terms of good guys, bad guys, love interests, and growing up themes. Two stories are being told at once: Tea is narrating her story to a storyteller while she is in exile on the Sea of Skulls. Fascinating perspective. Great details. Fun!