Friday, July 31, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill

Title: Soul Enchilada
Author: David Macinnis Gill
Publisher: Greenwillow/Harper Collins
Starred Review:K

Eunice “Bug” Smoot is having a bad day. Someone has egged her car, she’s lost her job, she is about to be evicted, and if that weren’t bad enough, a demon has come to repossess her car. It turns out her grandfather, Papa C, signed a contract putting their souls up as collateral for his purchase of a 1958 Cadillac. When, after his death, Papa C disappears the djinn Beals comes looking for him. Bug must either produce Papa C or forfeit her own soul. Beals is now permanently attached to the car until the completion of the contract and develops and unwanted fascination with Bug that paves the way for many confrontations throughout the book. Papa C was her last remaining family but lucky for her she isn’t as alone as she thinks. It turns out Pesto, former classmate and current crush, is a member of ISIS the International Supernatural Immigration Service. He uses his connections in ISIS and with Attorney E. Figg to try to figure out a way to cut Beals loose from the car and get out of the contract with Scratch (the devil) so that Bugs can keep her soul and free will.

Author David Macinnis Gill is off to a good start with this debut novel. The story takes place in El Paso, Texas and this isn’t mentioned just for show in the book. Gill infuses the story with plenty of local flavor with his mention of holidays and landmarks found in El Paso. Bug is half Tejana and half African-American while Pesto is Mexican-American and there is a smattering of Spanish phrases in the book, particularly when Pesto's mom, Mariposa (Butterfly) is added to the mix. Bug is a tough young woman who has had a rough start in life. Her dad left and her other family died when she was young until she was left with Papa C who despite his faults was someone she loved dearly and who she knows loved her. This is why she is shocked, hurt and just plain mad that he would sell her soul for a car! Despite the nature of the story this is not an "angsty" book. It is filled with action, legal mumbo jumbo, comedic moments and a touch of romance. The dialogue between Bug and Pesto is snappy and flirtatious. Bug is a diamond in the rough. She is at times awkward and rough spoken, but almost always endearing. Recommend to those who like to read about feisty heroines, supportive maybe maybe-not boyfriends, and/or good-vs.-evil battles with a touch wackiness.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Charles and Emma/The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Title: Charles and Emma/The Darwins' Leap of Faith
Author: Deborah Heiligman
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co., LLC
ISBN: 9780805087215
Starred reviews in: Booklist, SLJ

In 1838 London, Charles Darwin sat and considered marriage—using a pros and cons list. With the decision to marry resolved, and his father’s two cents sought, fate and family put Darwin in the path of cousin, Emma Wedgwood. The match, as presented by Heiligman (supported with excerpts from letters, journals and notes etc.) proved more than successful. Charles and Emma’s marriage was a loving one, supportive, full of compromise and full of children (they had 10 with 7 surviving). They suffered their share of grief and felt the weight of a continued underlying tension due to conflicting religious beliefs— mainly God’s role in creation and what follows death. As Darwin’s family grew, so did his controversial theories on evolution and natural selection. Theories he knew would not be happily received by the general public, many of his scientific peers and more personally, his wife whose religious beliefs were strengthened following the death of a much beloved sister. In a world influenced by religion, in a class system religion seemed to preserve and in a marriage where his generally, very open-minded wife feared they wouldn’t meet in heaven – Darwin forged ahead in his experiments, observations and his revolutionary writing.
Which, ultimately, Emma proofread, even if she didn’t agree.


Heiligman’s biography is engrossing, with excellent tone and pacing. The integration of historical facts and quotations do not stall the reader. While it’s not a full and comprehensive look at either spouse’s life it’s certainly engaging enough to pique the interest of readers. (Even, or especially, those not inclined to non-fiction or science…like myself.) It’s an introductory meeting with Darwin and his family, historical non-fiction that doesn’t suffer from dry or overwhelming information and it’s also a genuine romance. There’s more emphasis on the Darwins’ life than Charles’ scientific theories in detail. How those theories relate to his marriage, his family and vice versa. Included are source notes, a selected bibliography and a few images (i.e. a copy of that pros and cons list). I would very much like this title to be honored in some way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Heartsinger by Karlijn Stoffels

Title: Heartsinger
Author: Karlijn Stoffels(translated by Laura Watkinson)
Publisher:Arthur A. Levine Books
Starred Review: PW


Heartsinger was originally released, in Dutch, in 2006. It is the story of Mee, the “Singer of Sorrows”. He has the ability to sing someone’s life story and heal their emotional pain but he is unable to heal his own. The story begins with Mee’s childhood as the child of two deaf parents. When his father dies he tries to soothe his mother’s pain but is unable to do so since she cannot hear his song. He soon loses her to her sadness and thereafter begins wandering the countryside unable to cope with his inability to help his mother. As he wanders Mee meets many different people and his song is able to soothe the remaining friends and families as he sings the life story of the one who has passed on. His sadness is at times overwhelming and though we see him surrounded by people he is in fact very much alone.

Born on the same day as Mee, is Mitou, the child of parents who resent each other and ignore her. From them she learns how hurtful words can be but is lucky enough to find that through her music she can make those around her laugh and dance and experience joy. She comes to be known as Mitou the “Merrymaker”. She soon learns about Mee, the Singer of Sorrows, born on the same day and time that she was. Mitou somehow knows that she and Mee belong together and sets out to meet him. The questions then become whether or not she can find him and even if she does can he see past his own grief to realize that the Singer of Sorrows and the Merrymaker belong together?


Heartsinger is an odd little book. At 134 pages one would think that it would be a quick read. However those 134 pages are full of stories some of which don’t connect until the very end of the book. Though it is essentially the story of Mee and Mitou it is also the story of Esperanza the sad princess and Viereg the prince in love. It is the story of the sailor and his wife and also the story of an army captain and all the other characters that Mee meets. Stoffels tells us the story of each one. It can at times be overwhelming and though some stories connect at the end not all do and serve to make the book not confusing necessarily but just a bit more complicated than one would expect from such a short novel. This could be described as a fairy tale with characters that at times seem to have almost magical abilities thought it is not explicitly stated that this is so. This would probably be most appreciated by those who read fairy tales and are looking for a short if not quick read.