There's a lot going on in "The Resurrectionist", guys. It's not all pretty sketches of various people and mythical creatures (though those3.5/5 stars!
There's a lot going on in "The Resurrectionist", guys. It's not all pretty sketches of various people and mythical creatures (though those do make up a pretty big chunk of the book), but it's also all about one famous doctor's descent into utter madness. Or is it? Though this obviously draws a lot on historical bits of Americana (the vaudeville/carnie scene of the late 19th century/early 20th century) and Gothic atmospheric books like "Frakenstein", his tale is short, and it kind of left me wanting more. If anything, it felt like a bit of a short summary of his life, and only really got detailed when he became obsessed with mythical creatures. Nevertheless, if you want to see some amazing pictures of what could have been our genetic ancestors (according to Dr Black) and be treated to a tale of evolving scientific academia, definitely give "The Resurrectionist" a try.
This is going to be a short review, because, well, this is a pretty short book when you take out the massive amount of sketches/bestiary appendix in the latter half of the book. My biggest complaint about this one was although we do get some gorgeous pictures and the story of a man going mad (or is he?), it felt like one big summary of his life. I felt that there wasn't enough detail involved (especially when he starts in with the mystical creatures - only then do we get thrown a bone of sorts), and in parts, generally just felt dry in so many places within the prose. While it draws on famous stories like "Frankenstein" to give us that "mad scientist" feel to things, there were so many things missing. And that was disappointing.
But what we did get was great. Not many outside of the US (and hell, even in the US, for that matter) know about the Americana history that is vaudeville/carnival culture that hit its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before it started its decline. We do get a fair amount of detail on that as it is a crucial part to the story, and as there's not much out there in fiction (regardless of adult or YA in genre) that talks about that, I was really happy it was included. Traveling freak shows, genetic deformities, and so forth were apart of this vaudeville/carnival culture, and those details were included, giving us a mini history of how that whole scene came to be, and how important it became to American culture at the time, as well as American medical academia.
Other than that? This is going to be a really nice coffee table book. The sketches are breathtaking, but otherwise, I wish Dr. Black's story had been a little longer and more detailed. "The Resurrectionist" is out now from Quirk Books in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
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So, "The Circle". An interesting mix of "The Craft" and "The Secret Circle", that's not afraid to make fun of itself. I can see why John A3.5/5 stars.
So, "The Circle". An interesting mix of "The Craft" and "The Secret Circle", that's not afraid to make fun of itself. I can see why John Ajvide Lindqvist blurbed this book - it's got a certain mystery to it that also inhabits his books, but at the same time, I think there was a bit lost in translation. At least, at the ARC stage of things (which is what I got from the US publisher). But this book really isn't just about teenage witches - it's as Lindqvist says in his blurb - people learning how to deal with other people, and that is perhaps the best part of this book. While I feel like a lot could have been cut from this book with affecting nothing, it is what it is. "The Circle" is a taste of life in a small Swedish town, with teenagers against teenagers, learning how to deal with each other and their new-found abilities all at the same time.
My biggest problem with this book: the translation. As a translator myself, I can say regardless of what language I'm trying to work with, all translators deal with the same issue - trying not to make text read as "translatese", and instead as fluid, coherent English. Unfortunately, this version of "The Circle" (I haven't checked the final UK version so I don't have anything really solid to compare it to) was full of translatese, and I know that this is because there were probably a lot of Swedish pieces of text that just couldn't be worked into English any easier than what we got. That, or the editor just let it slip - and both of these two scenarios are totally possible. The result? It made good chunks of this book a little hard to read and to proceed smoothly along to the next part. That, and the fact that there were long parts of this book that could have been cut in the Swedish edition with the content not suffering one bit for those missing bits. There's just too many scenes where not a lot (or anything at all) happened, and those could have been cut.
Otherwise, I really enjoyed "The Circle", if just for the fact it puts together six girls who really do NOT get along, and makes them have to work together in the common goal of preventing a huge evil from making its way into our world. Not an easy task - especially when they're all along the social spectrum. There are some that have bullied the others in the past, and there's a very "The Craft" sense about some of the characters' actions in order to get back at those who hurt them with their new power. That being said, there's a LOT of characters to keep track of - our six protags, along with the Principal, the caretaker, parents, other friends, and so forth spinning a huge world within this tiny backwater Swedish town, which I found very impressive. With each girl comes her own demons and her own struggles, and I thought that the authors did a really good job of interweaving their stories, and showing us where they all intersected, and how they learn to deal with the fact that they're all Chosen Ones, and they all need to work together, otherwise demons will come to this world and wreak havoc. But hey, no pressure, right?
I think one of my favorite parts was the world, and how the setting of the town of Engelfors became an antagonist. Even though it's just one little sleepy town, the characters help really build it (the authors rely on the relationship-web school of worldbuilding, connecting everyone to create the world further than what's just fixed as the basic setting) into this place where the past (witch burnings, really needed to give us more information on that but because this is a trilogy, I'm going to let it slide) haunts now, and helps create this thin membrane between humanity and demons, witches and regular teenagers that works both against the demons, and against the witches, along with the regular teenagers just trying to get along in this town until they come of age, get out of school, and become eligible to get the hell out of there to somewhere larger.
I think everyone can relate to that. Another thing I like about this book is the relatability - I think everyone can relate to so many moments in this book, because it's the stuff of being a teenager, trying to figure out how to interact with others in this world along with discovering who you yourself really are all at the same time. That's why I think it's so beloved in its home country - because it's something you can relate to, regardless of your age as a reader/the audience. You can say you've been there, even if your own situation hasn't exactly been the same.
Final verdict? I think I'll be sticking around for book two, but I'm really hoping Overlook gets the translatese problem solved for it. It's a long, long book, but the ending (while semi-anticlimactic) is very well worth the wait. "The Circle" is now out in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance.
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This was an absolutely gorgeous treat of a book, guys. Though a little on the long side, "Mortal Fire" is a beautiful magical reality tale set in 1959This was an absolutely gorgeous treat of a book, guys. Though a little on the long side, "Mortal Fire" is a beautiful magical reality tale set in 1959, Southland New Zealand. And get this - it has paranormal romance AND characters of color! That feels so rare now in YA, which is really a shame. If you're looking for a good vacation read to really sink your teeth into, definitely give "Mortal Fire" a try.
My two biggest issues with this book: stuff that could have been edited/cut short with no detriment to the novel as a whole, and the fact that it's part of the "Dreamquake" universe, which is not talked about on the jacket description. Because of that, I felt a little lost in areas (especially talking about the Dream Hunters), but you can definitely bet that I want to read those other two "Dreamquake" books because of "Mortal Fire". This book isn't directly tied into the "Dreamhunter" Duet, but it's still within the same universe, so there were a lot of references that I didn't get because until you got to them (and then googled them), it wasn't mentioned in the blurb or description at all. Which was pretty frustrating. As for the part about length - the explanations of the mine accident and how it tied into the Zarene family could have been cut short - it got a little too rambling for my liking - with no real change to the book as a whole. Since I read an ARC I'm hoping by the time it went to pub it got that edit that it needed. The mine accident is just one area that could have been cut down, but it's the most obvious of the lot.
Those gripes aside, Knox definitely knows how to build a world, characters, and has a real way with sensory imagery and language. Let's start with the world - Knox really was able to bring back the world of 1959 (and previous years) Southland, NZ with ease and grace that's incredibly hard to pull off, but she absolutely nailed it. While I will admit that I don't really know much of New Zealand, its geography or history, Knox was able to make it very accessible to the ignorant reader, and that was something I was really greatful for. She gave a quick rundown of what happened in WWII, the Shackle Islands, and how Canny (and her mother, both of API descent) came to be in Southland in the first third of the book. That was really well done, especially when we learn Canny's mother's role in the history of the Zarenes and outsiders during WWII. The rest of the world is built by the histories and backstories of the main cast, as well as absolutely gorgeous sensory imagery and language - which is definitely Knox's greatest strength. It was so nice to be totally immersed sensorily in a book like I was with this one.
The characters: While I feel like some of the more important of the Zarenes could have been fleshed out a little more (Iris), overall Knox does a great job with building her characters. Canny is one you want to root for, that clever girl, and the relationship web of worldbuilding is used here, so the world builds the characters, and vice-versa. While I feel like things happened a little too fast with Ghilsain in terms of romance, it wasn't instalove, but it still felt a little too quick for my comfort level. Regardless, nearly everyone is wonderfully deep and detailed, and to do that for one character is hard, much less an entire main cast.
There's also the magic - it's one of the most original systems I've seen in YA in recent years. It's complex, it's lovely, and it's very detailed. It's not easy to learn, or easy to continue learning - the Zarenes are strict in their instruction and their entire magic "language" is very, very hard to learn (even for the predisposed-to-magic Zarene children). All of this stems from a retelling of the Lazarus story from the bible, which I thought was a very odd but interesting touch, and really absorbed me more on the whole. I wanted it to be a larger part of the story than it was, but what I got was still really awesome.
Final verdict? If you're looking for a very original PNR YA tale, definitely pick up "Mortal Fire" and give it a try. It's out now from Macmillan in North America, so check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)
This was actually a really educational read for me - the author's notes at the end of the book were wonderful, and it was so gratifying to4.5/5 stars!
This was actually a really educational read for me - the author's notes at the end of the book were wonderful, and it was so gratifying to see that Ross did her research on the topic of which I had no idea existed. "Belle Epoque" is a gorgeous tale of finding beauty in ugliness, ugliness in beauty, and most of all, finding yourself in a sea of what people want you to be. This was one of my most anticipated spring/summer 2013 titles, and it definitely did not disappoint. If you're looking for a well-researched and generally awesome YA historical book this summer, go for "Belle Epoque".
Fitting in "tough stuff" issues into a historical novel isn't easy, but Ross did it with surprising grace and made it the basis of her novel. Generally, girls have been feeling "unpretty" in Western culture for years, but I posit that it only got really bad within the last 200 years or so - and only really really intensifying within the last 30 years. That's where the whole subject of this book, the repoissoirs, comes in - or the "beauty foils". The idea of capitalizing on girls' self-loathing and turning into gold is still pretty repugnant, but at least in this book (and in Zola's original tale on the same phenomenon), it's honest and said right out there from the jump. In our culture today, we've totally hidden (or tried to hide) Durandeau's greed on making money with "ugly" girls, so it was really quite a breath of fresh air to read something so honest. If anything, it makes me wish that there were more Durandeaus in the world (terrible as that sounds) - it actually might give girls MORE self-esteem about their body image or dysphorias through jobs like these. Which is what eventually happens in this book through various events (which I won't spoil).
I won't lie when I say that I do feel like Maude does most of the time throughout the book - unpretty, unremarkable, and forgettable. But at least she's getting paid for those traits. Maude was one of the most relatable and sympathetic main characters I've stumbled across in YA (not just historical YA) in the last few years, and I really got attached to her. I was sad when I got to the last page - but at the same time, happy, because she finally found her groove (so to speak), and it kind of gave me hope that I'll (hopefully soon) be able to do the same thing.
Where to start? All of the technical areas in this book (worldbuilding, character building, sensory imagery and language, plot/arc) are more or less flawless so I won't linger too much on those as I really don't have too many complaints. The pacing is great, too - not too slow nor fast, and gives us just enough time to linger in the places where we should be lingering. While I wish that Paul had a little bit more character development (considering the larger role he plays in the resolution of the story), what I got was adequate, and enough to go on in terms of the semi-open ending.
The other thing that bothered me a bit - Isabelle, her mother, and Maude's big confrontation at the climax of the story (I think you guys can figure it out from the blurb on the book as I don't want to spoil you) felt a little rushed, and even though the pace was snowballing into a big finish, I do think that it could have been slowed down just a bit and not lose any of the impact it had on the reader emotionally. I can't really pinpoint why it felt so fast, only that it did.
My favorite thing in this book aside from Maude and rest of the main cast has to be the sensory imagery. My god, it was as if I was really there - and I've never been to Paris! At least, not yet. Ross did an absolutely fantastic job capturing fin-de-siecle French culture, and everything thing felt, tasted, smelled like Paris. If anything, it's made me want to go there even more.
Otherwise? This is a wonderful, wonderful book, and I can't wait to get my copy of it. Definitely a favorite of 2013 so far, "Belle Epoque" hits shelves today in North America from Random House, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance.
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We really need more dark, gritty contemps like this in YA, guys. I'm just going to lay that out there now. "White Lines" is incredibly har3.5/5 stars.
We really need more dark, gritty contemps like this in YA, guys. I'm just going to lay that out there now. "White Lines" is incredibly hard to read at times because it's filled with a lot of darkness, a lot of frustration, and a lot of pain, but it's also an important book to read as well. Banash brilliantly brings back late 1980s New York with ridiculous ease and a vibrancy I haven't felt in YA contemporary in quite a long while. This is not the feel good book of the year, but if you want one of the more meaningful ones, definitely check out "White Lines".
The biggest issues I had with this book: the pacing, and the ending. The pacing was more than a bit uneven - almost bipolar in some areas - it seemed to drag the most during Cat's days outside of the clubs, and was the most eventful when she was doing her job at night inside of the club. I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision on Banash's part - to show how empty Cat's life was, and how it positively dragged when she wasn't dancing, doing drugs, and feeling free at Tunnel. Looking back on it, it might just have been. I just wish there'd been a little bit more action during the day, a little more tension and a little less exhaustion to plod through.
The ending: It felt far too neatly wrapped up for my taste, especially considering how messy everything was for Cat in her life throughout the book. It was almost a fairytale ending, if you think about it (though I won't spoil it here), and while for Cat it's a badly needed thing to help heal her and get her on the road to recovery, it happened way too fast to be realistic. I do love the climax of the book - where everything is literally going to hell around her - but the resolution was just too easy.
I will say, though - Banash definitely knows how to kill her darlings, and kill them well. Cat goes through SO much in this book, and afterward, you just kind of want to hug her forever. She may not be the most likeable MC, but she's definitely one of the more relatable ones to come along in YA contemp in awhile. Banash holds nothing back with creating Cat as her MC, and that too was refreshing. The suffering, the alienation, all of it felt very, very real, and I loved every bit of that. The world that Banash helped create through Cat's eyes and experiences felt very true to the real late 80s New York - where it was all drugs and clubs, yuppies and parties - and some of her little added dashes of hints of things to come (Sebastian and his blue spots was a VERY nice touch when you think about what those blue spots mean - AIDS) within the next few years, and how it all starts to turn around. Banash took many risks with this book, this MC, and this world, and for that, I definitely tip my hat to her.
But what really takes the cake is her absurdly awesome use of sensory language and imagery. A lot of it felt like the same imagery evoked in Francesca Lia Block's "Weetzie Bat" series, which took place and was published in the 1980s, and it felt really real. If anything, I'd say that while Block's prose still retains a dreamy element to it in the "Weetzie" series, Banash's look back into one of the darker parts of the late 20th century is absolutely visceral in quality, to the point where there were some scenes where I had to put the book down, catch my breath, and continue later. You know an author's done their job when you feel their story in your guts and you have to actually step away from it for awhile to process what's going on.
Final verdict? While not perfect, "White Lines" still delivers as a heartstopping debut for Banash, and makes me want to read more of her work. I'm definitely looking forward to whatever she puts out next. "White Lines" is out from Penguin on April 4, 2013 in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
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Hi, my name is Usagi, and I’m autistic. More specifically, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the “lighter” forms of the disorder on the autism spect Hi, my name is Usagi, and I’m autistic. More specifically, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the “lighter” forms of the disorder on the autism spectrum. I’ve been mainstreamed (meaning never put in special education, but instead with a classroom with neurotypical (“normal”) kids my entire life. And never have I been so happy to have been raised as such. I was dubbed highly gifted in fourth grade, I did honors and AP classes (for everything but math), I went to UCSB, majored in Japanese, went to Japan and lived there while going to ICU in Tokyo, and graduated with a decent GPA in 2007.
In short, I am an autism success story – and success stories are not often talked about, which is incredibly frustrating. We are always spoken of in softer terms, couched in “tough stuff” and it’s as if we’re surrounded by eggshells upon which everyone has to walk on.
We’re tougher than that. And people like Temple Grandin, Bill Gates, and others only prove that.
That being said, I’ve found it incredibly hard to find books that deal with autism (or people with it) that actually take us seriously. Much like I have massive problems with Autism Speaks with wanting to shove everyone in Special Ed instead of mainstreaming when it’s an option (seriously, guys, it’s like trying to shove the GLBT community back in the closet), I also have problems with a lot of YA/MG books that have tried and failed to tackle the concept and issue of autism while giving respect to the individuals who have it.
I’m happy to announce that this fabulous little book does both – tackles the subject, gives the subject respect, AND is wonderfully easy to understand for the age of any person reading it. Sy Montgomery has really done Grandin a solid here, and has captured her life very eloquently. If you’re trying to find a book to introduce the issue of autism to any age group (but especially the youngest ones), I highly recommend this biography that speaks of the blossoming neurodiversity movement through Grandin’s experiences.
Grandin herself gives us a very simple introduction, getting our feet wet (as the audience) – telling us very briefly about her life and how autism affects her, as well as the goals of the biography in general. This is a very straightforward yet gentle way to ease people into the subject matter to come, and it automatically got my attention.
As for Montgomery, she has done an absolutely fantastic job with the whole book. From its style of storytelling (as if this were fiction and not fact) to the tidbits on how to help kids with autism, explaining more about the condition and an extensive bibliography at the end giving us a lot more resources for those who want to read up more on Grandin. What absolutely chilled me (and in a good way) was the way she explained how those with autism (present company included) experience the physical senses, and how sometimes those “senses (are) on fire”. I’ve never seen anyone be able to describe how sensory overload so simply and so well before, and for that I’m profoundly grateful. I too have sensory overload problems, and I’ve tried in the past to explain how it works, but failed. Now I have a great reference for people who want to know how it works.
This book balances autism education and Grandin’s life story very well – both in easy-to-digest forms. To be blunt, we need more books like this about those with autism both in all genres. By the end of the book, Montgomery builds a steady excitement that will make you want to cheer for Grandin and her accomplishments, as well as give those who know those with autism a new way at looking at them and interacting with them. The comparison with how animals think and how some of those with autism on the spectrum think was spot on, and I think it’ll definitely help neurotypical kids understand more about aneurotypical kids a bit better. It also talks a lot about animal rights, how Grandin’s work ties into them, and how important they are – never a bad thing to introduce to a young audience. While it does make some sweeping generalizations about Big Agriculture and livestock farming in general that I wasn’t really into, it’s at least something to get the conversation going.
But quite possibly my favorite part? Grandin’s final tips to kids with autism on how to manage it on their own in order to thrive. They’re great pointers, and it brought a smile on my face because I only got a fraction of that advice after getting diagnosed. Now it’s there for future generations to enjoy, and nothing makes me happier than that.
So if you’re looking for a respectful, eloquent way to introduce autism to anyone of any age, pick up “Temple Grandin”. It’s made my best of 2012 so far list, and its place there is well deserved. “Temple Grandin” is out now from Harcourt, so be sure to check it out – it’s seriously one of the best books on autism and on Grandin that I’ve read yet.
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Other YA historicals, take note. THIS is how you do a YA historical fiction novel that has no paranormal elements to it. My previous sugge4.5/5 stars!
Other YA historicals, take note. THIS is how you do a YA historical fiction novel that has no paranormal elements to it. My previous suggestion in this genre would be the Gemma Doyle trilogy from Libba Bray, but that has paranormal elements, and isn’t as contemporary-heavy as Sepetys’ work. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve been so sucked into such an awesome historical fiction book in awhile, YA or not. This is my first Sepetys book and mark my words, guys, it won’t be my last. “Out of the Easy” offers everything – a murder mystery, “tough stuff” issues, romance. This was definitely one of my most satisfying reads of 2013 so far, and so I definitely have to put “Out of the Easy” on the best of 2013 so far list for sure.
Say it with me now: Josie is a badass.
Sepetys has built an amazing protagonist in this book in the form of Josie, a spitfire of a girl who has big dreams, and not a whole lot of resources in order to fulfill them. That doesn’t stop her from trying – which is something I love in my heroines. Josie gets close to giving up, but hangs in there the whole time, even when things are collapsing around her. The semi sub-plot of the murder mystery interrupts those dreams, and may even stop them for good, and still, Josie stands her ground without putting her head to her forehead, begging for help from some handsome love interest. She’s intensely self-reliant, almost to the point of destroying other relationships around her. While there are some potential love interests in this book for Josie, including a proto-”bad boy” type, she doesn’t really let romance distract her from two of her goals: solving this murder, and getting the hell out of NOLA. Thus, I have to say – Josie herself is my favorite part of this book. She’s one of the realest characters I’ve ever read, regardless of the fact that this book takes place in 1950.
The worldbuilding in this book is pretty awesome, too. If you’ve been reading the blog or my other reviews, you know how I feel about contemporaries and worldbuilding: IE, they need it, regardless of time period if there’s no supernatural elements involved. Sepetys creates a very believable 1950′s Jim Crow South in New Orleans, and her sensory imagery and language is nothing short of spectacular. I also have to commend her on not entirely relying on tourist stereotypes of NOLA to build her world – while there are mentions of Mardi Gras and other events as well as the French Quarter, Sepetys really works to avoid leaning on those to prop up her world. While the French Quarter itself is the main setting of the book, we go to lesser known sections of it to see Josie’s world, and how she interacts with everyone within it. I could practically feel everything when it came to the sensory imagery and language, and that just made everything all the more intense and awesome. I can honestly say that everything really had that early ’50s feel to things and that just made me happy as a reader.
There’s also a very interesting idea that Cokie (Josie’s friend and driver for the whorehouse) introduces when talking to Josie about her wish to get out of NOLA and into a good school whilst grappling with trying to get away from the specter of her mother and her mother’s profession: the notion of being “soul broke” – something extremely profound that I feel still echoes and is very relevant in Western culture today. Here’s what Cokie says about the notion of being “soul broke”:
“Let me tell you something ’bout those rich uptown folk”, said Cokie. “They got everything that money can buy, their bank accounts are fat, but they ain’t happy. They ain’t ever gone be happy. You know why? They soul broke. And money can’t fix that, no sir. My friend Bix was poor. Lord, he had to blow that trumpet ten hours a day just to put a little taste in the pot. Died poor, too. You saw him, Jo, with that plate on his chest. But that man wasn’t soul broke.” (pg 83-84, 2013 ARC)
This is followed up by Josie’s realization that her mother, though not rich at all, is also soul broke. It’s a problem, and it still continues to be a problem in Western culture. The idea of having everything and still wanting more, not having something deep inside to be content with. This entire chapter was enough to make me put down the book for several hours if just to digest this notion of soul broke-ness that we still suffer from in America today. It’s enough of an impetus to help further create Josie’s personal character journey/development arc.
The rest of this book. technically, was more or less flawless, so I won’t go into them. However, I will give Sepetys a high-five for including an LGBT angle (and kind-of love triangle? It wasn’t really fully fleshed out, thankfully) to a time where Stonewall hadn’t even happened yet, and homosexuality was still considered a treatable illness. Very interesting, and it’s a very short reference late in the book. Still, I’m glad she included it, and it just made the book all the better, all the more diverse, and thus, all the more believable for that time period.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for a realistic yet dreamily done YA historical? This one is the book for you. Even if you’re not looking for a good YA historical, read it anyway. “Out of the Easy” drops from Philomel/Penguin February 12, 2013, so be sure to check it out then! It really is that good.
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