My identification with Katya made this a tough read because she experienced so many traumatic events during and after World War II. I had to take freqMy identification with Katya made this a tough read because she experienced so many traumatic events during and after World War II. I had to take frequent breaks from the book in order to cope with its raw intensity.
The circus Klindenspiel was supposed to be a haven for Katya. She would be able to exhibit the skills as a contortionist that she had learned from her mother. Yet the young performers at Klindenspiel were submerged in a miasma of fear and antagonism toward their superiors and each other. Katya wanted to understand why there was so much negativity. She idealistically wanted to improve the lives of everyone at Klindenspiel, and she received unexpected support from some very unlikely sources.
What I appreciated about this book was the history, the character relationships, the suspense, the surprising plot twists and the imaginative concept. Marta Tandori did everything right in this book.
I'm still mystified about how Katya Holberg eventually became Kate Stanton, but I was completely satisfied by the resolution of this particular chapter in her life.
I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
One reason why I didn't read YA in the past is because of YA stereI received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
One reason why I didn't read YA in the past is because of YA stereotypes. One of these stereotypes is the "mean girl". This trope involves a popular girl who leads a clique of girls who are all so anxious to be popular themselves that they imitate her behavior. In so many YA novels, the authors never imagine that the influential popular girl is a good role model. No, she is usually vain, selfish and cruel. Her influence causes the culture of the entire school to become toxic. One of the things I really liked about the high school aspect of Random is that Jazz, the protagonist, finds that the most trustworthy and loyal friend she has in her own age group is a girl that is the popular leader of a clique who is empathic, insightful and generous. Of course it helped that the popular clique leader is a shape shifter like Jazz.
Unfortunately, Jazz had an older sister whose experience of high school was damaging and ultimately tragic. A major plot strand of Random was Jazz's struggle to discover and deal with the truth about her sister, Celia.
Another important theme of Random is immigration. Jazz's family had come from Russia. Although Jazz was born in the United States, her parents and older siblings had changed their names and abandoned their culture in the hopes that they would be more accepted by Americans. Due to this decision to hide their Russian identity, Jazz feels cut off from the rest of her family. Since the United States is a nation of immigrants, this theme will resonate with a great many readers. I personally feel that sacrificing a family's past impoverishes family life and American society as a whole.
I realize that prejudice is the main reason why minorities hide traits that can be kept secret. The most prominent difference between Jazz's family and the majority of Americans couldn't be hidden. Shape shifters must register. Some of the laws regulating shape shifters established by America's government in Random are reasonable ones that are based on a concern with public safety. Yet they were often enforced in a barbaric and discriminatory fashion. The foundation of bias is fear, and Randoms might make people especially fearful because they are unpredictable by nature.
One of the reasons why I read science fiction and fantasy is because I am a xenophile. A xenophile enjoys encountering strangeness. There is such a thing as too much predictability, too much blandness. The opposite attitude of xenophobia is a more common one. Some xenophobes do read science fiction and fantasy. They prefer shape shifter novels that portray the shifters as monsters who are hunted down and killed. These novels are always from the perspective of the hunters. Novels written from the perspective of "monsters" could make them seem too sympathetic. Alma Alexander's choice to focus on a shape shifter girl whose family faced persecution makes xenophobes seem like monsters.
On the other hand, I am not fond of books that end abruptly leaving a very obvious narrative thread dangling due to the momentous revelation in the final scene. Authors seem to believe that this practice increases sales of the next volume in the series, but many readers find an unresolved ending unsatisfying. I am one of them. It's not that I regret reading Random. I thought it was original and very moving, but it did have shortcomings. The failure to provide what I consider to be a proper ending is one of them.
Ethiopia in the 1930's was no utopia. There was a nightmare at the heart of Ethiopian society from which it had yet to awaken. Teen protagonist Teo w Ethiopia in the 1930's was no utopia. There was a nightmare at the heart of Ethiopian society from which it had yet to awaken. Teen protagonist Teo was caught up in that nightmare. He was trained to be a pilot and became quite accomplished. When he was sixteen his life took a terrible turn. I wept for Teo. His deceased mother wouldn't have even considered bringing Teo to Ethiopia if it had occurred to her that such a thing could happen to him.
I was captured by the originality and intensity of Black Dove, White Raven until Rhoda's husband, an Italian military pilot, did something that I considered unbelievable. It was against military regulations and wasn't consistent with the love and concern with which he had previously treated his daughter, Emilia. (view spoiler)[The author might have included this as an indication that he secretly resented his wife's independence. Even assuming that he was willing to jeopardize his daughter's safety because he was angry at Rhoda, he would never have taken Emilia along on bombing missions. There is actually an incident that shows why it would be against military regulations. Emilia witnesses an Italian war crime which he then needs to cover up. I was just flabbergasted that he would do such a thing. (hide spoiler)] So it was both implausible and reprehensible. The spell that Elizabeth Wein had woven was broken for me at that point.
For most of this book, I thought it was the best novel that I'd read in the first half of 2015, but the out of character behavior of Orsino Menotti, Rhoda's husband, was significant. This is why it doesn't get a five star rating from me.
I enjoyed the circus traditions and vocabulary included in this novel. The magical element occurs in the context of centuries old beliefs. In circus fI enjoyed the circus traditions and vocabulary included in this novel. The magical element occurs in the context of centuries old beliefs. In circus families luck has always been considered an important factor in the success of an act, and losing that luck was often historically ascribed to a curse.
The two rival families that are the central focus of Girl on a Wire are the Maronis whose leading members are wire walkers, and the Garcias who star on the flying trapeze. Wire walkers and trapeze artists are both risk takers who rely heavily on precision, timing and luck. Despite these shared attributes, the Maronis and Garcias have not been allies. Instead there is a legacy of hatred between these two circus dynasties that is rooted in the past.
Jules, the sixteen year old Maroni protagonist, wants to uncover the reasons behind the enmity between the Maroni and Garcia clans; especially after she meets a charismatic male performer of her own generation whose surname is Garcia. Other reviews have called the Romeo and Juliet aspect of this novel predictable. I prefer to call it archetypal. It’s also important to note that the resolution of this story is far from predictable. I found it rather ingenious. Shakespeare would never have envisioned it. I expect to count this book among my top reads of 2014.
Judging from the cover alone, I had no doubt that something paranormal was going on in The Cure For Dreaming. Hypnosis can cause people to do improbabJudging from the cover alone, I had no doubt that something paranormal was going on in The Cure For Dreaming. Hypnosis can cause people to do improbable things, but not impossible ones. Violating the law of gravity by floating in mid-air is not the result of hypnosis. It's magic.
I didn't think that Henri Reverie was fraudulent. He seemed completely sincere and well-intentioned. Unfortunately, it never occurs to him that bringing about brain alterations in other human beings might not be ethical. This does eventually occur to Olivia, but she sees it as a feminist issue. Henri Reverie was a man who was taking control of women which was exactly what Olivia was fighting against. He considered himself a supporter of women's suffrage, but he was interfering with women's independence. This is very starkly shown in a climactic scene. Henri comes to regret his actions, but only because Olivia finds them regrettable.
I wanted to like this book more because of the women's suffrage theme, but I think that it would have been better if Henri Reverie had been more introspective, and thought about the implications of his actions. I also wished that Olivia could have learned to accept her magic powers.
It occurred to me that the central character of Rhinoceros Summer by Jamie Thornton starts off as the mirror image of the central character of anotherIt occurred to me that the central character of Rhinoceros Summer by Jamie Thornton starts off as the mirror image of the central character of another book that I reviewed last year on The Unmasked Persona’s Reviews. Lydia Gibbs, the aspiring teen photographer in Rhinoceros Summer thinks that going to Africa will be a tremendous career-making opportunity. Jazz Hooper, the grief stricken teen with no aspirations in The See Through Leopard by Sibel Hodge, resents being uprooted by her father and hates going to Africa. Neither girl found what they expected there, but their experiences in Africa were life-changing.
My main criticism of The See Through Leopard about overt didacticism doesn’t hold true for Rhinoceros Summer. There are certainly ideas in this novel, but no long speeches. There are thoughts from the characters that give us their perspectives. Since there are multiple perspectives, I don’t feel that the author is preaching at me.
As the novel opens, Lydia the preacher’s daughter, is working at a Christian supply store. I wondered at that point whether this book could be considered Christian fiction. Although Lydia’s parents are portrayed sympathetically, their beliefs are not the only ones that are portrayed in a positive light. So I wouldn’t consider Rhinoceros Summer Christian fiction. At one point Lydia gets what she considers a surprising African viewpoint on Christian missionaries.
The complexity with which Jamie Thornton addresses her themes, builds her characters and re-creates the African milieu is what makes Rhinoceros Summer an excellent novel.
I received a free copy of this book through a giveaway on Booklikes.
Since Twelfth Nightis my favorite Shakespeare play, when I learned that Celia Rees had written a kind of sequel, I had to read it. I also loved the faSince Twelfth Nightis my favorite Shakespeare play, when I learned that Celia Rees had written a kind of sequel, I had to read it. I also loved the fact that Shakespeare was a character who was participating in the plot and being inspired to write Twelfth Night as a result. This is very recursive, but that only makes it more appealing to me. There are also 16th century social issues and an unusual outlaw of the greenwood. I think this is one of my favorite Celia Rees novels....more
This book deserves even more acclaim than it has received. It's my favorite YA novel of 2013. On the narrative level it's about a girl with a paranormThis book deserves even more acclaim than it has received. It's my favorite YA novel of 2013. On the narrative level it's about a girl with a paranormal gift who can really send a message with her talent. No one in Mississippi can mess with this Haitian! Haitian immigrants to the U.S. are usually portrayed in fiction as victims, not heroes. That's very cool!
But there's also the background about the woman warriors of Dahomey which in my opinion is even cooler!
I was delighted to receive a copy of The See Through Leopard for review through a giveaway on All About Animals. It’s a YA novel about a griefstrickenI was delighted to receive a copy of The See Through Leopard for review through a giveaway on All About Animals. It’s a YA novel about a griefstricken British teenager whose life is transformed by a leopard. Last year I'd read Endangered by Eliot Schrefer which received the National Book Award. Endangered focuses on an African teen whose mother runs a refuge for primates. I consider it the best novel I read in 2012. I hoped to be as impressed by Sibel Hodge's book.
I thought that the cover was wonderful, but it did lead me to expect a sentimental novel without realism. This is not the case. Sibel Hodge has evidently done a great deal of research on leopards and the situation of wildlife in Kenya. A portion of the profits from this book's sale will be going to Panthera, an organization for the preservation of big cats.
The book opened in England where the protagonist, Jazz, was shattered by the death of her mother and the circumstances surrounding it. It was obvious that Jazz was in crisis. Jazz's father, a veterinarian, decided to move them to a game reserve in Kenya where he and his wife had worked before Jazz was born. It's there that Jazz encountered the leopard who changed her life.
The See Through Leopard isn't all lectures about animals. There are action plot elements and the characters are well-portrayed. I particularly liked Zach, the young aspiring filmmaker whose father runs the reserve. Zach becomes Jazz's friend, and he is terrifically supportive.
Although I liked this novel very much for its compelling themes and characterization, it's not flawless. There are times when the lectures get out of hand. Readers who are more tolerant of overt didacticism in fiction may not consider this a problem. The most notable example is Jazz's speech toward the end of the novel. I would have preferred breaking up the speech's text with Jazz's thoughts while giving the speech, or a bit of audience response. Including context makes fiction more evocative.
I do recommend this book. I actually loved most of it, but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't include the flaws of a book along with its strengths in my review.
I first learned about Fort Mose from a historical novel called Pirates of Savannah by Tarrin Lupo. I was intrigued by Lupo's brief reference to Fort MI first learned about Fort Mose from a historical novel called Pirates of Savannah by Tarrin Lupo. I was intrigued by Lupo's brief reference to Fort Mose and wanted to know more. It was a settlement of escaped slaves in 18th century Spanish Florida that was the first community of free African Americans in the United States. This was not something I'd ever seen in history books. I am happy to be posting about this on Fourth of July because I think it's patriotic to heighten awareness of aspects of American history that should be better known.
When I saw that there was a novel available on Net Galley about Fort Mose I thought that this is my opportunity to become more educated on this topic. So I downloaded The Other Side of Free by Krista Russell for review.
I could see from the description that Krista Russell had written a coming of age novel about thirteen year old protagonist, Jem, who was sent to Florida so that he could be free. Fort Mose was an unfamiliar environment for him. This meant if he didn't understand his new environment , I could learn right along with him. That's an advantage of having a young protagonist. Yet I don't think this is really children's fiction despite the marketing label on Net Galley. The level of complexity and sophistication in the historical background, and in the lives of the characters could be appropriate for a YA audience however.
It became increasingly clear over the course of the novel that Spanish authorities weren't allowing the community at Fort Mose to exist in their territory out of kindness toward African Americans or because they were opposed to slavery. The people at Fort Mose were compelled to swear an oath that they would fight the English if they were to invade Florida. This coincided with the interests of these former slaves because they knew that they would be returned to slavery by English troops. The Spanish had invited slaves in the English colonies to Florida hoping to incite a mass exodus that would de-stabilize English society in North America. It would be interesting to speculate about how different life in North America would be if they had succeeded with this strategy. Certainly, the United States of America as we know it would not exist today. So this novel deals with a pivotal moment in American history.
This is a YA book for mature readers who don't flinch from reading about horrific violence against animals and human beings. It's about a very courageThis is a YA book for mature readers who don't flinch from reading about horrific violence against animals and human beings. It's about a very courageous fourteen year old girl whose mother runs a sanctuary for bonobo apes in a country in chaos where bonobos are sold on the black market and routinely slaughtered. It's an extremely powerful book and an important one.
I also very much liked the interview with author Eliot Schrefer at the back of the book. I found it very insightful. I was very interested in what he has to say about why bonobos are so radically different from chimps, and the implications this has for humans. Schrefer was asked whether it's ethical to concern ourselves with the mistreatment of animals when humans are in crisis. He responded that the same people who are cruel toward animals will also be cruel to humans that they believe are lower status, and that it's essentially the same problem. Feminists have had the same insight about violence against women and children. People who are obsessed with their lack of power are deranged by it.
This is the last book I read in 2012 for the Around the World challenge, and I thought Schrefer was equally insightful about the problems of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where this book takes place. I do consider it my top read of 2012.
I've been in a state of high anticipation ever since I first saw this book discussed on the author's blog. I am keenly interested in the first wave ofI've been in a state of high anticipation ever since I first saw this book discussed on the author's blog. I am keenly interested in the first wave of women's rights activists in the United States.
This is an eventful women's rights adventure. The tale of the cross-country ride was compelling from start to finish. I also loved the gutsy point of view character, Angeline. The quieter sister, Adelaide, also has her moments. (view spoiler)[I loved the irony of the sister who was less inclined to take risks falling for an outlaw. He turned out to be a Zorro type who was much concerned with justice. I would have loved to see more of his relationship with Adelaide. (hide spoiler)]
I also enjoyed seeing the real historical personages that appeared in this novel. My favorite was Lillian Heath, the first female doctor West of the Mississippi. She reminded me of the fictional television character, Dr. Quinn. That series was a favorite of mine.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm a big fan of Amazonian warrior princesses. So I really did like the central character. Unfortunately, the ending doesn't work. It isn't credible fI'm a big fan of Amazonian warrior princesses. So I really did like the central character. Unfortunately, the ending doesn't work. It isn't credible from either a historical or cultural perspective. The biggest problem is that this is a fictional character. You can't have an invented person doing something high profile. It would be part of the historical record if it had happened. So my disbelief suspenders got all stretched out at that point. ...more
I couldn't help comparing this one to The True Story of Hansel and Greteleven though it's an adult novel because there were a number of narrative paraI couldn't help comparing this one to The True Story of Hansel and Greteleven though it's an adult novel because there were a number of narrative parallels. Gleitzman's Holocaust novels are sophisticated fare for children, but when I compare it to a similar adult novel it doesn't stand up as well. Then is well done for what it is, and I did like it....more
Ms. Morgenstern's imagination is imagistic which is most suitable for poetry. She also has an understanding of archetypes which are in the mythic realMs. Morgenstern's imagination is imagistic which is most suitable for poetry. She also has an understanding of archetypes which are in the mythic realm. The novel is a more recent form than myth and poetry, but the examples of the novel that I prefer have more substance in the areas of plot and character than Ms. Morgenstern can currently offer. She can tell a story after a fashion, but I prefer more drama and better pacing. Her characters based on archetypes are not well developed. They lack immediacy and impact. The constant switching of character viewpoint is also to blame for my perception of her characterization. I almost abandoned the book unfinished because the narrative didn't remain focused on any character long enough for me to care about any of them. I did enjoy the Tarot content, and thought that the twins Poppet and Widget had some marvelous psychic gifts. Most effective were the images which were so astonishing at times that they forced me to sit up and take notice. They were shiny like soap bubbles that burst when you try to take hold of them, or as insubstantial as cotton candy eaten at a circus. ...more
This book causes me to remember what I love about Somtow's work. He hasn't just written a book about a human boy who falls in love with a girl whose fThis book causes me to remember what I love about Somtow's work. He hasn't just written a book about a human boy who falls in love with a girl whose father is a vampire. It's about a number of themes. There's rites of passage and what they have in common. In this case it's the bar mitzvah, the vision quest and becoming a vampire. There's the theme of liminality which is what anthropologists call being a cultural outsider. I love liminal characters. There's culture clash. There's also some consideration of what is transitory and what is permanent. I thought this book was really wonderful and one of the best books I've read about vampires....more
When I first encountered the description of this novel, I thought it might have some similarities to The Secrets of Jin-sheiby Alma Alexander which taWhen I first encountered the description of this novel, I thought it might have some similarities to The Secrets of Jin-sheiby Alma Alexander which takes place in an alternate version of China, and is one of my favorite books. Huntress doesn't really have much Chinese cultural content. The fae in this book are called the Xi, but they are more like the Celtic Sidhe than the figures called fairies in Chinese mythology. There is one major difference between the Xi and the Sidhe that I found both interesting and refreshing. Also on the plus side is Kaede's character growth over the course of the novel and her problematic lesbian romance with Taisin. Taisin's difficulties with the relationship reminded me of the restrictions on Keepers in the Darkover novels by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
I did have a problem with the use of blood magic in this book. It seems to me that blood magic for healing should only work on vampires or humans wanting to be turned into vampires. There are no vampires in Malinda Lo's universe. I don't think that blood magic is inherently evil. It has its uses--particularly for creating a pact between two or more individuals. I just don't see how it could have been successful for healing in the situations where it was used. ...more