The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste is such a wonderful, creepy, fantasy adventure story! Everywhere I have seenOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste is such a wonderful, creepy, fantasy adventure story! Everywhere I have seen The Jumbies reviewed, I've read nothing but praise, but it took me a while to get to it because MG isn't normally something I enjoy. I'm slowly learning that there are some gems on the MG shelves, and The Jumbies is one of them.
This story is so full of heart. I loved the characters; strong and courageous Corinne who will do what she will have to to save her island; the little rascal Bouki, who has a heart of gold, and his clever, brave, silent younger brother Malik; and Dru, scared and unsure, but so sweet. These characters felt so real to me, so alive, and their friendship warmed my heart. But what captivated me the most was Baptiste's incredible storytelling.
Not only is The Jumbie an exciting though creepy fantasy, it's also an education in cultural stories. The Jumbies is a retelling of the Haitian folktale The Magic Orange Tree crossed with the Carribean fairy tales of the jumbies. The jumbies - the douens, spirit children with backwards feet, the La Diabless, beautiful women with one cow's hoof for a foot, the lagahoo, werewolf like creatures in chains, the soucouyant, old ladies who can remove their skin to become fireballs - are creatures from stories told to children in the Caribbean, stories Baptiste was told herself as a child in Trinidad. As Baptiste weaves her words, she breathes life into the creepy, trickster jumbies.
It's wonderful to follow Corinne as she discovers the truth about her mother and her death, and the magic she holds. This #OwnVoices novel - in which the whole island is inhabited by people of colour - is a story with love, kindness and friendship at it's heart.The Jumbies is fun, creepy, and completely wonderful! I'm so looking forward to the sequel, The Rise of the Jumbies!...more
I've wanted to read Lips Touch by Laini Taylor for such a long time, but I didn't actually realise it was avOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I've wanted to read Lips Touch by Laini Taylor for such a long time, but I didn't actually realise it was available in the UK as a collection; I thought each of the stories were only available individually as eBooks. So you can imagine my delight when looking for the eBooks, I discovered that we could get hold of the collection! And I'm so glad, because these stories are just incredible.
Each of these stories is either inspired by or a reimagining of something else, as Taylor tells us in her Author's Note. Goblin Fruit is inspired by Christina Rossetti's poem Goblin Market; Spicy Little Curses Such as These is set during the British Raj, and is a reimagining of Hindu beliefs regarding Heaven and Hell, and the story also mentions similarities between it and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice; and Hatchling takes inspiration from the Zoroastrian faith. It made these stories feel a little more special, knowing they didn't entirely come from Taylor's mind, that there was a tiny seed that sparked the ideas. The collection is called Lips Touch as kissing is the thread that ties these three stories together, how a kiss, in each of these stories, changes everything.
Each story is also accompanied by illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo, Taylor's husband. The illustrations are absolutely breathtaking. So incredibly beautiful! I wish they were in colour, but the lack of colour doesn't take away from just how gorgeous they are. Each story has a moment where history is revealed; in Goblin Fruit, Kizzy remembers her granfmother telling her about how she had to save her sister after eating goblin fruit; in Spicy Little Curses Such as These, we're hear how Estella became the ambassador to Hell; and in Hatchling, we hear about Mab's childhood at Tajbel. In each case, bar Hatchling, the history is very short - less than a page, maybe more than a paragraph. But it's these moments that are illustrated, the small histories of the characters that, in the first two stories, we don't get as much detail about, but the detail is given in the illustrations that prelude them. As I recognised in the story what the illustrations were showing, I would flip back and forth, from reading to looking at the illustrations, now I understood the story the illustrations were telling. They were such a wonderful addition to the collection!
I'm going to talk a little bit about each story individually.
Goblin Fruit This story follows Kizzy, a teenager from a strange family with strange beliefs and a different way of living. They, especially her grandmother, believe goblins exist, that they once tried to take her sister's soul, but her grandmother had to save her. Kizzy isn't sure she believes in any of this, it's just the eccentricities of her family. But the goblin's are real, and they have their sights set on Kizzy.
This is a pretty short story, heavily influenced by Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. This story, like others, makes Goblin Mark a myth or a history, something that's known and from which they base their own stories. In a way, it kind of reminds me of how Isaac Assimov wrote The Three Laws of Robotics in his stories, and other authors since have taken on those laws into their own stories with their own robots. Something fictional has become a foundation on which other stories build upon.
It was really interesting to see how this story brought goblins into the present day, and how they would lore in and tempt today's modern teenagers. It was fascinating, but also kind of scary. As a reader, you know what's happening, though Kizzy doesn't, and there's this creepy, sinister feeling that bubbles underneath the surface. For a short that doesn't have a huge amount happen in it, it was pretty atmospheric.
Spicy Little Curses Such as These This short story was just so good! A demon who makes a deal with the ambassador to Hell that she can save the souls of the children who died in an earthquake, but only if she takes a curse of his to the Political Agent's baby daughter, in which whenever she utters a single sound, those who hear it will die. This story completely captivated me. How do you get around such a curse? And I just loved the idea of someone who barters for the souls of innocents with a greedy demon who relishes in the pain of others. Such a great little story, and I loved the ending!
Hatchling This was my favourite of them all. This is more a novella than a short story, and is full of such wonderful world building. As I said above, the illustrations accompanying the stories are of a history, but there are so many histories in this book; Mab's childhood, Mihai's past, what Mihai did with the Queen, the history of the Druj. There are so many layers to this story, so many! And it was all so fascinating! This is the story I wanted to be a full length novel; though the story concludes, the ending is kind of the beginning of something else, and I want that story, too! It was SO good! It felt a lot like Taylor's other stories, filling me with awe and wonder. But it's also a pretty dark story, too. It was just completely wonderful.
This story collection is a definite must have for all Taylor fans. If you haven't read it yet, make doing so a priority. You won't regret it....more
Before reading The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas, I had yet to read a book featuring a protagonist on theOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
Before reading The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas, I had yet to read a book featuring a protagonist on the autism spectrum before. There are a few out, but not a huge amount, and only one other that I know of that is #OwnVoices, so I was really excited for The State of Grace, as it sounded like a really awesome story, and Grace has Asperger's syndrome. Unfortunately, I don't think this story really was for me.
Let's start with the positives. We all know #OwnVoices stories are written for those who rarely see themselves in the pages of the books they read, of if they are, not necessarily represented all that accurately. So, The State of Grace isn't for me. However, I did learn more about what it's like for people with Asperger's syndrome; how overwhelming a person can be by everything going on around them, how important structure and routine is, how it can sometimes be difficult to understand what other people mean. It was great getting that insight into something I've not completely understood before, and also knowing I can trust the representation. What was also, great, though, is that this isn't a book about having autism, it's just about the life of a girl who has it. Grace's autism does come up a lot, because it plays into how she sees, reacts and acts in the world, but it's not really the focus of the story.
And it's the story itself that I have a problem with. Because what the focus of the story is, I'm not really sure. There's a boy, Gabe, that Grace likes, who likes her back, and they go on a few dates. Grace is bullied a little by the popular girl in her class, and feels like she's weird and strange a lot, and wants to be more "normal". There are some problems at home because her dad, who is a wildlife camera man, is often away a lot, this being one of those times - and this time round, her mum isn't coping so well. Grace's mum is also back in touch with an old uni friend, who has a lot of opinions on how she lives her life, and how much her children should (or rather, shouldn't) depend on her, and puts all sorts of ideas in her head. She's rude, and she's completely ignorant to Grace's needs, and her mum just seems to selfishly go along with it. This part of the story was actually really well done, because I was so mad at Grace's mum. I could understand that life is maybe not so easy, and with Grace's father having the job he has, a lot of the time she is the one who has to look after her children and doesn't have much of a life of her own, but the way Eve was influencing her, it was like she simply didn't care anymore, and would force Grace into doing things that really upset her. It wasn't just selfish, but harmful and inconsiderate, and she had me fuming. But overall, there wasn't one main plot thread, just several smaller ones.
And, if I'm honest, I wasn't really pulled into the story. I wasn't exactly interested it. Grace, her friend Anna, even Gabe and the other boys, all seemed pretty young. Really, there was no difference in maturity between Grace and her friends and her younger sister Leah, who's 13. I know it's only three years age difference, but there's still a difference between how 13-year-olds act, and how 16-year-olds do. And this isn't down to Grace's Asperger's syndrome, because her friends were the same. As well as being little young, I don't feel I got to know many of the characters very well, and they felt under-developed to me. Kind of two-dimensional. The story was just kind of flat, until the pretty big deal that happens near the end, and even that comes completely out of left field. Grace suddenly has an idea, goes for it, and things go pear-shaped in a big way. But before that... I guess it was just a snapshot of Grace's life where nothing all that interesting happens, because we don't see much of very much. The only character I feel like I know is Grace.
And I also found that I didn't relate to her. Not because she's autistic, but because of the life she lives. She is middle class, whereas I'm not. Which is fine, I've read books with characters who are middle class before, and I was still able to find something there to relate to, even if they live a very different life to me. But there was nothing with Grace. She was very young 16-year-old, which was a gap of it's own, but there was also a distancing, in regards to her having a horse she rode every day, and all the training for Tennis her sister had. As I said, this in itself is not a problem, but it's just the way it was told, I guess, that put up a barrier between Grace's Middle Class life, and my own Working Class life.
I'm afraid to say I didn't like this book very much. But I think most of that is down to personal taste rather than anything else. Do read other reviews before deciding whether or not to give this book a go.
Thank you to Macmillan Children's Books via NetGalley for the eProof....more