What's a bear to do when he's misplaced his hat? He has to ask all the other animals he meets whether they've seen it, of course!
This charming pictureWhat's a bear to do when he's misplaced his hat? He has to ask all the other animals he meets whether they've seen it, of course!
This charming picture book caught my eye immediately because of the humorous illustration on the cover, and I'm delighted to say that the contents are just as endearing. This story about a well-mannered bear on a quest to find his missing hat is told in simple language, and shares the same sort of gentle mischief that you might find in Sandra Boynton's books for toddlers. I chuckled quite a few times as I turned the pages, but the artwork is really where this book shines. The author/illustrator Jon Klassen did the lovely drawings for the popular The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, and also served as an animator for the feature film Coraline.
I've included a couple of illustrations below, but if you'd like to see more images from the book or to purchase prints, one of my favorite independent galleries in Los Angeles currently has some of the artist's work available at Gallery Nucleus. You can also watch the short but adorable book trailer (that Jon Klassen made himself, btw!) to get a feel for the tone of the book as well.
I Want My Hat Back is a quick and funny read, and one that should be engaging not only for young book lovers, but entertaining for the adults in their lives as well. I can think of several sets of new parents who would absolutely love it.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
"I speak. I feel. I laugh and cry." She broke off and looked away briefly. "Some things I want so badly"When is the DNA surely human? When is it not?"
"I speak. I feel. I laugh and cry." She broke off and looked away briefly. "Some things I want so badly I think I'll die of it. I do worship the Infinite. But to be told everyday that I'm not human..."
In the 400 years since the end of Earth, human society is a vastly different place on the Planet Loka. There are levitating cars, strange monstrous creatures, and babies that are suddenly taken by the government without any explanation. Best friends Kayla and Mishalla were not born of birth mothers in this world, but were designed to be GENS, Genetically Engineered Non-Humans. Each GEN is enhanced with special skill sets that make them desirable workers for trueborns, who are the wealthy, high status members of society. When Kayla is assigned to work for a dying trueborn named Zul Mandel, she must leave her nurture family and the only home she's ever known--and she's forced into close proximity with his all-too-attractive grandson Devak.
The GENs are really slaves, forced into servitude and at the mercy of a cruel caste system that treats them as lower than the lowest born human. Skin color, clothing, jewels, land, drugs, and levitating cars are all blatant status symbols in this world, and it's interesting to see how the author works in echoes of previous shameful world events in the segregation of the GENs, the widely-held belief that touching a GEN would result in shriveled skin or crooked bones, and even in the saying "Work will make you safe," which is of course derived from "Work makes us free" from Nazi Germany and "Be happy in your work" from The Bridge Over the River Kwai. These themes are all intelligently and subtly worked into the book in a way that never feels too blatant or pretentious.
Once the story got going, there are plenty of exciting events and issues to think about. I was fascinated by the well thought-out society as well as the presentation of the two very different religions to which humans and GENs subscribe. There is finely built tension in several "search and seizure" type scenes and there were moments when I felt terrible pity and sorrow for the characters, including the first time Kayla comes upon the gorgeous Mandel house and sees the shocking contrast to the slums where GENs are kept, and Kayla's constant, devastating fear of punishment by being "reset," which wipes out all of a GEN's existing personality but retains his or her body for recycling and reuse.
There are a couple of really nice, slow-building romances in this book, but as the relationships between Kayla and Devak and between Mishalla and Eoghan develop, the young protagonists also discover who they really are and what they really stand for. Some of the best parts of the book are the forbidden, snatched conversations between Kayla and Devak as they discuss what makes someone beautiful, what makes someone kind, and most importantly, what makes someone human.
I do wish that the bookends to the novel were a little longer, as the beginning was a little abrupt and all the new names and rules and creatures took some getting used to. A little more time showing the friendship between Kayla and Mishalla before their Assignments would have helped as well. The ending chapters following the climax could have been a little more developed too, as they felt a little rushed to me and some of the details involving Devak's father were a bit sketchy.
Still, this was an immensely enjoyable dystopian novel with excellent character development, a complex story, and nuanced themes, with everything I had hoped for from A Long, Long Sleep and Matched, but didn't quite get. (view spoiler)[Okay, except for the aliens and killing robot machine! (hide spoiler)] The ending leaves the door open a bit for a possible sequel, and I for one would very much like to visit Kayla's world again.
Tankborn is one of the first books from Lee & Low's new Tu imprint, which is dedicated to publishing YA books with protagonists of color. The majority of the characteristics, society, and customs in this book are derived from South Asian and African-American influences, and if this is an indication of the type of products that Tu will be producing, then sign me up as a dedicated fan. This is the sort of young adult literature we can definitely use more of--books that not only feature more diversity and world views, but ones that are also thoughtfully conceived and exceptionally well-written.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
On the book's official website, you can Visit Planet Loka, where you can see illustrations of the giant arachnid animals that inhabit this unusual world. There's also a free short story download that is set in the Tankborn universe. Enjoy! ...more
I didn't really think I'd enjoy this book as much as Dragon Bound, because how could a fairy princess and an eagle possibly be as appealing as a dragoI didn't really think I'd enjoy this book as much as Dragon Bound, because how could a fairy princess and an eagle possibly be as appealing as a dragon and a--don't read this if you haven't read the first book!--(view spoiler)[unicorn (hide spoiler)]? Besides, so many great debuts turn out to be one-hit wonders. But that's not the case here. Somehow Thea Harrison has pulled off another smart, sexy paranormal romance novel that's completely original and completely fun.
"Tricks," who made a brief but memorable appearance in the first Elder Races book, is the central character here, as is Tiago, one of dragon lord's sentinels. He turns out to be a big Thunderbird, and darned if this relationship doesn't turn out to be almost as appealing as Pia and Dragos', with lots of crazy animal sex (hee hee) and strength and humor between them. The kidnappings and fight scenes were pretty good, and all in all this was another extremely readable novel with strong characters and an interesting central plot.
With this second book, Thea Harrison has truly proven she's a star in the often lackluster PNR genre...and I will definitely be checking out anything she chooses to write next. Yay for great authors!...more
I never go into historical romances expecting very much, so it's always a pleasant surprise when one is well-written and engaging enough to hold my atI never go into historical romances expecting very much, so it's always a pleasant surprise when one is well-written and engaging enough to hold my attention. I liked the premise of this book, which follows Lady Susannah, a woman makes her living as a professional unmatchmaker for men with unsuitable love interests. She's hampered in her quest to break up the current couple that is her job, however, because one man is standing in her way--James Devlin, her husband.
The beginning of the book is a little typical with angry words on both sides, but eventually the relationship between them became much more interesting. There is undeniable spark between the two which results in some reckless romps in carriages and in dark gardens, and there's the nice backdrop of Regency London to enjoy as well. What made this book a notch above other historical romances, however, is that soon after they meet again, Dev's attraction to the woman he believes to be his ex-wife deepens into sweet tenderness and caring--it's always nice when authors write men who aren't afraid to show their emotions. I grew to like both Dev and Susannah a lot, and I liked them both together as a couple.
There are definitely some things that muddle the plot a bit too much, including the reason they separated to begin with and subplots involving a pair of twins. Still, this is a lighthearted, fun read that is recommended for anyone who enjoys historical romances.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review....more
In the beginning, it starts with a single feather drifting slowly down from the sky. When 17-year-old Penryn sees this simple sight, she is filled witIn the beginning, it starts with a single feather drifting slowly down from the sky. When 17-year-old Penryn sees this simple sight, she is filled with incredible dread, because this lovely, floating, ephemeral thing is an unlikely sign of terrible things to come.
Six weeks after a devastating attack on earth, the world has been torn apart by a war between angels and humans. Caught up in a battle she doesn't understand, Penryn watches in horror as an angel named Raffe is cornered and brutally stripped of his wings. In trying to help, she antagonizes one of the perpetrators and is forced to watch as her wheelchair-bound little sister is taken away. Penryn angrily demands that Raffe provides information and assistance in finding her sibling, and the two natural enemies must work together to outwit danger at every turn.
If you've been searching high and low for a worthy successor to The Hunger Games, the wait is finally over. Susan Ee's stunning debut novel is the perfect combination of post-apocalyptic YA + cannibals + badass angels + kickass heroine, and it blew me away with its perfectly paced blend of action, story, and emotional tension. Penryn is a fantastic heroine, a whip-smart, funny girl who happens to be awesome in combat. I also found her interactions with her schizophrenic mother to be very touching, and it's impossible not to admire how her desperate resolve to find her sister never falters. As for Raffe...who the hell thinks of writing an agnostic angel? Brilliant! And so intriguing. Raffe is clearly hiding secrets, but it's impossible not to be drawn to him anyway. His relationship with Penryn develops slowly and naturally as they struggle to find shelter and to survive in bleak circumstances (yeah, they eat cat food at one point), all against a bleak backdrop of a war and all kinds of unspeakable horrors.
Readers who are uneasy with more gruesome books should be warned that there are some pretty intense scenarios, although they are tastefully (view spoiler)[hah hah, tastefully! (hide spoiler)] done and mostly appear in aftermath, rather than in present action. For my somewhat twisted sense of humor and enjoyment of creepy visuals, it was exciting to find an author who writes such dark and vivid imagery, however, and I'd say that if you're someone who's comfortable reading zombie books, you'd probably be okay with what happens here. Not that I didn't want to run around screaming when Penryn and Raffe happen upon the...things hanging in trees, mind you. But that's all part of the fun.
I have a few minor quibbles, mostly about Penryn's failure to ask and demand enough answers, as this seemed completely out of character for someone who grits her teeth and cool-headedly calculates whether she can keep someone alive long enough to be of use to her. It was frustrating and implausible that in such forced intimacy, a girl like this wouldn't have mercilessly hounded the information out of her traveling partner. I also wish we'd learned a bit more about the war and about the ghoulish experimentations that were going on, although you can certainly put some of that down to my general impatience to read the rest of this 5-part series. My quibbles are far outweighed by my rampant enthusiasm over this book, however, as the action-packed story, sharp and funny dialogue, macabre touches, unforgettable characters, and well-researched angelology all make for an incredible read. The twists and turns in this story are superbly done, and even if you happen to guess one of the major plot points that will have a major effect on the future books, it's not going to matter. And that's the mark of a book that can and will be read again and again.
I'd strongly recommend this book for: readers who were mesmerized by the grim beauty of The Reapers Are the Angels, zombie enthusiasts who enjoyed the spectacular first half of Ashes, people who loved the creepiness of Anna Dressed in Blood, anyone who was drawn to the idea of evil angels in Angel Burn, skeptics who thought that chick in Aftertime should have spent more time thinking about her daughter, action junkies who enjoyed the fight scenes in Divergent and Blood Red Road and Legend but wanted a little more substance, anyone who liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone, anyone who expected more from Smoke & Bone. And finally, anyone who appreciates a truly original and exciting story. Period.
Buy this book NOW! It's only 99 cents as an ebook at the moment for Kindle and Nook, and may also be read on your computer or Smartphone. If you're undecided even after seeing all the phenomenal reviews of this book, you should read the first 5 chapters on the author's website. Update: the book is also available for purchase as a paperback from Amazon.
And believe it or not, this book also happens to be self-published. I'm not sure why Susan Ee decided to go the indie route with this book, but I'm quite sure it was by her choice and her design. Regardless of whether you read it now or whether you read it later when it's available as a print book, I can't imagine that most readers won't have a tremendous time with it. This is an author worth supporting, and how exciting it is to find her so early in her writing career.
A Thank You to My Lovely Friends
This is one of those cases where GoodReads must be thanked for providing such a great platform for all of us to find out about such incredible books. If it weren't for the amazing reviews written by Michelle and AH back in July and for Jen's nudging a few weeks ago, I never would have read it, and neither would many of my friends. If you've found your way to this book and enjoyed it, I hope you'll please do your part in helping someone else find it as well.
This is a monumental book in many ways. It's one of the few times that a victim of prolonged sexual imprisonment has come forth to tell her story, andThis is a monumental book in many ways. It's one of the few times that a victim of prolonged sexual imprisonment has come forth to tell her story, and the importance of having a record of this first-hand account cannot be discounted. Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped at the age of 11 and held captive for 18 years while a man repeatedly raped her and had her bear two of his children. She was miraculously freed at the age of 29 and, two years later, seems to be overall pretty well-adjusted and happy.
I've read a fair amount on this subject, but it's still very painful to read about Jaycee's story. One of the awful things about her situation is that her captor was "nice" to her when he wasn't assaulting her, sobbing and apologizing profusely, and telling her she was "helping him" with his problem. The confusion of dealing with that must do untold amounts of damage, since if someone is always monstrous, it's much easier to look upon him as the enemy. While it's natural to wonder about these things, it has always troubled me when I hear strongly worded questions about why victims in these situations don't try harder to escape. I think it's very difficult to imagine the amount of physical and psychological fear and confusion that these individuals undergo, as well as the coping mechanisms that they must use in order to simply survive. Through Jaycee's words, it's possible to come closer to understanding how someone in a devastating situation is relentlessly conditioned into doing a dominant person's bidding--and how her reality changed so much that she began to look upon being separated from her captor with crippling fear of the unknown.
While I am glad that readers have a chance to read Jaycee's story, it does worry me that it comes so soon after her release in 2009. Elizabeth Smart has similarly just signed on to be a commentator for ABC News, and it makes you wonder if Elisabeth Fritzl can be too far behind. I cannot even begin to imagine the kind of damage this kind of violence and depravity does to someone, let alone a child whose character hadn't even been fully formed at the time of her kidnapping. It troubles me to think that in our insistent need for information and our need for heroic stories in this modern age, we may unintentionally be harming these poor women with the pressure to present a pulled-together, picture-perfect image for our benefit.
But perhaps I don't give enough credit to their strength. While there is a great deal of pain in reading Jaycee's story as you relive her suffering, it is also impossible not to be moved by the resiliency of the human spirit. The joy she took in the pets that came and went over the years; her attempts to stay positive, chronicled through journal entries; her pleasure in the birth of her "beautiful baby girls." One of the things that touched me the most was the notion that a child of 17--with a fifth grade education--was determined to provide some sort of education and future for her two children by downloading daily lesson plans and teaching them herself. It speaks to an extraordinary spirit, as well as to the extraordinary capacity of the human heart.
The fact that these kinds of violent acts happen in the world are incredibly shameful and tragic. In sharing her story, however, Jaycee Dugard has helped many readers to see that human beings can and do survive impossible situations...and that it's important to appreciate the many precious freedoms that we so often take for granted.
A note about the book: This is an incredible piece of testimony to a shocking perpetuation of violence against a human being. I am glad that the publishers chose to keep Jaycee's young voice, which sounds unspoiled and unguarded in a surprising and touching way. There were some editorial missteps, however, that I felt detracted from the book quite a bit, including leaving in inconsistent tenses, confusing timelines, and switching back and forth perhaps a little too often between past and present for a fairly short book. Addressing these issues would have streamlined the book immensely, and it's puzzling that more efforts weren't made to provide a better framework for the story.
Additional Reading: Readers who are interested in exploring other books with similar topics might consider Living Dead Girl, which is the best fictionalized story about kidnapping and imprisonment that I've read to date. I was NOT a huge fan of the much more lauded Room or the more recent Circle 9, however....more
3.5 stars Oh Eugenie, Eugenie, Eugenie. Throughout all four of the Dark Swan books, I feel like you could have used a good girlfriend you could call w3.5 stars Oh Eugenie, Eugenie, Eugenie. Throughout all four of the Dark Swan books, I feel like you could have used a good girlfriend you could call whenever you had the urge to do something silly. Unfortunately, you didn't have my number, and as much as I've enjoyed your company, I still have to fight the urge to shake some sense into you, even after all this time.
In Shadow Heir, Eugenie Markham has her twin babies but hides them away in fear of their safety. She returns to the faery world to find that a disaster has fallen on her land, and she must work together with both allies and enemies in order to save the Otherworld that she's come to love. Eugenie's story has always been a lot of fun from the very beginning, when we first learned she was a half-human, half-fae shaman for hire who learns that she's destined to be part of a prophecy that will wreak havoc upon the mortal world. I've really enjoyed her learning to harness her powers (she can control water elements!), uncovering the truth behind her past, and watching her become a more powerful, more dedicated Queen in the faery kingdom. All of the battle scenes are really fun, and if some of the plot points are a bit on the predictable side, that hasn't mattered as much to me because the characters are all nuanced and interesting, the dialogue is snappy and humorous, and the overall story lines are fast-paced and entertaining.
What's been much less enjoyable has been watching Eugenie bounce back and forth between her two love interests, the half-Japanese, half-fox shapeshifter Kiyo, and the madly flirtatious, deadly ambitious King Dorian. While both men were equally attractive in the beginning, the love triangle dragged out interminably, with pretty bad behaviors from everyone concerned. Both men have their own agendas and secrets that they keep from Eugenie, but in the last book Iron Crowned, one of them made a horribly treacherous and unforgivable move, and I went into this book absolutely gunning for blood. (view spoiler)[ Or a fur coat. :D (hide spoiler)] One really funny thing about this last installment is that pretty much everyone else in the book hates him, too! Different characters kept bringing up the idea of killing the traitor again and again, to my great satisfaction.
I did very much enjoy reading this story and I was happy that many of the threads that were left hanging in the last book were concluded--but I'm not sure I'm happy about the way they were resolved. Eugenie makes some pretty awful tactical errors, seems deliberately obtuse throughout much of the story, and in the end sets upon a course that made my blood pressure go up a few notches. There is just no reason that she shouldn't have learned by now that dishonesty and deception are never going to pay off. Her decisions at the end were illogical, poorly conceived, and completely unfair to everyone concerned. Also...(view spoiler)[I could have used a little bit more makeout time with Dorian. (hide spoiler)]
Richelle Mead's heroines are always strong, dominant women, which is part of what I like about them--but after producing three series which manage to entertain and frustrate readers in nearly equal measure, it's pretty clear to me that the biggest issue is that in trying to make her main character flawed, she so often makes the main character stupid as well. Or at least irrational and thoughtless, which is so frustrating when our heroine usually otherwise behaves with a great deal of courage and integrity and common sense. That's not to say that obstacles shouldn't be thrown in the main character's way or that she shouldn't make mistakes, since that's what keeps things interesting. But there should be solid reasons given for withholding information/not taking action/etc, etc., other than just to extend the story. We can't root for the heroine if we're suddenly rolling our eyes at her all the time.
So this is, once again, a mixed conclusion to a Richelle Mead series. I still enjoy her books quite a lot because they're so darned entertaining--but things never seem to end with my having as much respect for the heroine as I did in the beginning. It is so very disappointing when it appears that readers believe in the characters' self-worth and honor more than their author does.
**My thanks go out to the lovely Flannery for knowing how much I was dying to read this book and being kind enough to share her ARC.**