4.5 stars Fantastic debut! Written like an adult urban fantasy, and a must-read for fans of Vampire Academy. There is, ahem, a very Dimitri-Rose dynam...more4.5 stars Fantastic debut! Written like an adult urban fantasy, and a must-read for fans of Vampire Academy. There is, ahem, a very Dimitri-Rose dynamic going on with this one.
Had a great ending, am very curious to see what will happen next...(less)
Wow, what a huge surprise this was! Unexpected layers, a heroine who develops over the course of the book, and a seriously, seriously crush-worthy guy...moreWow, what a huge surprise this was! Unexpected layers, a heroine who develops over the course of the book, and a seriously, seriously crush-worthy guy.
Ideally, sequels not only expand upon the stories and themes introduced in their preceding books, but they also improve upon them. Scorch does a great...moreIdeally, sequels not only expand upon the stories and themes introduced in their preceding books, but they also improve upon them. Scorch does a great job of upping the stakes for a group of young grim reapers in an entertaining way, in both the action and character development departments. This sequel features tighter plotting, is faster and funnier, and makes you enjoy your time with its likable protagonists even more than you might've the first time around.
I really liked: Uncle Mort's hilarious attempts to minimize Lex and Drigg's makeout time, jellyfish venom, the further developments of Lex's (and Driggs') powers, and a really cool twist at the end that changes the direction of the story and an important relationship.
And my favorite quote:
That doesn't mean you get a free pass to ride the baloney pony whenever you want to. Got it?
Heh. Definitely check out Croak and Scorch if you enjoy humor mixed with your YA urban fantasy.
An advance copy was received by the publisher for this review.(less)
What makes us fall in love--and what makes us who we are?
Those are the questions at the heart of this novel, which tells a thoughtful, touching story...moreWhat makes us fall in love--and what makes us who we are?
Those are the questions at the heart of this novel, which tells a thoughtful, touching story that will surprise readers with its sentient literary style and gentle feeling.
Everyone longs for human connection, but 16-year-old A.'s search for it seems to be a losing proposition. Every day, for as long as he can remember, he wakes up in a different body: sometimes as a girl, sometimes with a different ethnicity, sometimes with a different sexual orientation. He's long recognized the futility of trying to create lasting relationships, but everything changes when he meets Rhiannon, a girl who makes him want things he's never thought possible.
This story reminds me of one of my favorite TNG episodes with a similar concept, and A. also follows a sort of prime directive in his self-imposed policy not to interfere too much in his "host's" life. He is, for the most part, a very likeable protagonist who doesn't wallow in self-pity or maudlin emotion, and it's interesting to see how skillfully the author retains A.'s sense of self and personality even within very different people in very different circumstances. One of my favorite things about this book is how we catch a glimpse of all the lives that A. touches; some of the manifestations are humorous, some of them are incredibly sad, and some of them are downright harrowing. There is also a tension and urgency in the story from various different sources, most notably in the form of someone who is relentlessly pursuing A. for his own dangerous reasons.
The things that some more logic-hobbled readers (heh, I am coining that term!) won't like about this book are precisely what I do like about it. I like the book's more quiet, philosophical bent, and I actually like that we don't get any answers as to why this happens to A. Frankly, they're not necessary--this story isn't about that, and had the author attempted to invent specious reasoning for the wheres and whyfores of this concept, this would have been a very different book. A. obviously makes some mistakes in judgments--haven't we all?--and I do think his relationship with Rhiannon developed rather suddenly, as she's a fine enough girl, but I never really understood why he liked her so much! But for me, this all worked within the confines of this story concept. I accepted that in the course of living countless lives in A.'s lifetime, something in this girl at this time called out to him. And sometimes people just come along at the exact right time in your life when you desperately need it, and A. is very much in need of being loved. And perhaps even more importantly, he is very much in need of being acknowledged.
"The tenderness between two people can turn the air tender, the room tender, time itself tender. As I step out of bed and slip on an oversize shirt, everything around me feels like it's the temperature of happiness."
Things become very difficult, of course, once Rhiannon learns about A.'s unique circumstance. It's hard to fault anyone for having trouble accepting the fantastical premise, as well as the reality of living with it, because after all, a big, big part of love relies on both the thrill and the comfort we find in another person's familiar presence. The struggle that these two have to reconcile what they want with what is realistic is poignant though ultimately, still very hopeful. By the end of this pensive, bittersweet novel, your heart may rend in two, because the purest form of love is perhaps when it involves some form of selflessness or self-sacrifice. But there's a great deal of beauty--and comfort--to be found in that, too.
This is my first time reading David Levithan. But it won't be my last.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Recommended for: fans of A Certain Slant of Light, for those who were intrigued by the body-switching concept in Mercy, and for those who might've yearned for a more mature, tender feeling from Tempest.
Win an Every Day ARC! And make cookies, too!
We're giving away an Advance Readers Copy of this book on the blog. And hey, this review was powered by peanut butter cookies! By special request from Cassi you can download the free recipe card, too.
Damn it to hell, Mira Grant. Just when we thought you couldn't make us cry any more, you come along with another scenario that punches us in the gut A...moreDamn it to hell, Mira Grant. Just when we thought you couldn't make us cry any more, you come along with another scenario that punches us in the gut AGAIN.
You can read this alternate ending to FEED at the bottom of the BLACKOUT review on our blog which is ONLY safe for those who have already read the first book. I keep saying this, but holy frak, that woman is an evil genius.(less)
STATUS: Considered a serious risk to all reasonable conduct.
This paper is an emergency presentation to provide anecdotal evidence that the young adult author Brigid Kemmerer is a menace to society. Through her Elemental series, which follows a group of dangerously attractive brothers with the power to harness the forces of nature, she has irresponsibly spread rampant mass hysteria in a thinly disguised attempt to take over the paranormal romance genre.
TEST READERS HAVE REPORTED: irregular breathing, flushed cheeks, and most alarmingly, a tendency to dissolve into incoherent giggles while reading the novels. Left unchecked, the subject will continue to be a detriment to all reasonable behavior as readers seem physically incapable of putting down her books.
Furthermore, after careful examination of her latest novel Spark, the following conclusions have been drawn.*
Theory #1: Brigid Kemmerer may be a gleeful pyromaniac. Of all the natural earth elements, fire is perhaps the hardest to control and the most thoroughly destructive. Gabriel Merrick has been able to transform this incredibly powerful element all his life--but problem is, right now he's having trouble controlling it. And in his desire to prove himself, he takes on dangerous risks that alienate those he cares about the most. The author's descriptions of the magic harnessed and the gorgeous yet frightening sight of fire flaring out of control are incredibly evocative, and will likely satisfy those who felt let down by a similarly themed but disappointing Struck. Given how convincingly the fire element is described in this book, it's entirely possible that the author's deadly accuracy comes from personal experience with playing with this fascinating and unknowable force.
Theory #2: Brigid Kemmerer is surrounded by gorgeous, playful men who know how to kiss a girl senseless. It's hard to write a male who is cocky, sarcastic, and a nice guy underneath it all, but Gabriel is a completely believable teenage guy who mouths off without thinking, but who is also capable of decency and tenderness. Both he and Layne, the troubled girl who tutors him, are layered, interesting characters whose relationship develops naturally. All the hot and heavy makeout scenes and underlying emotional growth in this book are likely the result of months and months of hedonistic indulgence as the author "researched" her book.
Theory #3: Brigid Kemmerer stole the prized guidebook on How to Write a Fun Paranormal Romance. This highly coveted manual outlines how to introduce fascinating powers, nuanced characters, snappy, amusing dialogue, and highly entertaining plots. What's especially interesting about Spark is that Kemmerer mixes up some of the usual paranormal checkpoints so that the main character is denied his power and the romantic interest is unaware of his abilities for most of the book, so that the swoon-worthy romance and the brotherly relationships are what really carry this story through. The fact that the subject was able to write a fun and fluffy book that isn't shallow provides nearly irrevocable proof that the author has confiscated the very few copies of the guidebook that exist.
*Please note that these theories are yet unproven, but the testimony from countless readers is overwhelming authentication.
CONCLUSION: Subject must be captured at all costs and detained until the remaining Elemental books are finished, so test readers may go through the series as quickly as possible. It is absolutely vital that their exposure is limited to a short period of time. Failure to contain Kemmerer's growing popularity will result in untold damage to readers' health, work habits, and relationships as their rampant enthusiasm for her books will continue to override all common sense.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Win an Autographed Copy of Spark!VOLUNTEER TO TEST THIS DANGEROUS CONTRABAND:
Brigid Kemmerer has offered to prove that her books are not detrimental to your health. She will send a copy of Spark with an inscribed message to one of our readers anywhere in the world. (And no, you don't necessarily have to have read the first book before reading this one.)
If you're interested in volunteering despite all of our attempts to convince you how much reading these books will affect your well-being, you may enter on the blog.
It's amazing how Chelsea Cain manages to create new stories that connect more dots to her previous novels, in a way that doesn't feel forced. This one...moreIt's amazing how Chelsea Cain manages to create new stories that connect more dots to her previous novels, in a way that doesn't feel forced. This one was really good (and less far-fetched than the last one), with some genuine thrills and some glimpses of complexity in Gretchen's past.
We really need to stop seeing Susan bumble into the climax of each book and making a bad situation worse, though. And Archie...Archie's self-destructive thing is getting old. It's been 5 years, you know? Time for a little progress.
Love this series, though. Gretchen Lowell is one sick little puppy.(less)
This book is so much fun, and a terrific start to a promising series. I am far too behind on reviews I have to do to write one for this, but I did wri...moreThis book is so much fun, and a terrific start to a promising series. I am far too behind on reviews I have to do to write one for this, but I did write a spoiler-free review of book two here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
If you enjoy sarcastic quips and hot boys with your YA urban fantasy, you'll definitely want to pick this one up, though!(less)
3.5 stars I love the way Amy Garvey writes. In the middle of a book about girl who brings back her boyfriend from the dead and here in its sequel, the...more3.5 stars I love the way Amy Garvey writes. In the middle of a book about girl who brings back her boyfriend from the dead and here in its sequel, there is a keen sweetness of emotion that swirls through the pages in a way that thoroughly pleases my sensibilities. Those who appreciated the surprisingly thoughtful, sad rumination on first love and sudden death in Cold Kiss will likely find this sequel to be just as appealing. While it offers a more straightforward paranormal story, its sincerity and prose still elevate it well above the typical YA fare.
She sees me, and even from all the way across the room, the weight of her gaze is a tangible thing. A touch, but not a heavy one--instead, it's sort of fond, fingers against the cheek of someone you love.
After the slow, somber mood of the last book, Wren is finally beginning to find some joy in her growing supernatural abilities. From the dizzying thrill of flying to the wonder of creating a lovely snowfall, she's testing both her abilities and her own courage. The problem is, her boyfriend Gabriel is uncomfortable with her powerful gift, and his seeming rejection of who Wren is sends her running to explore the more dangerous, untested side of her abilities with Bay and Fiona (who has a cotton candy cloud of hair), an alluring, mocking pair with secrets of their own.
Here are a few descriptions and passages that I really liked:
Being with Gabriel isn't like that at all. It's a taste of the cleanest, sweetest water you can imagine, cool and pure and addictive, rushing in to fill every crack, soothe every smarting, rough place inside.
Then he looks up and sees me, and his smile stretches out, warm and slow, the truth of it right there in his strange gray eyes. Happiness is a sudden star flare, so perfect it takes my breath away...I push my hair out of my eyes and let it come. It's nearly transparent, hovering in midair--a photograph, square and old-fashioned. The rippled edges make it look as if it's been torn from a sheet of paper. It flutters to the floor, and Gabriel, Jess, and Dar smile out at me from its face, soft and blurred like a wet watercolor. It's a picture torn right out of my head.
If you don't get the picture by now, this is a very romantic book and a very romantic author. I love the way Wren appreciates the many small details that make her boyfriend precious to her, the way Gabriel knows how to pick just the perfect gift for Wren, and how absolutely appealing their relationship is. (It's not all saccharine sweetness, though, there's definite humor and a bit of bite to the dialogue, too.) I also like the secondary relationships with Wren and her parents, though Robin got on my nerves a bit with her incessant complaints.
Like its predecessor, Glass Heart is fairly light on the paranormal aspects, however, and so it doesn't feel as well-rounded as I would have hoped. Just a little more time spent on the actual supernatural events and their aftermath would have been great, as many times we're brought to the brink of what promises to be an exciting moment, only to have the too-short chapter end and then we hear the event briefly recounted at a later date. Perhaps a stronger outlining phase and adding more detailed physicality would have helped with carrying the momentum and sustaining the reader's excitement.
I also think that in trying to expand the focus of the first story, this book takes on more relationships and issues without exploring most of them with enough depth, with the exception of Wren's relationships with Gabriel and with her parents. Those are, however, done very well, and I'm still love to see what the author does next.
There's a beautiful, sensitive heart in both of Amy Garvey's young adult books thus far, and that's the most elusive quality of all to capture in a novel. Finding a clearly defined, strong structure to carry that heart to us should be a fairly easy feat to accomplish.
Recommended for fans of Cold Kiss. An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
P.S. Isn't the cover gorgeous? So icy and pretty! It's one of my favorites of this year.(less)
"Can we be certain of anyone's soul, human or otherwise?"
Fiction is often most meaningful when it explores questions we find too disturbing to ask in the everyday world. Through one girl's struggle to claim her own identity, The Lost Girl addresses some fascinating ethical questions, all the while presenting a measured, powerful essay on the value of human life.
Fifteen-year-old Eva lives, sleeps, and breathes someone else's existence. As an echo, a carbon copy of a girl halfway across the world, she learns everything that Amarra learns and is even nearly forced to suffer the same physical injuries as her other. There have been various books that explore cloning, but what's so unusual about this one is the psychological element, since it's not just Eva's organs that are being harvested, it's her entire entity and identity.
One of the things I liked best about this book is the way the science fiction elements are handled. The creators of these echos are called Weavers, and they are presented in somewhat mystical and mysterious manner. It has a similar tone and feeling to the film Children of Men, and the book is not unlike the way some of Bradbury's futuristic tales are written; that is, these just happen to be human beings in extraordinary circumstances, rather than a fantastical, tech-heavy setting with some humans in it.
The writing is also well-paced, thoughtful, and beautifully descriptive, deftly balancing gravity and humor, as well as joy and sadness. Eva recalls a man with "a voice like thunder and lions" and upon her relocation, marvels at how familiar her new home seems.
I had been sent pictures all my life, of course, and Mina Ma had told me long stories about Bangalore. She had described streets, places, pieces of her life. As a child, I sat at her feet and drew picture, inspired by her voice and the flickers of memory passed on through Amarra's and my consciousness. So many of those pictures had been true. There were ashoka trees down the middle of a long road, just the way I'd imagined...There were little stalls along the roads, open late, tea stalls with clinking steel cups and sweet shops with packets of crisps hanging from makeshift roofs. Or chips, as Mina Ma called them. Coke and Pepsi in glass bottles with steel caps. Men crouched on the edge of the road, smoking tiny not-quite cigarettes.
Every character left an indelible mark, from Eva herself to her gruff caretaker Mina Ma to her brother Nikhil to her friends at school. I was enraged by the casual cruelty Eva endures, and the parents later made me so angry that I couldn't see straight. I do wish that Sean and Ray had a chance to be a little more developed, though the love story--and the love interest--still squeezed my heart.
"I'd rather spend the rest of my life without seeing you again," he says,"than to watch them destroy you because of me."
When I initially finished the novel, I rated this a 4.5 because there are some elements that might have been explained a little more, and I thought the ending was a bit rushed and becomes perhaps more of a typical YA thriller. But who am I kidding? A book that treats human life with this kind of reverence deserves nothing less than 5 stars.
This book explores loss and grief in a way you wouldn't necessarily expect in speculative fiction and tears dripped down my face for nearly an hour as I was reading it. It is an stunning elegy for those who have been lost, a cry of sorrow for those who are left behind, and a profoundly sad lament for those whose very existence is denied. This elegant novel touched me deeply, and will leave readers with a lingering feeling of grief that is all the more devastating for its restraint and its dignity.
If you were to lay out a visual storyboard for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, it would be filled with lomographic photography--retro lighting, wide...moreIf you were to lay out a visual storyboard for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, it would be filled with lomographic photography--retro lighting, wide-open vistas, saturated colors, and quirky, sometimes blurry exposures that provide quick snapshots of the many small pleasures of childhood. This coming of age novel, which is written more like adult literary fiction than typical YA, beautifully captures the sun-drenched mood of summer as we meet Cameron, a young girl living in a small town in eastern Montana in 1989.
It was the kind of heat where a breeze feels like someone's venting a dryer over the town, whipping dust and making the cottonseeds from the big cottonwoods float across a wide blue sky and collect in soft tufts on neighborhood lawns. Irene and I called it summer snow, and sometimes we'd squint into the dry glare and try to catch cotton on our tongues.
It's a pleasure to be lulled into the slow rhythm of the author's words and to enjoy the moments of stillness and spontaneity throughout the entire story. As the novel begins, Cameron's parents have gone off on their annual camping trip, and she's spending the summer with her best friend Irene, eating too-big scoops of ice cream and strawberry pretzel salad, freezing wet shirts to keep cool, telling stories, and watching the twilight creep over the town. There's a new awareness between the two girls, however, which floods Cameron with pleasure and confusion when things suddenly take an unexpected turn.
There's nothing to know about a kiss like that before you do it. It was all action and reaction, the way her lips were salty and she tasted like root beer. The way I felt sort of dizzy the whole time. If it had been that one kiss, then it would have been just the dare, and that would have been no different than anything we'd done before. But after that kiss, as we leaned against the crates, a yellow jacket swooping and arcing over some spilled pop, Irene kissed me again.
Later, the girls talk about how they'd get in trouble if anyone found out.
Even though no one had ever told me, specifically, not to kiss a girl before, nobody had to. It was guys and girls who kissed--in our grade, on TV, in the movies, in the world; and that's how it worked, guys and girls. Anything else was something weird.
Shortly afterwards, Cameron's parents die in a car crash and she's sent to live with her conservative Aunt Ruth in the small town of Miles City, Montana, where she does her best to fit in and forget what happened before. So when beautiful Coley Taylor arrives on the scene, it spells trouble in a big way--and things spiral out of control in Cameron's world when she is sent off to God's Promise, a Christian de-gaying camp. (The author addresses this very frankly in most of the interviews I've seen, so I'm assuming it's not a spoiler to include that info here.) Here, she is to learn "appropriate gender roles" and refrain from "negative bonding over sinful/unhealthy desires."
I wasn't sure what to expect with this novel, so it was a relief to find it doesn't feel at all heavy-handed. I've realized recently that the problem I have with so many Message Books is that you can so clearly tell the author set out with an agenda and just filled in additional details to make a story. However, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a fully realized novel in every way, and if Cameron weren't gay, it would still be a well-crafted, well-written story with an immensely appealing protagonist...even if she's not always completely likable. But I sort of like that about her, you know? Because most of us were pretty unbearable as teenagers, and I found her prickliness and defiance to be sympathetic and very real.
Fair warning that Cameron is just as likely to tell you to eff off as she is to bum a smoke off you, though. For even though there are beautiful moments of stillness and jumbled, joyous images of childhood (Cameron puts a piece of flourite in her mouth at one point so she can taste its hardness and grit, which is something I totally did as a kid), there are also frank sexual situations, marijuana use, shoplifting, and all kinds of other things that might normally drive me up the wall when they're casually included in your typical YA book.
But this isn't a fluffy young adult novel at all, and it's easy to understand why Cameron acts out as she tries to figure out who she is under extremely difficult circumstances. Not to mention that her feelings are not at all unusual; Cameron's confusion and longing during the prom scene when Coley dances with someone else is that stuff of universal loneliness and despair. As a reader, it also hurt unbearably to read about Mark Turner, son of a preacher from a mega church in Nebraska, who is the "poster boy for a Christian upbringing, but yet here he was, at Promise, just like the rest of us." Mark's struggles with his faith and his natural impulses are devastating to witness, and it's a brutal reminder that there are sometimes terrible consequences when we ignore what's right in the name of what's righteous.
I appreciated how honestly teenage sex and experimentation were portrayed, in a way that didn't feel tacky or sensationalized. And I appreciated the restraint with which this enormously touchy subject was handled. I found myself getting very angry as I read the book--it's hard not to when you see a child being told unequivocally that he's going to hell for what he feels--but the story is remarkably even-handed. While Cameron is defiant and angry over her containment, as most of the kids are, the few harsh words about the program include "I'm just saying that sometimes you can end up really messing somebody up because the way you're trying to supposedly help them is really messed up." Instead of using this platform to rant or rage, the author simply allows us to get to know Cameron and provides the framework for the question: after reading this girl's story, which is the story of so many girls and boys just like her, can anyone deny the validity of her feelings?
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a fierce book that boldly explores identity, sexuality, and human responsibility in a relatable way, even as it demands attention from your social conscience and reaches out for your empathy. Even with such a hot-button topic, however, it somehow manages to refrain from outright condemnation of those who oppose its views. It's a shame that twenty years after the events of this book, this type of tolerance is still not entirely a two-way street.
Recommended for mature teens and adults only.
About the Book
The author was partially inspired by the true story of a 16-year-old boy who said he was being sent to a de-gaying camp in Tennessee. Read more about this in the author's Slate interview with author Curtis Sittenfeld.
Emily Danforth also has a deleted scene from the book on her website.
Reading Outpost gave me an entirely new outlook on Enclave, a book I liked but struggled with somewhat. I really liked this one, though, and I have a...moreReading Outpost gave me an entirely new outlook on Enclave, a book I liked but struggled with somewhat. I really liked this one, though, and I have a much better understanding of the society the author created, as well as an appreciation for what she did with the first book. I need to go back and reread that one sometime with this new perspective...but in the meantime, I'm forging straight ahead to Horde!(less)
Wonder is one of those rare books that makes you want to hug everyone in it so tightly that they’ll have no doubt about how much you love them…and bey...moreWonder is one of those rare books that makes you want to hug everyone in it so tightly that they’ll have no doubt about how much you love them…and beyond that, it also makes you want to reach out and hug the whole world. It’s an upbeat, humorous, life-affirming story that deserves to be read—and it’s one that may just change its readers, too.
If you remember how terrifying it was to be a kid on a day to day basis, you’ll appreciate August’s story. 10-year-old Auggie is going to school for the first time in his life, and he has to navigate new rules, learn to interact with teachers, and figure out how to make new friends. In addition, he also has a severe facial deformity that stops strangers in their tracks, so all the usual perils of the fifth grade take on even more heightened stakes.
With the matter-of-fact wisdom that warmed Beverly Cleary’s books, this story about growing up is full of heart and humor, and written with a clear-eyed intelligence that never descends into cynicism. Auggie’s smart, funny personality will win over readers who will agonize with him over the complicated web of friendships and family even as they cheer for him as he learns some of life’s big and scary lessons.
It’s okay, I know I’m weird-looking, take a look, I don’t bite. Hey, the truth is, if a wookie started going to school all of a sudden, I’d be curious, I’d probably stare a bit! And if I was walking with Jack or Summer, I’d probably whisper to them: Hey, there’s the wookie. And if the wookie caught me saying that, he’d know I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just pointing out the fact that he’s a wookie.
Even with a positive attitude and smart, loving parents, however, Auggie’s story is not an easy one to read, and my emotions ran wildly from sadness to hilarity to terrible anger at what happens to him. Not all kids are nice. Some kids behave one way in front of adults and another way in front of kids. Some adults are downright cruel. And just when you think life can’t possibly get any harder or more challenging, sometimes it does.
Although the book is primarily told from Auggie’s perspective, it was a surprise to me when it switched to a few other points of view. With a total of six different voices, I would normally say this is far too many, but in this particular case every person offered an insight into August’s beautiful personality and amazing life in a way that would be impossible to otherwise know. Reading about Auggie’s 27 surgeries, rejoicing at his vibrant inner life, hurting for him when he felt lonely or misunderstood, and seeing his life from various different perspectives, it’s impossible not to be moved by his story. And how can you not love a boy who understands that sometimes his mom might need his precious teddy bear more than he does?
Not entirely random side note: (view spoiler)[In my former life, I worked in movie publicity. In that position, you’re subjected to a lot of wheedling and sob stories, so it’s natural to develop a pretty jaded viewpoint. So when a film critic forwarded a plea to me from the mom of a young boy who wanted to attend an advance screening of the latest Harry Potter movie, my first reaction was automatic suspicion—why couldn’t this kid wait the two months until the movie was out? I did a lot of research before I finally spoke to the mom, but I’m so glad I did. Because it turned out the boy was in the advanced stages of an incurable illness and was not expected to live much longer.
It made me so terribly ashamed that I had doubted the story. Understandable, yes, but I knew that the letter could easily have been overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the business—and it scared me to think that something that so important might have been lost because of other things that mattered so much less. In this case, I made sure this boy and his family got the VIP treatment, including a ton of swag and a very memorable evening. He was absolutely incandescent that night, and his parents told me afterwards that it was one of the happiest experiences in his young life. When his mom told me a few months later that he’d passed away, it was terribly sad. But I was so grateful to have had that brief contact, and to have helped bring a tiny bit of joy into his last months. It was, just as Wonder is, a reminder that it’s so much easier to look the other way, because of impatience or fear. But sometimes reaching out to another human being can be a life-changing experience, for everyone concerned. As many have said before me, taking action doesn't just change the other person, it also changes you.(hide spoiler)]
Tears were streaming down my face as I finished this book—and the funny thing is, they were primarily tears of joy. Wonder is written with the kind of sensitivity and insight that I had hoped for when I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and it went the extra mile to be an uplifting story that made me want to embrace life and the people in it, too. I also very much appreciate that this middle grade book is written for its intended age group, not just a book for adults in the guise of a children’s book, even though it’s certainly one that can be enjoyed by readers of any age.
“There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other.”
A story like this comes along just a few times in a lifetime, and I fervently hope that readers will find their way to it. This short book that doesn’t waste a single page in squeezing your emotions so tightly you feel like you can't breathe, but when they're finally released, you may find that your heart is full of even more empathy, compassion, and love than you thought possible. We expect to be surprised by cruelty, but how wonderful it is to also be surprised by kindness.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
About the Inspiration Behind the Story
The ice cream incident in this story actually happened, but perhaps not in the way you might think. Learn about the surprising inspiration behind this story on the RJ Palcio's website. She's definitely an author to watch.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Win an ARC of Necromancing the Stone over atThe Midnight Garden! Open internationally through 7/30.
4.5 stars At long last, it's here! This review con...moreWin an ARC of Necromancing the Stone over atThe Midnight Garden! Open internationally through 7/30.
4.5 stars At long last, it's here! This review contains some spoilers from the first book, so proceed at your own risk.
After killing the evil necromancer Douglas Montgomery in last year's hilarious Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, Sam LaCroix has not only inherited Douglas' seat on their town's supernatural Council, but he's inherited his huge house, his shapeshifting cat butler James, and a small army of angry jam-loving gnomes as well. Just as he's settling into his new position as head of a very unusual household, however, his sister gets a nasty threat delivered to her door, and a sudden death changes everything. One thing a necromancer should always keep in mind, after all, is that just because someone's dead doesn't mean they stay that way.
It feels like we've been waiting for this sequel forever, and I'm so pleased to report that catching up with Sam and his crew is even more fun the second time around. Necromancing is more tautly plotted, faster, funnier, and full of even more madcap moments than the last time around.
Fun Necromancing Madness
A vengeful undead enemy? Check. A werebear best friend? Check. A harbinger of death who uses a Blackberry? Check. A pointy-toothed, beef jerky-loving pygmy cupacabra? Check. Stupidly entertaining gnome names like Chauncey the Devourer of Souls or Gnoman Polanski? Check. Deceitful companions who just might be enemies? Check.
Aside from the zany one-liners and good-humored characters, there are also surprising moments of gravity that I really appreciated. Okay, so they happen to involve a sad zombie panda and throat-cutting, but still! I also got the wish I expressed in my review of Necromancer, which was that the antagonist would be more fully developed and nuanced. I loved the way the author explored his back story, and the climax and resolution felt properly serious and satisfactory, without being too somber for a book like this.
If I were to nitpick, I do wish a little more had been done with the awesome secondary cast. While I really liked the werewolf politics involving Sam's girlfriend Brid and her pack, I would love to have seen more done with the werebear, gnomes, etc. Right now they're mostly there for comic relief, while there was such a great opportunity to utilize them in the action and interpersonal scenes. I'm also not sure that James, the cat shapeshifter, also need to have a second form (view spoiler)[as a dragon (hide spoiler)] since he doesn't really use it and it's so different from his other two forms.
I am, however, very glad that the book mostly loses the extraneous POVs that made the first book so disjointed. Necromancing the Stone focuses on two primary characters and allows us to get to know and appreciate both. Still, a third POV is inserted very late into the book at page 161, and then again at pages 278 and 296--and being that all of them total 11 pages, it seems as though the book would be much more streamlined and would have flowed much better if those parts had been reworked somehow.
But none of that really matters in the end, because jeez, this book is just so much fun. It's awesome when a sequel is even better than the original, and I'm hoping this means we'll not only see a trilogy, but that the third book will be the best book of all. If you enjoy humor with your young adult urban fantasy, this is a series that's not to be missed.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
P.S. Waffles make an appearance on page 50. Just in case you were wondering.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)