Yeah, yeah, it's a little over the top in parts, but who cares? :D Yum
I don't give many 5 star reviews, but this one is definitely a 5 star book for me. While I liked Mortal Instruments, I wasn't as rabid a fan as I know many people are, so I read Clockwork Angel out of curiosity more than anything else...and I'm so glad I did!
This book is spectacular, with everything I'd wanted in the TMI series and more. The magic and mysteries are compelling and Victorian London is a fantastic backdrop to this steampunk tale about a girl who discovers she has incredible powers...and an incredible past. Tessa is a vibrant, fascinating heroine and all the secondary characters, including Will and Jem and Charlotte, are engaging and sympathetic. I thought this book was much more mature than the TMI series, so I'm very much looking forward to reading the next two Infernal Devices installments. I *loved* the clockwork army and the clever way Tessa learns to use her powers to overcome her enemies.
Jem is really great, but I LOVE Will. I have theories about his deep, dark secret...and I think he's being cruel to Tessa for a very good reason. Can't wait for Clockwork Prince!...more
4.5 stars This gorgeous, poignant retelling of The Phantom of the Opera has shudder-inducing moments, wistful romance, and protagonists who care deepl4.5 stars This gorgeous, poignant retelling of The Phantom of the Opera has shudder-inducing moments, wistful romance, and protagonists who care deeply about things other than themselves. AND diverse characters and class division and the most beautiful cover I've seen yet this year.
Recommended for fans of Cruel Beauty, The Winner's Curse, and other such dreamy but serious stories featuring forbidden love and atypical YA heroines.
4.5 stars When a book arrives with a massive amount of fanfarRead our hilarious and informative interview with Buruu! THERE ARE MORE ARASHITORA. Ahem.
4.5 stars When a book arrives with a massive amount of fanfare, in the form of glowing advance praise and accompanied an agreebly affable author, it's necessary to take a step away from all the hype to ensure that a review isn't influenced by outside factors. Which I did--I avoided reviews, fled the country (okay, that wasn't just to read this book), and read it away from much of the joyful noise that surrounded the book's release.
After the promise presented by the author's description of the story as "telepathic samurai girls and griffins in steampunk feudal Japan," I'm happy to find that this particular novel proved to be an exciting and memorable a reading experience.Stormdancer is nearly operatic in its scope and grandeur, and young Yukiko's reluctant quest to find a supposedly extinct griffin--and her subsequent relationship with the fierce, noble beast--is both thrilling and moving.
The thing is, the reasons why this book is so fantastic are partly why I also had trouble with its beginning. The writing is beautiful, with strong world-building and a meticulous attention to detail that left me slack-jawed with awe at times. But there is far too much description in the first 100 pages or so, where the story plods along very slowly, weighed down with ornate descriptors and exhaustive detail. Reshaping the opening chapters and weaving the history and world of Shima into the narrative more seamlessly would have helped tremendously with tension and pacing.
There is a sincerity and purity in this prose, however, that I very much appreciated. Nowhere did I get the sense that the author was trying to flaunt showy words or to distract the reader with "purple prose" sleight of hand. Rather, it seemed to me that words just poured out in an intensely focused, if seemingly endless, stream in an earnest attempt to make us thoroughly understand this devastated society that Yukiko lives in. It's true that isn't until the thunder tiger Buruu puts in an appearance that the spark of imagination really catches fire. But oh, what a fire it is! The magnificent aerial battle as twenty men strain to contain this furious legendary creature is unforgettable--and Yuki's relationship with Buruu is definitely the strongest and most appealing facet of this book for me. It's impossible not to be touched when the proud, crippled arashitora says succinctly, FEATHERS GROW BACK. SISTERS DO NOT.
Other things I loved: the action and fight sequences. Chainsaw katanas. The scenes in which Buruu's humor peeked through. The dangerous politics of an empire controlled by ambitious and ruthless men. The (quite topical) cry of mercy for a dying land.
I do wish that I felt more for the somewhat under-nuanced secondary characters, however, and that the romance in particular felt more urgent and anguished and real. I've also seen, in passing, a number of reviews that have touched on inaccuracies in Japanese culture and customs. It seems perfectly reasonable and understandable to me that specific knowledge will influence a reader's review of this book; I am mostly and somewhat blissfully unschooled in that area, however, so I found nothing in particular that bothered me. I also tend to look on fantasy with a more lenient eye (true story: there weren't griffins in feudal Japan, either!), similar to the way I might indulgently overlook broad caricatures in martial arts films and the like--but it's fair to say that those who are intimately familiar with Japan may well find more sticking points than I did. Still, it seems worth noting that this is Shima, a place inspired by Japan, not the actual country.
This isn't a book that all readers will enjoy and it's certainly not a perfect one, but for many fans of traditional fantasy--or even occasional fantasy readers like me--this wildly imaginative adventure is lightning that strikes in just the right place. Remember the name Jay Kristoff, because this spectacular debut blazes a fiery trail across oft cloud-laden skies. I for one, cannot wait to be swept away with the next installment of the Lotus War. And I may even get to ride a thunder tiger next time...
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
4.5 stars This book defies every just about every red flag that pops up in YA literature. Are you cautious when trying out a brand new author? Do you4.5 stars This book defies every just about every red flag that pops up in YA literature. Are you cautious when trying out a brand new author? Do you sometimes wince when girls behave in classic "mean girl" fashion towards each other? Do you get sick of brand names being dropped into casual conversation? Well, you'll find all of that and more in Shirley Marr's debut novel. And the funny thing is, because it's in the hands of a gifted author, it all works. Beautifully.
Within minutes of meeting Eliza Boans, you quickly realize that she's a spoiled, murderous brat. She's a privileged teenager living in the exclusive community of East Rivermoor, and she's just confessed to a heinous crime in an interrogation room--but exhibits not a single shred of remorse. She's far more concerned about returning to her pampered life in which she rules the roost of girls at her school, and where her absent mother indulges her with every luxury item she could possibly think of. Eliza is someone who could easily get away with murder...except that the story isn't quite that simple.
Told in darkly humorous flashbacks as Eliza alternately charms her interrogator and frustrates him with evasions and half-truths, Fury is a fast-moving mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out why a young girl, even one with such an outwardly confident attitude, would defiantly take on such a serious charge. Fury is also a brilliant character study of a girl who has everything going for her on the surface, but whose arch, careless demeanor and sarcastic observations hide an enormously complicated history and hidden emotion.
I loved the fierce friendships--as well as the fierce rivalry--between Eliza and her friends. I loved the crack in Eliza's armor when it comes to her friend Nick. I loved the many, many nods to Jane Austen. And above all, I loved the incomparable Eliza, who makes no apologies for her life or her attitude. Even when you discover the secrets seething beneath the glamorous surface of her life, she wastes no time on pity for herself. Nor for anyone else who doesn't deserve it.
This is a smart, superbly well-written book that strikes the perfect tone in balancing serious subjects with dark humor and a near-perfect teen narrative. It's a much better interpretation of the myth of the Greek Furies than Elizabeth Miles' Fury, which also featured teenagers being punished for bad behavior, but that book doesn't even come close to this one in terms of plotting, character development, humor, and emotion. It proves the point that a well-plotted story with depth can surpass all misgivings and shine brightly among all the other paranormal YA books with a beauty all its own.
I do wish there was a little more time with the characters after everything had been revealed, though you could chalk up some of that to the fact that I just didn't want this book to end. It's rare that a debut novel can knock your socks off like this--but anyone who spends time with Eliza will never forget her.
Fury is currently only available in Australia, but overseas publishers really need to snap up this author for other audiences. If you can't wait, please visit an Austrialian bookseller such as Fishpond online.
This review is spoiler-free, and safe even for those who haven't read the first two books in the series.
Forget everything you ever assumed about scienThis review is spoiler-free, and safe even for those who haven't read the first two books in the series.
Forget everything you ever assumed about science fiction novels or zombie thrillers: the Newsflesh trilogy defies all expectations. The story that began with a turbulent political campaign in a post-apocalyptic Feed escalates here as the blogger journalists from After the End of Times continue their quest to uncover the truth behind the deadly Kellis-Amberlee virus that has decimated civilization--one that is now mutating and spreading faster than ever before. The breakneck action and intrigue in Blackout is intense as a dangerous rescue mission, disease-carrying mosquitoes, zombie bears, tangled family drama, and a mysterious patient known as Subject 7B all complicate what is already hell on earth.
It's funny that my favorite zombie series actually has the least amount of zombie action in it, but Newsflesh hasn't ever been about the undead anyway--it's about the human response to it. As with The Reapers Are the Angels and Warm Bodies, this series is fascinating to me because it explores the idea of personal integrity within extreme circumstances. What would you do when the world ends? If you're Shaun and Georgia Mason, adopted siblings whose closeness forms an unbreakable team, you lead your fellow bloggers into an unrelenting search for truth--no matter what the cost. Or at least, that's how their story began. But now that the stakes are higher than they've ever been and those they love most are at risk, the focus has shifted to a very human need to hold onto the connections that matter most.
Blackout seamlessly combines medical thriller, political intrigue, and pulse-pounding action sequences with unforgettable human drama. How you feel about this series will very much depend on how you feel about the characters in general--if you love the Masons, Alaric, Becks, Mahir, and Maggie, you'll most likely have a fantastic time with Newsflesh. It doesn't mean the characters are perfect, of course; Shaun in particular is mourning a huge loss, and his reckless, desperate behavior in the second book caused a lot of criticism from a lot of readers. For me, I felt his pain so keenly, however, that his torment became mine--and I understood, too, the unconventional, defiant ways in which he grasped for some semblance of happiness as the world around him was destroyed. In books and in real life, I respond very strongly to loyalty, honesty, and the determination to do what's right. Shaun and Georgia, as well as their superbly realized supporting cast, embody those traits in a big way. Because they also are slammed with unbelievable suffering throughout these books that require a brutal amount of self-sacrifice, it isn't any wonder that I feel such fiercely protective love for them, as well as for the ideals they represent.
The author's writing gets better and better in each book, with well-researched scientific dilemmas and brilliant recaps that engage the reader without resorting to long info-dumps. Her brisk, matter-of-fact style of writing suits the story perfectly, and the sophisticated plot is exceptionally well-paced, with shifts from furious action to moments of stark stillness and contemplation handled beautifully. Whether we're getting worked up over red herrings, watching someone facing her own mortality, or respectfully acknowledging fallen comrades, the emotional pitch throughout the book felt utterly right, which is something that is very hard to pull off when there are so many ethical issues at stake.
A few random thoughts with REAL spoilers, because there's no other way to discuss them:
(view spoiler)[Subject 7B's realization of who and what she is is totally kickass. I loved how very true to her character this whole scenario was, and how believably all the cloning issues were integrated with our human need to recognize this person.
The scenes where 7B looks on the 8s made me really sad. :(
I'm so glad that one of the major plot points wasn't rescuing Georgia, because I cannot imagine any situation less likely to happen. The way she escapes and the way everyone reacts to seeing her was pitch-perfect.
I am SO happy to have Georgia back. Sheesh, I missed her so much! And it's nice to have a break from all the crazy of being in Shaun's head, hah.
I'm glad that Shaun and Georgia got to ride off into the sunset a bit, though I'm still sad for the brave, original Georgia who died in such a devastating way.
There were certainly some plot lines that I saw coming, and although I'm a little surprised that we got a HEA, obviously this didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book at all. The way it was handled felt just right. (hide spoiler)]
I don't know that I've ever read another series where the emotion it evoked was so intense--Feed left me crying so hard I could hardly see the keyboard, Deadline had me literally whimpering with pain in the middle of the night, and Blackout made me want to scream with excitement and agony and worry all at once. If you'd told me that a science fiction trilogy with zombies could be so searingly emotional or feel so incredibly personal, I'd have told you it was impossible. And I've never been happier to be proven wrong. I know most true fans of this series will race through the pages just like I did, with the same urgency and dread and excitement.
While I'm so sad that this particular story is over (although there are two more Newsflesh novellas coming this year) and I dearly wish they could all turn into zombies so this story could live on forever, I'm happy with the way the story ended. I'm sure Mira Grant's new forthcoming novels Parasitology and Symbiogenesis will be absolutely spectacular.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
P.S. For more proof of the power of Mira Grant's writing, read the alternate ending to FEED, Fed, at the bottom of the review on our blog which is ONLY safe for those who have already read the first book. Holy frak, that woman is an evil genius. ["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is the story of a boy and a girl who fall in love. Lochan and Maya are best friends who have known each other their entire lives and have helpedThis is the story of a boy and a girl who fall in love. Lochan and Maya are best friends who have known each other their entire lives and have helped each other and fiercely loved one another through the many brutally painful experiences of growing up.
The thing is, they also happen to be brother and sister, and the unholy mess of the repercussions from their choices looms over this entire story.
No one who picks up a book like this can be unaware of the potential pitfalls. It's all too easy for an author to resort to the tasteless exploitation of sticky sentiment or breathy fumblings that heighten the excitement of a taboo relationship. What you'll find instead with Forbidden is a book written with stunning insight and incredible compassion, and two characters who will absolutely break your heart.
There is very little dialogue in this novel, and the narrative alternates in chapters between Lochan and Maya's points of view. As such, the reader gets to know both of them very well and experiences in minute detail the complicated terror of their lives at home. The two of them essentially function as the parents of three younger siblings in their household, as they have no father and their alcoholic mother neglects them for weeks at a time. The relationship between 17-year-old Lochan and 16-year-old Maya, already close since they were children, changes subtly and realistically as they gradually become aware of each other as adults.
The clarity of vision and strength and selflessness of both these characters is unparalleled in any young adult book I've ever read, and the way the author draws the reader in with their relationship is astounding. The intimacy and companionship, the joy and maturity, and the self-doubt and heavy responsibilities of these two young people drawn together in a terrible situation is described with extraordinary empathy and understanding.
Without the cruelty and selfishness of similarly challenged characters in books like Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden or the confused, casual amorality of Janet Inglis' characters in the novels Darling and its follow-up Father of Lies, Forbidden intelligently and passionately explores emotions that feel desperately genuine and impossibly tragic. As the book builds unbearably to its unforgettable and devastating conclusion, the things that Lochan and Maya will sacrifice for the ideals of love and responsibility are astounding.
This is perhaps not a perfect book, but it is one that may open up a tiny crack in your armor and flood you with unexpected feeling. Whatever your pre-conceived notions about the sensitive subject of this novel, I defy anyone with a heart to experience the vibrant, pulsing emotions in this story and remain unmoved. I wept like a child--I bet you will, too.
My poor heart has never felt this way after finishing a series; I had no idea it was possible to feel such tempered happiness as well as such overwhelMy poor heart has never felt this way after finishing a series; I had no idea it was possible to feel such tempered happiness as well as such overwhelming grief for everyone involved. Many of the things I thought might happen, did--and yet it doesn't change my fierce love and admiration for the way everything unfolded.
THIS is how a love triangle should be written, in a way that preserves the honor of everyone involved. There isn't another series out there that has ever managed to handle one with such love and kindness and respect.
Ugh, that epilogue. Still sobbing uncontrollably. I don't know how to stop! My puny human heart wasn't meant to process such epic love stories.
P.S. If you're considering reading the Infernal Devices series, I wrote a real review for Clockwork Prince here, which is book #2. It contains no spoilers, even if you haven't read the first book.
"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.
3.5 stars Some amazing angel imagery and shocking scenes, though I think Mercy is the stronger book of the two. It's disappointing to have to wait so3.5 stars Some amazing angel imagery and shocking scenes, though I think Mercy is the stronger book of the two. It's disappointing to have to wait so long between installments in the US, though! All four have already been published in other countries.
This review is spoiler-free, and safe even if you haven't read the first book in this series.
In my review of last yearWin a Fragments ARCon the blog!
This review is spoiler-free, and safe even if you haven't read the first book in this series.
In my review of last year's Partials, I posted a handy check list to help readers decide whether the book was for them. If you're a fan of well-written science fiction thrillers or post-apocalyptic novels with strong heroines, this series is one you should definitely check out!
What do you need to know going into the sequel?
-- There are fantastic action sequences, full of taut suspense and emotion.
-- Survivalist enthusiasts will love it. During the first half of the book, Kira spends most of her time searching through rubble for clues to ParaGen's involvement in the devastating events that decimated human society.
-- A mysterious character named Afa, who has been wandering alone through Manhattan for 12 years since the break, could hold the key to everything Kira needs to know. If you liked the gentle, defenseless character Maury from The Reapers Are the Angels, Afa's relationship with Kira reminds me a lot of that his relationship with Temple. A few of the scenes involving Afa are among the book's most touching.
-- Improvements from the first book: the secondary characters are more defined. Less politics. Marcus is much more interesting. But romance still takes the back seat here, even more so than in the first book.
-- More of Kira's history, and the creation of the Partials, is revealed. And they are both intriguing.
-- There were some readers who complained about the pacing in Partials, and I'm afraid that it's even slower--and occasionally more sluggish--in Fragments. This is a hefty book at 564 pages, and while it's all good material, I would have preferred seeing probably 150 pages of it edited down. This would have balanced things out a bit more, and tightened up the story line in a way that sustained the tension better.
Overall, I thought this was a terrific sequel to a series I very much enjoy. My only issue was really with the length of the book, but hey--after plowing through so many disappointing sophomore efforts, I'm just grateful to have a book two that lives up to the original! And I can't wait to see how Kira's story ends when the final book is released next year.
Fun fun fun! I love Vampire Academy but I haven't been able to get into the Georgina Kincaid books as much, so it's great to find that this series isFun fun fun! I love Vampire Academy but I haven't been able to get into the Georgina Kincaid books as much, so it's great to find that this series is so entertaining. Eugenie, like all of Richelle Mead's heroines, is a kick-ass character and both Kiyo and Dorian are appealing in different ways. Some great action scenes, in both the battle field and the bedroom. Looking forward to starting Thorn Queen....more
I had a horrible sensation in my stomach only because, like, a billion things could go wrong when you try to tell a girl that her Eighties-flavoured boyfriend from a past life was trying to hook back up with her.
Preloved is the story of 16-year-old Amy Lee, a girl who lives in the fictional Australian town of Middlemore with her Chinese mother. On her school's Eighties Theme Day, she's dressed up as Buttercup from The Princess Bride and battling her love/hate relationship with her best friend Rebecca when she accidentally stumbles upon a silver locket with a picture of a boy from the 80s inside. Her life gets complicated when the boy's ghost appears and begins to haunt her--but not for the usual reasons you might expect. First of all, Logan wears his collar popped. And he's persistent. And he's annoying. But as Amy grows closer to her ghostly companion, her heart begins to yearn for the things it cannot have. Because Amy wasn't meant to pick up the locket at all...Rebecca was.
Distilling the essence of what this book is about doesn't even begin to hint at the reading experience, however. Written with fast and funny prose that is bubbling over with good humor, this is a ghost story that doesn't happen to be scary and a love story that doesn't happen to be about dating. Amy has a lot going on in her life even before Logan appears, since she feels overshadowed by nearly everyone in her life, even though she deals with it with amusing offhandedness. She describes herself as Rebecca's "short, awkward, Asian best friend. Which did have its advantages, because everyone instantly believed I was O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill, with martial arts skills." She's also trying to figure out who she is, since she doesn't quite fit in with the nerdy Asian kids at school, but also chafes at her mother's superstitious adages and old-fashioned beliefs.
While Preloved is chock-full of Shirley Marr's trademark humor and moves along at an entertaining clip, it is admittedly very different from her first novel Fury, which had a darker, more subversive edge. The plot is a little looser and more free-form as well, and the madcap zaniness of many of the scenes seem more suited to younger YA readers. There are also so many 80s pop culture references that it will be interesting to see if most 13 - 18 year olds will respond to that.
Still, adult readers will likely appreciate the flashback to a more innocent time and the trip down memory lane, and it's hard not to be won over by the author's writing style. Her sharp observations about human behavior and quick character sketches are right on target, such as when Amy observes that her nemesis Nancy "Fancy Pants" Soo is "stereotypically good at maths" and "exactly the sort my Chinese mum would love to have as a daughter. Me? Until recently, I thought an algorithm was a type of dance move."
I would love to see the author delve a little more into emotional themes in her next novel, however. There are so many flashes of deep feeling in Fury and we skate around the edges of some serious emotions in Preloved, but I'm convinced there are even more depths to be plumbed that the author hasn't shown us quite yet.
"I see you, this girl who lives inside herself, invisible to everyone, even to herself. You're hungry for your mother's touch, hungry for your missing father. You're hungry for life and you're hungry to be a proper character in your own story."
There is an appealing sweetness and sadness in Amy and in this book, and there is also an additional love story that I didn't expect--specifically, the one between Amy and her mom, which is actually my favorite part of the story. I've known a lot of Asian mothers and the loving exasperation with which Amy deals with her rings very true. What may seem a bit of an exaggerated cultural caricature isn't really exaggerated at all, nor are the occasional emotional blackmail, Amy's consciousness of her potential unladylike behavior, her expectations for her daughter, etc. It's a pleasure to see the wry closeness between the two of them, as well as how the relationship changes and develops as the two of them learn more about each other.
I thought about Mum's vintage shop. How she believed that if she found something broken and lovingly put it back together, that someone would come along and love it again.
Isn't that a lovely way to look at things? And it makes the title of the book, as well as Logan's situation, all the more poignant. Amy is a very different character than Eliza from Fury, but she too embraces what life throws at her, even if they both do a little kicking and screaming at first. When it comes to smart, flawed, memorable characters and vivacious prose, Shirley Marr's flux capacitor is totally functioning at full throttle--and I can't wait to strap in for the next ride.
This Aussie YA title is available in Australia and New Zealand, as well as through Fishpond.com. Check back with us next week, however, because Shirley Marr is stopping by our blog as part of the Preloved Blog Tour! We have an autographed copy of the book to give away as well as a beautiful prize for one of our lucky readers.
Check out my Preloved Inspiration Board on Pinterest, too! It might give you a little feel for the mood of the book.
Make Amy's Preloved Snack!
I was very intrigued when I read about a popular Australian snack that Amy likes to munch while she's watching The Princess Bride: popcorn with icing sugar! After much discussion with my GoodReads pals, especially the helpful Taneika, I decided to make a batch, except I thought it'd be fun to make the the popcorn pink and give it a little subtle flavor as well. Since Amy drinks strawberry milk in the story, it seemed like a no-brainer to make strawberry popcorn.
If you'd like to try it out yourself, download the 4 x 6 recipe card for Preloved Strawberry Powdered Sugar Popcornon our blog.
If you gently shook a snow globe, you might find that the snowflakes come down on an enchanting story much like this one. Hazel’s best friend Jack hasIf you gently shook a snow globe, you might find that the snowflakes come down on an enchanting story much like this one. Hazel’s best friend Jack has disappeared, and the quiet, scrappy fifth grader must overcome her fears—not to mention a mysterious witch and numerous other challenges—in order to save him.
This lovely story, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, unfolds slowly and beautifully. As an adult who still reads or rereads a lot of children’s books and an avid lover of fairy tales, I was very much looking forward to reading this novel. Hazel turns out to be a brave, imaginative heroine whose love of books and quiet wonder at the world made me overjoyed to find such a kindred spirit. My heart also ached in sympathy for Hazel’s puzzlement and pain over the real life problems she faces, including her adoptive parents’ divorce, her sense of being an outsider as a child of Indian descent, and Jack’s sudden coldness to her before he goes away.
The strongest and most compelling part of this book for me was how the author so seamlessly modernized this classic story. It is extremely difficult to retain the fairy tale elements of timelessness and mystery and magic while working in unforced contemporary references, but the author managed to do so with a great deal of ease and charm. Above all, the rift between Jack and Hazel, which is explained away by a cold shard of magical glass that got into his eye, works exceptionally well as a metaphor for growing up, much as it worked for the children of Narnia. The writing is just gorgeous, with wonderful descriptiveness and moments of true beauty. You can practically feel the sting of ice and the flurry of snow on your face as you read this story, and you can definitely feel Hazel’s wistfulness and longing to simply…belong. And to matter, to someone, somehow.
I am a little puzzled by the audience for whom this book is intended, however. The jacket copy lists ages 8 – 12, but the narrative really sounds more like it’s a bedtime story for adults—or perhaps one that’s meant to be read aloud to children. It doesn’t really get into Hazel’s head so much as explain to you what she’s thinking or what it might mean, as there’s a little too much exposition for the reader to be unaware of the adult who is writing it.
And while I was so thrilled with the literary references in the first half of the book, with subtle nods to everything from C.S. Lewis to Philip Pullman to J.K. Rowling, I have to confess that this eventually became a little distracting to me because there were so many of them. I appreciate that Hazel is a voracious reader, and the reader in me rejoiced to be reminded of so many beloved classics, but even with the knowledge that books are her windows to understanding the world, it all became a little too much. The writing is so strong, the images so evocative, and Hazel so thoroughly winning that I didn’t feel as though it was necessary to spend so much time focusing on other books. Some of the fairy tale elements that Hazel encounters later in the forest did interest me quite a bit, especially considering their dreamlike quality, but again, I think this would have been a perfectly strong book on its own--with its own mythology and its own unique feel—without relying so heavily on other people’s stories.
The ending also feels very rushed and rather underdeveloped, in both story and emotional satisfaction. Overall I found that the first two-thirds of the book, as readers get to know Hazel and her quirks and her insecurities, is much more compelling than the last act, when things finally get moving with the big rescue. For while the idea of a child being so immersed in stories is certainly a bewitching one, at some point that child must step out of that fairyland in some way in order for this to be a true story of personal growth.
Still, this is an exquisite book in many ways, and one well worth reading. (Certainly more so than the other recent YA nods to The Snow Queen story, Stork and Frost.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see this as an awards contender when all is said and done, and the book will no doubt deserve it on the strength of its writing and its premise alone. I do wish, however, that this fairy tale had trusted in its own merits—and those of its valiant little heroine—a little more. It could so easily have been something more than merely a charming and well-written homage.
Short, simple, and sweet--with lots of talk of ice cream and candy! Also interesting to see attitudes of the time re: immigrants, and I always enjoy eShort, simple, and sweet--with lots of talk of ice cream and candy! Also interesting to see attitudes of the time re: immigrants, and I always enjoy everyday stories with this type of grounded, comfortable setting. ...more
What if you were an angel in exile...but you had no memory of why you'd fallen?
Mercy is a fallen angel who repeatedly wakes up in a new body followingWhat if you were an angel in exile...but you had no memory of why you'd fallen?
Mercy is a fallen angel who repeatedly wakes up in a new body following each time she's helped someone through a personal crisis. She doesn't know why she's doomed to this existence, only that she must somehow try to better that person's life while she's there.
This time, however, she wakes up as a foster child of a deeply troubled family, whose 18-year-old daughter Lauren has been missing for two years. The mystery unfolds slowly as Mercy and Ryan, the missing girl's twin brother, follow various clues and interview different people who might know more than they volunteer about Lauren's disappearance.
The blend of suspense, romance, and the supernatural come together beautifully in this first book of a quietly dazzling new series. Mercy's powers are extraordinary, but as a girl who is drawn to the human boy she's trying to help and who is struggling with her own issues, she's also an extremely relatable and likable character. Complicating matters are her dreams of her lost love, an angel who yearns for Mercy but warns her that taking action in this particular lifetime will mean that they will never again come together.
Mercy also contains lovely imagery of music and song, and even if readers are able to guess the identity of perpetrator towards the end, they'll still enjoy the well-written story, compelling characters, and complicated connections drawn by this talented Australian author. The book wraps up the mystery of Lauren's disappearance in a satisfying way, even as it jolts readers with the painful recognition that Mercy must now leave the boy she's beginning to care for. Fortunately, the sequel Exile is expected to come out in June of this year, with Muse to follow in 2012.
Like Unearthly and Angel , this is a book that isn't content to merely use the mythology of angels as a backdrop for shallow high school melodrama or cruel, controlling relationships; instead, it's a beautiful allegory for the power of love and faith wrapped up in a dark and engrossing mystery.
I hardly ever read straightforward fantasy, but every once in awhile a book comes along that blows right past all my usual objections to become a newI hardly ever read straightforward fantasy, but every once in awhile a book comes along that blows right past all my usual objections to become a new favorite. As gently but strongly as a wisp of incense, Eon beckoned until I was completely in the thrall of its magic, and I hate to think how sad my life would be if didn't have this vividly imaginative novel in it.
For years, 16-year-old Eon has been training to be a Dragoneye apprentice, a coveted position in which the student serves as the conduit between energy dragons and the human world. Eon's whole way of life is cloaked in secrecy and danger, however, because Eon is actually Eona--a girl forced by necessity to live her life as a boy. If her secret were discovered, her life would be danger, as well as the lives of those around her. To make impossible odds even more impossible, Eona is also crippled, so the deck is very much stacked against her. But on the day the apprentices are chosen, it is revealed that Eona has the unusual ability of seeing all the energy dragons, not just one--and she is chosen by the powerful Mirror Dragon, a being that has not been seen in hundreds of years.
There are gorgeous dragons and epic sword battles, all against the backdrop of an incredible setting that takes its influences from a blend of Japanese and Chinese cultures, but is still a unique world of its own. I really like the idea of stories with girls disguised as boys, and though the concept is certainly nothing new, it's definitely not something we see too much in young adult literature. What makes this an exceptional book is the intricate tapestry of characters and themes that are deftly woven together, as well richly textured and evocative writing. You can practically hear the whisper of heavy silk robes and see the glow of majestic dragons as you read this book, and every night when I closed my eyes, I kept thinking about the creak of wooden wagons and the clang of swords that I'd read about that day.
You are wrong when you say there is no power in being a woman. When I think of my mother and the women in my tribe, and the hidden women in the harem, I know there are many types of power in this world...I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way.
For me, the book's greatest strength is its depiction of gender and the roles that women play in a parochial society. This is definitely a novel for mature young adult fans because of the situations and themes explored with transgendered characters, eunuchs, forced intimacy, and physical assault. I found it fascinating that the author chose to write a book focusing on a world where power is forbidden to women, and my favorite character was the indelible Lady Dela, Eona's "contraire" mentor who is a man living as a woman...who is in love with a noble eunuch. I mean, really! Who could fail to be intrigued by such a scenario? And who could fail to admire the gutsiness of a YA author in exploring such impossible loves?
The book is by no means perfect, however. Eon has a problem connecting with her dragon, and as soon as the problem was presented, I knew immediately--as I suspect most readers will--what the issue was. So it was frustrating to watch her further sabotage herself for several hundred pages before she finally realizes what the solution is near the end. (view spoiler)[Just say no, Eona! (hide spoiler)] I also wasn't crazy about the fact that one of the most interesting things about Eona's character is just...negated, in a very fairy tale sort of way when (view spoiler)[Eona's lameness is suddenly and conveniently cured in the climax of the story. (hide spoiler)] I mourned the loss of that trait, because it unnecessarily removes an obstacle she had already proven she was able to overcome.
As frustrating as the novel occasionally became--and it is admittedly very slow in the middle--I really, really liked this one. It's so uncommon to find a book with such an engaging fantasy story and an intriguing heroine, let alone one that also seamlessly blends magic, a historical feel, and thought-provoking themes. And the fact that this also happens to be a YA novel means that it's a very rare animal indeed. I'd strongly recommend picking up Eon if you find the synopsis even remotely appealing; I think most readers will be just as enthralled as I was.
Believe it or not, as much as I liked Eon, I loved the sequel Eona! And yes, yes, I will attempt to put my thoughts down on paper at some point. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more