3.5 stars I'd love to hang out with Katla LeBlanc. She's just moved from LA to frozen Minnesota, where the fashion scene is non-existent and the weird...more3.5 stars I'd love to hang out with Katla LeBlanc. She's just moved from LA to frozen Minnesota, where the fashion scene is non-existent and the weirdly wonderful ladies of the Icelandic Stork Society insist that she is destined to be part of their mysterious clan. I absolutely love Kat's voice, which is smart and funny and made me laugh out loud several times. It's such a nice change when there's humor in YA paranormal novels and I think the author shows a lot of promise in possibly becoming another Rachel Hawkins or Lish McBride.
I really enjoyed learning about Icelandic customs and the author makes the frozen midwest sound absolutely beautiful. What I did find a little confusing, however, are the paranormal aspects of the book. The beginning induction scene is very cool, but there's not much that's done with Katla's gift after that in this particular book. After a strong start, the story goes off the path and focuses primarily on how she's fitting in at her new school, which involves drama with her onetime hook-up Wade, as well as the confusing signals she's getting from the attractive but standoffish Jack.
The basis of this gift Katla has is also just plain weird. This story is loosely based on Norse mythology and inspired by some elements of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, though the author really has created her own unique mythology. Kat has the responsibility of deciding who gets pregnant in her small town, and there are four possible candidates whose futures she touches in her dreams. It's such an intriguing but strange concept for a YA novel, and since that plot line doesn't really get tied up in this first book, I'm not really sure where the author is going with this idea.
I liked that Katla is a flawed but sympathetic protagonist, however. She's a good friend and has a great, though believably conflicted, relationship with both of her divorced parents. I also really liked Katla (I keep wanting to type Katsa here) and Jack together--they are adorably cute as a couple, which is a good thing since so much time is spent on them. I will say that it always makes me uneasy when there's such a "I'm meant to be with you forever" feel in teen relationships, but I'm willing to accept it here since it's part of the mythology of what's going on.
This is a pretty quick and entertaining read, despite the regrettably cartoony showdown at the end of the book that doesn't really seem to fit in with the rest of it. To make the series really great, however, the author will need to develop the paranormal parts more fully in the next installment Frost. I hope the brand name dropping is toned down a bit, too; I really hate this trend in YA, and while I was more okay with it here because of Katla's interest in fashion, after awhile it still grated on my nerves to read about her endless array of designer clothes and accessories. Some authors may need to rely on that to add texture and interest to their books, but this one doesn't.
Still, I like Katla quite a lot and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story will take her next.(less)
Lovely, lyrical, and achingly sad. Shiver is more introspective than most YA books and is sometimes criticized for being too slow or wordy, but I foun...moreLovely, lyrical, and achingly sad. Shiver is more introspective than most YA books and is sometimes criticized for being too slow or wordy, but I found it to be beautifully written, tragic, and a gorgeous take on werewolf lore. Sam's desperate struggle to hold onto his humanity is incredibly poignant, and his heartrending relationship with Grace is deeply emotional and sweet. It's a book that makes me cry every time I read it.
Sam cupped my face in his hands and looked me in the eyes. His eyes were yellow, sad, wolf, mine.
"These stay the same. Remember that when you look at me. Remember it's me. Please."
PS--this book is NOTHING like Twilight, despite the inevitable comparisons because of the subject matter. It's in a class all its own.(less)
4.5 out of 5 stars Finally, a well-written angel series! Clara's physical appearance, the wings, the flying, the "glory"--make angels sound impossibly...more4.5 out of 5 stars Finally, a well-written angel series! Clara's physical appearance, the wings, the flying, the "glory"--make angels sound impossibly beautiful. The descriptions are so well done that you can really picture and feel what it would like to be in the presence of one. The supernatural aspects are well-balanced by a solid grounding in Clara's day to day life as a teenager with excellent descriptions of school projects, relationships with her friends and her brother, and especially her conflicted relationship with her extraordinary mother.
The characters are well-developed and there's terrific courtship that is blessedly normal and crazy appealing. I appreciate the unusual choice to wait until much later in the book to get things really started on the dating front, as you've already gotten to know Clara pretty well by this point *and* it's in the right context of her life. Important and fulfilling for sure, but not the be-all and end-all of her life, as so often happens in YA books. Once it comes, however, it's very sweet and very convincing.
I did find the beginning of the book a little disjointed, and there were a few sections that could have used smoother transitions, but overall it's really terrific. It's easy to understand Clara's conflict and it's easy to like Clara, who has unearthly perfections but who is also just trying to find her way in life. An excellent start to a what should be an excellent series.
**Our Cynthia Hand Interview, where she addresses many of the questions that arise from this series is here and here. Enjoy!**
There aren't words enoug...more**Our Cynthia Hand Interview, where she addresses many of the questions that arise from this series is here and here. Enjoy!**
There aren't words enough to express how gorgeous this book is. Fans of the Unearthly who might have worried whether Cynthia Hand could deliver a second installment that would do justice to the story need worry no longer. This sequel lives up to and exceeds every expectation I had for it, and I only wish I could hand this book to every single would-be author who is even considering writing a YA paranormal romance. Because this is the template for what every teen romance/sophomore/angel book should aspire to be.
As the story opens, Clara is still recovering from the fire in which she went against her "purpose" as a part-angel in order to follow her heart. Her brother Jeffrey is still acting strange, Angela is helping Clara to test her powers, and eventually, we are introduced to an important congregation of angels and learn more about their purpose on earth. Best of all, we get some fabulous time with Tucker as he and Clara further enjoy what has to be one of the sweetest and truest young adult romances ever put to page. I could not stop smiling as I was reading the story, because their relationship is just so warm and happy and perfect. I love that, in the middle of all of Clara's bigger-than-life abilities and problems, she and Tucker still have such an amazing time together doing such blessedly normal and human things.
We all knew what was coming next, though, right? Christian was such an attractive enigma throughout so much of the first book that I was really hoping we'd get to know him better in this one. And while I dreaded the thought of this turning into a horrible love triangle situation that would devastate everyone while dishonoring them as well, I hoped against hope that the author would handle this tricky situation with as much honesty and grace as possible. And boy, did she ever come through. I am a huge fan of Tucker's, but Cynthia Hand somehow does the impossible and shows us how the flicker of friendship between Christian and Clara grows incrementally stronger everyday. By the end of the book, he has shown himself to be a rock-steady, understanding, and fun presence in Clara's life (view spoiler)[not to mention an incredibly hot one :D (hide spoiler)], and it's pretty near impossible not to fall in love with him in a pretty deep and meaningful way as well.
This book made me so very happy in so many ways, and there are unbelievably beautiful angel moments in it, with descriptions of gorgeous feathered wings, flying, and luminous "glory" that are just marvelous. I've always appreciated the wry honesty and warmth with which the relationship between Clara and her mother was written, and here we discover so much more about her as a mother, as an angel, and as a person in a way that is incredibly touching. Clara learns a great deal about her family and about herself in this novel, and her deepening strength and maturity combined with her funny, sensitive narrative only made me love her further. I also enjoyed the distinctly outdoorsy feel of the mountains in this book, the presence of many of the adults, and the nuanced portrayal of the bad guy, as well as the thoughtfully considered mentions of angel lore, religion, and references to Paradise Lost. Oh--and big, big bonus points for a prom scene that didn't make me want to do violence!
But this book also broke my heart in more ways than one. There is an exquisite tenderness to this story that I never could have imagined, and while I think some elements of it may upset some fans, I hope readers will go into it with an open mind and an open heart. I had many theories and opinions and hopes going into it, and I can honestly say that coming out of it, all of that has changed--and I am firmly convinced that it is for the better. I am tremendously moved and inspired by this story, and it's a testament to Cynthia Hand's pitch-perfect writing that we are so gently eased into new realizations and growth in a way that feels so right and so emotionally true.
My heart was aching when I turned the last page. But it was also overflowing with love and deep appreciation for the splendid journey that I didn't even know I wanted to go on. After reading a second fantastic YA book from this author, I have absolute faith in Cynthia Hand, and I am so looking forward to seeing where she will take us next.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
P.S. I am dying to discuss the specifics of what happens in this book in the comments below, so please, tell me what you think of where this story went in spoiler tags! I can't keep this to myself any longer. Please be aware that the spoilers tagged in the comments are REAL, so please don't click if you haven't read the book yet! But the spoilers in the review are all in good fun, and safe to click. ;)
Also, a spoiler for people who were worried about Midas the horse in the last book: (view spoiler)[They're still looking for him in the beginning of this one. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
My favorite of the Little House books from start to finish, but especially the chapter where Ma and Pa go a...moreMy annual re-read, this time with Heidi! :)
My favorite of the Little House books from start to finish, but especially the chapter where Ma and Pa go away for a week and the house falls into disarray as the children eat cake, slice watermelon, blacken the parlor wall, and most importantly, use up all the sugar making ice cream. Still no other author has ever captured the life of pioneers in quite this way, and the good eats will make your mouth water!(less)
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 has...moreIf 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.
It's a tricky situation when you're really looking forward to reading a book and it ends up being a disappointment. I normally post my reviews fairly...moreIt's a tricky situation when you're really looking forward to reading a book and it ends up being a disappointment. I normally post my reviews fairly quickly after reading, but I put off writing this one for some time because I was so conflicted over my feelings.
The thing is, I really enjoyed Stork, the first book in this series, for several reasons: the strikingly original paranormal concept of a girl who is destined to be part of a mystical order of women, the fresh and funny voice, the cute relationship between Katla and Jack, and the bits of Icelandic lore. I thought that the paranormal stuff could have been more fleshed out, however, and I was hoping that this second installment would more fully explain what Katla's duties and powers actually are and we'd get a little more immersed in the mysterious Stork society.
But that's not the case. The story goes off onto a different adventure, most of which involves how Katla deals with Jack and his new obsession with learning about his power, which made a bizarre appearance towards the end of the previous novel. So all the things I enjoyed about the first book go out the window pretty fast, particularly the Stork ladies (this storyline is half-heartedly revisited, but quickly abandoned) and the relationship between Jack and Kat. There's now a giant wedge between them in the shape of a Professor Brigid Fonnkona, an icy environmental researcher who is determined to take him to Greenland. Frost is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, so those familiar with the tale will have an inkling of how those elements take shape in the modern version.
What would have been impossible to predict, however, are all the subplots that kept piling on in this book. Something weird is going on with Katla's afi. The kids are doing a musical version of The Snow Queen at school. Kat's mom is pregnant. Her dad is around, but...extraneous. Her friends are fighting. Hulda is sick. Kat may or may not be seeing ghosts. Dorit has been kicked out of the society and has disappeared. There are so many new people and new plots to assimilate, and none of the old ones were at all adequately explained. It seems as though most of these problems could have been fixed during the outlining process, so I am very surprised that they were not.
After awhile, I realized that I was never going to get the answers to my questions from the first book and I probably would never get answers to the new ones popping up. Because frankly, I'm not sure that there is an overall plan figured out for these characters, either. While there were occasional moments towards the beginning that recalled what I enjoyed about the first book (Yule Cat, Santa, Pig-Pen), overall reading this book and watching the story line derail was an extremely frustrating process.
I wouldn't rule out checking out another one of this author's books sometime down the road because I do like her voice, but it will be with an extremely guarded and wary eye. I was really sad when I closed this book 10 days ago, and I'm still sad that the promise of the series' premise will apparently never be fulfilled.