The prison Incarceron reminds me a lot of HAL, the space ship's board computer of Kubrick's "Space Odyssey": Both are fitted out with artificial intel...moreThe prison Incarceron reminds me a lot of HAL, the space ship's board computer of Kubrick's "Space Odyssey": Both are fitted out with artificial intelligence and go rogue.
Incarceron takes place in the future. 160 years ago a king decided that cutting off mankind from its strive after one technological improvement after the next would end greed, war and the slow crumbling of society. So he forbid time and progress and switched everything back to an era long passed: An age, when people traveled on horseback and did without electricity. But the same new old era also contains computer generated old-looking trees and fake spiderwebs - and rich people have found ways to hide electric cables in the staff rooms and lush bathrooms behind secret panels. Following the so-called "Protocol" completely is only obligatory if you are lower class.
A second step towards a violence and crime-free world was the construction of the self-regulating, autonomous prison Incarceron, where all criminal, dangerous, politically extreme and mentally ill people were sent off to - together with 70 volunteers to guard them. The fact that after closing the doors nobody could enter and nobody could leave played into the hands of Incarceron itself: Nobody could hinder it to turn the planned paradise into a hell serving it's own strange taste in amusement. Not even the learned volunteers.
In the real world nobody knows about the unpleasant development of the former experiment. Nobody but the Warden, who has got the only key to the prison.
The story follows Claudia, the present Warden's daughter, who has been promised to the unfit Crown Prince to be his future bride, on the "Outside" and gang member Finn, who woke up inside the prison at the age of fifteen without a proper memory, on the "Inside". He claims not to be one of the prison's recycled products, but to be imported from the real world - where he wants to return to.
Also lined up are a handful of interesting side-characters including Claudia's tutor Jared, the ice-cold and scheming Warden and the evil Queen on the one side, and Keiro, Finn's oathbrother and two other travel-mates (Gildas and Attia) on the other side.
The story kept my attention all of the time. I liked Finn a lot and Claudia a little less. In fact, she was sometimes quite annoying, which can be explained by her upbringing as the next puppet on the throne. But I always wanted to know what happened next - even to her.
The plot ends with a cliff-hanger. But the sequel Sapphique is already available.(less)
The slow-start story around sixteen-year-old Dana, who flees the move-around life with her alcoholic mom in the States to live with her fae father in...moreThe slow-start story around sixteen-year-old Dana, who flees the move-around life with her alcoholic mom in the States to live with her fae father in Avalon, a neutral mountain state between the human world and Faerie, physically situated in Great Britain, picks up around the middle of the book, when Ethan, a panty-collecting member of the Unseelie Court, who tries to woo Dana in order to pull the Faeriewalker on the side of his house, temporaily disappears out of the picture. That Dana is something special gets clear rather early. Why else would be everybody fae - both Seelie and Unseelie - be that interested in getting their paws on the naive, but self-reliant, boyish girl? As she is explained, is is quite rare, that offspring of a fae - who conceive only once in a while anyway - and a human develop traits of both races and are able to survive in both worlds. The possibilities of the faeriewalking-power - and some secret extra-stuff that Dana discovers on the way - are only hinted at during the plot and will be tried out in the second installment of the series, Shadowspell. Also introductions to the Queens Mab and Titania are still on forthcoming, which makes me - contrary to earlier assumptions - consider to put the sequel on my read-it-if-dropped-into-your-lap-wishlist. The plot is a not quite balanced mixture of problem-oriented YA, which focusses on a kid no longer able to cope with her mom's alcoholism on her own anymore, a kidnapping-thriller and urban romantasy, including a budding BFF-relationship and possible triangle-thing, which I glady would chop into something less-angled: Although some life-saving business lets see sexy-slimy Ethan in a less jerk-like light and helps setting off Dana's sexually inexperienced and self-concious personality, his "come-sit-in-my-lap-I'll-keep-you-warm"-methods burn away all brownie-points he might have tried to collect. Cry and grovel, when Dana's powers have surpassed your own, faerie-boy! I have the feeling you are only created to make other possible love interests not look so prominent. The beginning of the book was rather 2-stars in my opinion, but one the whole I can say I did not mind reading the rest and liked it. So, 3 stars it is, which seems to be my usual fairy-story-rating with a few exceptions.(less)
I liked it overall. But I was also a bit disappointed because of the high praise which had pushed my expectations pretty far. Maybe the excellent dyst...moreI liked it overall. But I was also a bit disappointed because of the high praise which had pushed my expectations pretty far. Maybe the excellent dystopian young adult fiction (i.e. Hunger Games) of the recent past has spoiled me.
Points against a four-star-rating: There were a lot of things essential to the story which lacked a proper explanation or seemed random. The dystopian setting was not painted detailed enough for my taste. The characters began to interest me when I was about halfway into the book.
I think I will read the sequel (I am pretty, pretty sure there will be one, considerung the ciffhanger ending), but waiting for the softcover won't be a problem for me.(less)
I had read the first 20 chapters for the first time from July 22nd to July 24th in 2010. I liked it then, but I liked it even better the second time a...moreI had read the first 20 chapters for the first time from July 22nd to July 24th in 2010. I liked it then, but I liked it even better the second time around, when the story enfolded its wings in its whole glory.(less)
Mermaids are my favorite creatures – always have been. Consequently I notice with glee all those merfolk novels that lately have started popping up le...moreMermaids are my favorite creatures – always have been. Consequently I notice with glee all those merfolk novels that lately have started popping up left and right. And I am very, very grateful to Hartcourt and to Netagalley for accepting my request for a review copy.
Mermaids and other humanoid water-breathers can be tackled from completely opposite angles, because there is always a mystery around them: the "We-above-the-waterline-cannot-know-for-sure-factor". Thus opposed to vampires (getting sucked dry can only end badly) and other monsters they can be pictured as cutish and harmless glitter-girls living in pink mother-of-pearl cities, but there are also selkies, who are not to lose their seal skins, and legions of inhumanly beautiful and alluring, but cruel, calculating, heartless and cold-blooded hunters - out to mesmerize the male two-legger. Face it, the majority of the European legends and fairytales does not present us with with wavy redheads singing happily along with the starfish chorus, but with death-bringing voices luring Orpheus into dangerous waters (Homer), hairy Lorelai distracting seafarers by shaking her booty on her wood-splitting rock (Brentano and others), clever waternixies persuading millers' sons to accompany them underwater and sending them back completely spaced out and clueless three generations later (Grimm’s), fairy-like undines tricking men into getting them pregnant and thus gaining a soul (de la Motte) and – certainly – unhappy fishgirls who give their voices and their lives for a futile shot at gaining the heart of a rich jerk (Andersen).
Sarah Porter grabbed the siren-theme from the Odyssey, recreated the unforgiving and bleak atmosphere of the European seas by moving the setting to even colder Alaska, cooked up a plausible reason for women to use their enchanted voices deathbringingly and wove a modern retelling for a young adult audience from the strings:
Girls of all ages who die from being abused or reach the point when stomaching more abuse and violence simply isn't possible anymore, turn into magical creatures with superhuman strength, sea-serpent-like glittery tails, angelic, persuasive voices and perfect faces (picture Luce as Alice Cullen with a tail) – if they are coincidentally in the vincinity of any source of water. Being disappointed from mankind and enraged for having been mistreated during their childhoods allows their bloodthirsty enchanted voices, who have a mind of their own, a good leverage. The girls find a home within one of the matriarchic mermaid communities, but spend their days dreaming of wrecking the next ship, of enthralling helpless sailors and tourists until they kill themselves joyfully.
Luce (Lucette) is different. It becomes clear quickly, that her voice is unusually powerful, but more important is Luce's attitude toward her "killer voice". Luce's experience with abusive adults didn't last as long as that of many of her tribemates. After her father’s death – at sea - she had only spent about a year with her alcoholic uncle - who had beaten her often, but had tried to rape her just that one time when she decided to jump. Even the lack of friends didn't matter so much to her during her nomadic life with her thieving father, since she had always felt loved and treasured by him. In contrast to the other mermaids Luce does not condemn humanity as a whole. She still can distinguish between good humans, bad humans and indifferent ones. And – at the latest when manipulating newcomer Anais arrives, who did not really have a reason to become a mermaid and sets a wave of envy and back-stabbing into motion - she comes to the conclusion that her fellow mermaids' souls do not really differ from the humans’ they all hate with abandon and that without their orally transmitted code of behavior everybody would be at each others throats.
In the beginning Luce starts to "tame" her enraged, beautiful voice, gradually steering it to alternative uses, because she wants to shed her crave to kill with it. Later she notices that working with her voice also hones her singing skills as such. Her bottomless admiration for Russian Catarina, the tribe's ruling queen, secret code breaker and star singer, whose friendship she desperately seeks to win, hinders her from being open about her vocal experiments – until it is to late and the bullies' trap is asbout to snap.
Luce is – like Catarina and the orphaned sisters Violet and Dana, too – a strange and unfathomable character. Sometimes she is samarithian on the border to Sainthood, sometimes unreasonable fangirlish or naive, seeking approval and praise at all costs. When she has a real chance at acquiring a friend in depressive Miriam, she blows it without giving the possibility a thought. What puzzled me immensely was her quick acceptance of the so-called Larvaes’ fate: Larvae are abused infants who turned mermaids – and certainly do not age. If not for the code the older mermaids would ruthlessly kill the helpless, clingy babies, who end up in the orcas' jaws most of the time. Luce undertakes only one feelble attempt at saving a Larvae, before she capitulates. They could have easily fenced them in I thought angrily.
Sarah Porter's writing is beautiful, the setting well defined and easy to visualize, the story a little springy and frayed with a little too much stress on bullying and mean girl stereotypes. It also does not please me that the end was a complete hanger that even lacked a proper cliff.
Personally I like stories that do not avoid problems, but play a hopeful tune and end on a promising if not cheerful note. If you are into dark and evil modern fairytale retellings, which do not magic away the gritty and dirty parts like, for example, Sisters Red (Little Red Riding Hood) by Jackson Pearce or A Curse Dark as Gold (Rumpelstiltskin) by Elizabeth Bunce and you do not mind the complete absence of romance, "Lost Voices" might be just the thing for you. It is definitely an interesting addition the available selection of mermaid fiction.
A note to the cover designer: The cover is outstanding, but the tail is supposed to be much longer! (less)
4.5 stars. I hope I'll take the time to elaborate later. It was a great, thrilling story with some great and lovable characters, but it had some unnec...more4.5 stars. I hope I'll take the time to elaborate later. It was a great, thrilling story with some great and lovable characters, but it had some unnecessary lengths and some points that bugged me.
And when I compare it to Brenna Yovanoff's The Replacement, which I have rated four stars going on five as well, I have to say that I think although the romance is done better in Nevermore, the writing style / language is more beautiful / better crafted in The Replacement and also the scenes and the characters of the horror parts where eerier, more unsettling, in my opinion more imaginable, vivid. I found myself repeatedly skipping passages in Nevermore - partly driven by the urge to know what would happen, partly because they failed to install the pictures quickly enough in my head. I think if a scene description is truly well done, it keeps you glued to each and every word regardless of the danger lying ahead.
And ... I do not mind hints at sequels and some unresolved aspects, but I do not like having only half a story in my hands. Some solution should be given. That's my opinion.(less)
""I was matched with the Jaydens, who put in a very strong bid: full college tuition, a Volkswagen Plug, and a postpartum tummy trim. […] It’s hard to...more""I was matched with the Jaydens, who put in a very strong bid: full college tuition, a Volkswagen Plug, and a postpartum tummy trim. […] It’s hard to believe now, but this was a pretty radical decision at the time. Though popular in major cities on the coasts, going pro was still kind of a down-market thing to do in the suburbs, and at my school in particular. All preggers at Princeton Day Academy were amateurs, most of whom put deliveries up for nonprofit adoptions."" Bumped has been unexpected fun. But intelligent, believable and thought-raising fun. Its society reminded me tremendously of present-day Germany. Rest assured: We have not yet fallen victim to a virus that renders our wombs and testicles barren around the age of 19, but we struggle with a legendarily low birthrate - among other future-relevant problems - and our government's ideas to charm the population into producing sufficient numbers of offspring are as ridiculous and as lacking as far the desired effects are concerned as the system the US have established in the slightly futuristic, post-almost-apocalyptic YA romance Bumped.
Luckily the outrageous 'stove-bonus' plan to financially reward german stay-at-home parents and rob the neediest kids of a chance to get out and receive some early education has not been put into action, but all the strange rules and laws that supposedly make living with kids and earning your bread doable do not compensate for the utter lack of institutions that take care of toddlers from morning to evening or of primary schoolers in the afternoons without their parents having to weep and plead and fight against other competitors. Placing your kid so you can work and live remains a long administrative and emotional struggle and demands good organisational skills. Thus birthrates continue to drop and our flabbergasted politicians look down from their glass towers longingly at our neighbours in Denmark or France without realising the obvious faults in their concepts.
In Bumped the Americans of 2036 are proud. Proud of their solution to keep their nation alive and afloat without resorting to forced teenage breeding like China does (among other countries). Although those underage are the only ones capable of creating the next generation (artificial insemination doesn't work either anymore) getting pregnant is still a voluntary decision of the individual. In theory. On paper, yes. For there are elements subtly woven into the system, which put teens under a considerably amount of pressure from both peers and parents:
- Contraceptive material is forbidden. The last condom had been produced in 2025. That the available fertility indicator sticks could be also used the other way around has not been discovered yet. - Teenage pregnancy is heavily promoted, but teenaged parents exist only in gated, fundamentally religious communities like the one heroine Harmony had been raised in. Usually pregnant girls receive prescription drugs that keep mother and foetus from forming a prenatal attachment. The newborn - viewed by their mothers like prize pumpkins or hand-knitted sweaters - are therefore handed over to middle-aged couples without fuss. - The receiving individuals are couples who either just crave a family or couples who want to make an investment. Babies of exceptionally beautiful or gifted teens are legally auctioned off to the highest bidder or even produced on demand after negotiating exclusive contracts via luxury adoption agencies which are specialised on making the perfect deal. Such a promising superbaby acquired by costly means will pay off as soon as its buyers put its womb or sperm on the market 13 years later. (view spoiler)[ There even is the possibility to take out a mortgage on the life of your not even conceived grandchild. (hide spoiler)] - Other agencies pay their mediocre clients for quantity: A university scholarship for handing over four healthy screamers, for instance. - An abundance of media and merchandising that glorify piecework breeding for the sake of the country. - School campaigns that unify and cheer those who decide to breed and put those who don't on the sidelines. - Strongly marketed, aphrodisiac drugs that take away caution and turn shy teens into active players on officially organised sex parties. - Health education programs that ruthlessly play down the risks and the discomfort that accompany childbearing and childbirth.
The partly funny, partly serious story that spans only across a couple of days focuses on Melody and Harmony Doe, identical twins who had spent their respective childhoods in radically opposite, but likewise strongly polarized surroundings: The home of well-to-do university professors who embraced the possibility of honing their human bargain into the ultimate, rewarding breeder by tweaking her profile and her body into something outstandingly unique and precious on the market, and the secluded farmers, faithful members of the Christianity-based, vanity abhorring Church, who took in a dozen unwanted shelf-warmers - sickly or ugly babies - in order to make them marry each other and start 'real' families to obey their heavenly creator around the tender age of 13. Both sisters are unhappy, although none of them questions her upbringing in the least. When Harmony spontaneously decides to crash in on her twin's unfamiliar life, both existences start to blur around the precisely defined edges, both minds start to self-reflect, when frustration directed towards the counterpart loses its initial drive and similarities float to the surface.
I am actually one of the few readers who stoically remained unmoved by Jessica Darling's allure and the sex-appeal of her love-interests. And I had been a bit annoyed with both bumpy sisters in the beginning - the über-prissy, sermon-sprouting one wailing for a new veil and the pseudo-modern one drowning in her futuristically icky teen-talk and hiding her insecurities behind her business-like career-girl persona.
But after just a few chapters I found myself liking both girls a lot and enjoying the trips into both of their minds. I rooted for both romances, cheered their growing bond and mourned the cliffhanger ending.
I initially did not plan to write a review when I switched off my Kindle. Having had a good time and a good push to my mind seemed to be enough. But the images seemed to stick to my inner teflon and the obnoxious setting was with me right after opening my eyes this morning. That called for putting thoughts into sentences before moving on into another character's world and puzzling out an entirely different set of fictional problems.
So here we are: You hopefully reconsidering Bumped and me cautiously recommending it.["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)
I have selected the authors I want to display as my favorite ones with care - writing one of my favorite books does not automatically switch me into f...moreI have selected the authors I want to display as my favorite ones with care - writing one of my favorite books does not automatically switch me into fan mode - yet one of my very first thoughts - when thoughts were more or less possible again after ripping myself away from life in Charyn and Lumatere - was: "I need to persuade Goodreads maintanance to install a huge, visible gap between word magician Marchetta and the rest of the writers I unquestionably adore."
Some more coherent brain activity and a fond trip down the Memory Lane of Reading History shoved things back into perspective, for what would my childhood have been like without the influence of Astrid Lindgren's books (I even went to evening school with a bunch of summer-house-owning adults for three years to learn Swedish) and I cannot imagine my university years without repetitive re-reads of Jane Austen's work (including her letters and the so-called Juvenilia). Still, as far as my contact to books-which-caused-dangerous-infatuation is concerned Melina Marchetta belongs into her very own category of powerful writers, too. The emotions, the reading experiences her books offer, are incomparable to everything else I have encountered and they grab me and squeeze my heart from an unguarded angle each time – even though I fully expect to be tackled by now.
I love all of Marchetta's stories and I treasure the collection of funny, witty and wise dialogues about friendship and family and life in general that I have underlined or copied from her novels. Orphan Froi's journey into the country of his adoptive homeland's enemy as a trained assassin-spy-fake-impregnator of crazy Princess Quintana, who - as the last-born female - is supposed to end her nation's infertility curse by giving birth to the first baby, is no exception:
Although my fickle memory failed to provide me with all the geographic, political and social details I should have remembered from inhaling Finnikin of the Rock a year before, the lush scenery, the danger, the fragile past-war negotiations in Lumatere and the complicated schemings at both courts roped me firmly in and had me flipping the pages at inhuman speed. But everyone who interupts to say that other authors manage to connoct equally thrilling fantasy plots is certainly not wrong.
On the contrary: Admirable as Marchetta's stories are – fantastic or realistic with twists and turns and satisfactory solutions and all that stuff favorites are made of – their true, distinctive magic is hidden inside the characters. When it comes to Marchetta-made characters I feel like a snake dancing to an enchanted flute's song: My loyalty, my love and my repulsion place themselves at the author's whim.
Let's have a look at Froi. Holy Snot, that boy! I could not really understand why Evanjalin forgave him and insisted on dragging him along after what he attempted to do to her. I mistrusted him until the end of Finnikin of the Rock, I imagined him to be ungracefully bulky and I found his disability to pronounce Lumaterean words pretty inattractive. I admit I even had been a tiny bit apprehensive and wondered "How will she keep my interest by lugging me around inside his head for a whole middle volume? Probably an impossible task." And now here I am having delayed writing a review for almost two month, because my love for "that boy" and his own mottled crew of side-characters had rendered me speechless. Froi is still Froi. No question. But he turned out beautifully. Even his flaws (all of Marchetta's characters are equipped with just the right dose of flaws) were beautiful to me. Froi even made it into my "Top 5 Male Heroes of 2011" without having to battle other opponents. When I was reading his story I repeatedly got annoyed by Finnikin and his royal wife and consequently had to snicker, because in those moments I recognized the firm hold Melina Marchetta's writing has on my emotions.
After Froi let's focus on Quintana. You've probably read some strange quotes or studied Flannery's review featuring the now almost famous ugly-witch-sketch of Charyn's bird's-nest-hair-bearing princess. It is true: The schizophrenic girl is unspeakably filthy, has no table manners or fashion sense, and totters through her prison-like castle engulfed in an unkempt mass of brownish hair when she is not stuffing her face with food from other persons' plates. Yet right along with Froi I inexplicably fell in love with her. Making something like that happen requires some serious voodoo.
Therefore I bow my head in awe and impatiently await the publication of Quintana of Charyn, the final volume of the trilogy. I refuse to take sides (view spoiler)[Isaboe or Quintana (hide spoiler)] in advance, because I know Melina Marchetta will push my devotion and my hope into the direction she wants them to be anyway.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Interesting. But, Robin, that kind of cliffhanger is really unforgivable - combined with the publication date of the sequel scheduled for August 2012*...moreInteresting. But, Robin, that kind of cliffhanger is really unforgivable - combined with the publication date of the sequel scheduled for August 2012*, which is year from now if one doesn't have Audie's universe manipulating mind skills.
*edit: The human mind IS a powerful thing. because sequels that are announced on the last page of the first book are usually published a year later, my subconsciousness substituted the number 2011 that is plainly there for everybody to see with 2012. I still resent the huge cliffy, because I cannot stand buying just half a story without being informed of that circumstance beforehand, but the shorter waiting span between the two(?) parts does console me. Rating clarification: 3 stars going on 4.(less)
A scifi-in-space-fantasy-monsters-vampires-and-strange-creatures-good-and-evil-beastly-but-gorgeous-guy-drugs-and-blood-thriller featuring an innocent...moreA scifi-in-space-fantasy-monsters-vampires-and-strange-creatures-good-and-evil-beastly-but-gorgeous-guy-drugs-and-blood-thriller featuring an innocent but incredibly strong heroine surviving a non-stop party on an island of infinite darkness, endless pleasure and short life-spans. Intrigued? You should be. It is that original and captivating.
(Note: 0.5 stars short of five because of the open ending.)(less)
*** 2.5 stars *** The teens-alone-in-outer-space thriller was suspense-laden enough to make me go on reading until the very last cliffhanging page, bu...more*** 2.5 stars *** The teens-alone-in-outer-space thriller was suspense-laden enough to make me go on reading until the very last cliffhanging page, but as the religious conflict, the fertility aka mating issues, the Lord-of-the-Flies-or-Gone-like, but highly improbable, kiddie rule on board of the deserted, damaged and slightly dusty, but peachy-going mega-ship Empyrean (120 boys aged between two and 15 keep everything running for almost six months from gravity to clean airfilters and from chicken coops to artificial rainforests - not mentioning personal hygiene or daily routines), the love-triangle and the lack of general information (conveniently easily explained: The adults just avoided painful talks about the destructed earth, the survivors left behind and the events that led to the departure of two selectively staffed rescue ships) are concerned, I was, simply said, permanently annoyed to the point of imploding in my space suit. I would read the sequel only if it was dropped into my lap without any effort or compensation expected from me in return.(less)
Meh-eh. Not my kind of heroine, not my kind of mystery (What is going on exactly?), not my kind of youth slang, not my kind of snottiness, not my kind...moreMeh-eh. Not my kind of heroine, not my kind of mystery (What is going on exactly?), not my kind of youth slang, not my kind of snottiness, not my kind of book. I'll stop after mere 15% and forget about it quickly.
And ... I know reading excerpts would be the sensible thing, but I cannot get myself to do it most of the time. Either I plunge into a book with the hope of a beautiful ride through a new story or I don't. Testing something with a road-stop in view is no real option. Especially since I usually do not read a freshly acquired book at once. And that always means: Back to square one.(less)
Maybe since reading Otfried Preußler's The Little Watersprite almost 30 years ago and certainly since reading Der Sommer als Nixe kam (translates as "...moreMaybe since reading Otfried Preußler's The Little Watersprite almost 30 years ago and certainly since reading Der Sommer als Nixe kam (translates as ""The Summer Nixie Came"") by Evelyne Kolnberger two years later I have been mesmerized by the idea of mermaids, their mysteries and their underwater worlds. The beginning of the current mermaid trend in YA fiction and paranormal romance about two years ago consequently made me very happy and alert. In the meantime I have picked up as much disappointing stories as interesting ones. But I am determined to enjoy the wave as long as it lasts. And although I have stopped putting every new merfolk book on my wishlist, I still patiently sift through the debris in order not to miss the rare gem. Everblue”, the first book of the “Mer Tales Series” by Brenda Pandos, sadly belongs to the category of stones I am going to throw over my shoulder with some flip behind it. Yet, I am sure, some other mermaid fans stumbling across the book will decide that they have finally found what they had been looking for. I am going to try to explain in detail so you can decide, whether you would judge like me or like them:
First a description to make you familiar with what I am talking about: “Everblue” is told in the first person. Its point-of-view switches from chapter to chapter between the two main characters (usually a “plus” for me), High School senior Ashlyn and her best friend’s home-schooled twin-brother Finley. Ash, Fin and Tatiana live on the shore of Lake Tahoe. Ash has helped Tatchi to secretly apply for the admission and a scholarship at the Florida Atlantic University, where they want to spend their college years together, although they know that Tatiana’s parents, who do not even allow their kids to go to the local High School and who often disappear with the twins for days, will not exactly be thrilled about their daughter’s plans for the future. Truth is Ash doesn’t really know. Since the day several years ago when Tatiana’s dad smashed a glass vitrine because Ash had suggested a sleepover at her house, she hasn’t set a foot on the family’s premises. She remembers her own parents mumbling something sounding like alcohol-related problems, but she has never breached the subject. Another thing she does prefer not to talk about is her long-standing crush on Fin. Apparently a pity, because for Fin there has ever been only Ashlyn. But in contrast to just-waiting-for-the-right-moment-to-confess-Ash, Fin is set on forgetting the beautiful red-head next door, because his “carreer” has not been decided upon and he does not want to force an underwater-life on her. For Fin and Tatchi are mermaids, who are permitted to live temporarily on land, because their father is guiding a gate in the Lake that leads to their monarchic underwater country. When Fin’s family is summoned down by the capricious son of their present King, there is not even time to say good-bye. And while Tatchi tries to evade evil Azor’s advances and Fin tries to replace his longing for Ash by courting a mermaid who reminds him of her, Ash is on the one hand concerned because of the twins’ absence, on the other hand she basks in the sudden interest of the school’s – really nice - star quarterback in her and nurtures her crush on him, which had been slumbering in a corner of her heart. How will everybody get happy with the right partner, (how) is Azor going to be defeated and how can Tatchi get to live the human life she longs for?
These questions are not so easily answered because of the unquestionably unique mermaid lore - which is essential for “Everblue” and which is in large part responsible for me being repelled. To be fair: From a logical point of view there is nothing wrong with the construct. It is even very believable, because it fits into the pattern of merfolk legends and fairytales. But if I think of “Everblue” as a love story between girls and boys I am supposed to like - or at least understand fom a ""human angle"", the lore turns into a paranomal romance nightmare:
Mermaids are a different species. They are either born (alpha-mer) or made by a willingness to stay with a merfolk partner (beta-mer, who really stay second-class citizens). When daylight falls on their tails (directly or indirectly via mirrors) they morph into legs. Simultaneously something happens with the breathing apparatus, too. The most important things are that mer-blood has healing qualities (came in handy when mermaids encountered shipwrecks in former times) and that a kiss and one kiss only (between two mers or a mer and a human) mingles the two souls permanently and makes the two persons addicted to each other up to the point that the absence of one makes the other one go crazy. This explains why sea-faring men encountering mermaids after a storm or a swim went slowly mad, jumped into the waters and drowned or joined their tailed saviours and were never to be seen again. That these mermaids were kissing the poor guys in the first place does not need to always have been an erotic urge. A mer’s kiss is also reviving for a person whose life’s flame is on the brink of blinking out. For the teenaged merfolk in “Everblue” it means that regardless to whom you are attracted to or who you fell in love with, you first kiss – voluntarily, accidentally or forced - determines who you will eternally long for, who you cannot be without, whose body will turn you on without fail, who you “love”. To avoid random matings the mer-families do not approve of or which weren’t really planned by the hormone-laden teens all unmated merfolk is constantly heavily chaperoned. To me this once-press-the-button-guarantee of eternal, mutual infatuation (Tatchi and Fin’s parents are permanently making out) seems to be a thousand times worse than, for instance, an unwanted pregnancy or an old-fashioned arranged marriage (for both allow for several choices). It does not take into account that people change, that people have intellect, something in common or not in common, something to talk about or not to talk about. It is just some weird chemistry that traps a couple into an iron lock of inescapable bliss. Horrific, don't you agree?
As the story progresses the reader is in for a treat of how awful the mating-kiss can turn out. (view spoiler)[Tatiana is forced to kiss evil Prince Azor and feels compelled to stay with him and even shield him from her brother’s attack – in spite of her always having been the one willing to leave the merworld and become a full-time human for the sake of her personal freedom. (hide spoiler)] Brainless, naive Fin who felt only slightly inconvenienced (he wanted to succeed his father as the Lake Tahoe gate keeper, knew that his future lay in the hands of the all-powerful royal family) but never managed to see the real danger, (view spoiler)[feels kind of bad for his twin in the clutches of the slimy-tailed Dark Knight, but he (hide spoiler)] is more intent on assuring his lately acquired, giggling mate that he won’t have sex with her before turning her into an honest woman. I asked myself what the heck is wrong with that author? As if the question of premarital sex could be of any relevance when two teens are already infinitely bound by magical shackles. In addition the admittedly peculiar question stole into my head if the author thinks that lasting happiness can only occur, when both partners are brain-washed and paranormally forced? (view spoiler)[This notion would be supported by Ash’s change of feelings toward quarterback-boy after being kissed by Fin. What he says is simply not interesting anymore, his body looks less delicious and she doubts his devotion to her altogether. How convenient, but also how wrong! (hide spoiler)] It all made me personally very angry.
But should the mentioned concept of love (I don’t think that this kind of connection deserves to be labelled love) of the author’s mermaid lore cover you in happy goosebumps, because you simply cannot pass up the chance to read about sweet eternal obsession, do not mind my previous antics and buy the book!
Another aspect, which constantly annoyed me to pieces, were the two sets of parents. Tatchi’s mother – a beta-mer – never trusted her children and their ability to keep their mouths shut enough to let them go to school with humans or to have friends, but she promised her daughter the freedom of choice as far as her future mate was concerned. When the family moves underwater she changes her stance and her behavior so frequently that the reader gets the impression she has already gone nuts from her husband’s extended “business trip”. Ash’s mother is a over-the-top moody, sharp-tongued, unfair bitch, who likes to make her daughter feel unbelievably helpless and bad in various creative ways. Communication between her and Ash is only possible with Ash’s dad as a go-between, who advises his daughter to ""talk to her mom about it”, but does not initiate a family conference himself either. When Ash, whose confusion about her friends’ absence and her own accelerating romance with what’s-his-name finally wear her out, resorts to excusing herself from church under the pretense of feeling unwell, she is plagued by a mightily bad conscience and an enormous urge to come clean afterwards (which is later seconded by her indignant grandmother. Imagine! A good girl lying to her parents! *gasp*). That had me seriously wondering if the author is member of a strange religious cult. The real problem was definitely not Ash’s dishonesty, but her fear to ask monster-mom for permission! But faith is rather bluntly pushed at the reader throughout the book anyway.
I will count “Everblue” as “read” although I have to admit I stopped reading at 93%. But since I cannot imagine what glorious things could happen on the last few pages to pull the boat around, and I have read somewhere that the book ends on a huge cliffhanger anyway, I am not going to bother, since it only makes my skin crawl. One more down, how many to go? We will see.
Forgive me for not elaborating on the writinng style ecetera. It was not bad, but also not outstanding. The usual young adult, paranormal fair, you know?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Not as good as the Mediator Series or Teen Idol, but definitely more enjoyable than some of Cabot's other recent output. It has a kind of open ending,...moreNot as good as the Mediator Series or Teen Idol, but definitely more enjoyable than some of Cabot's other recent output. It has a kind of open ending, but since I had read the sequel last year already, I didn't mind so much.(less)
"Ashes" is a uniquely-set example of zombie dystopia that manages to keep the reader on her or his toes with a lot of action, a compassionate, brave a...more"Ashes" is a uniquely-set example of zombie dystopia that manages to keep the reader on her or his toes with a lot of action, a compassionate, brave and stong heroine, a cute-kid-sidekick, who repeatedly puts a strained smile on the worried reader's face, a loyal dog and a likable, but difficult-to-grasp kind-of-love-interest (Forget what the book-flap says. Don't expect a romance novel, please.):
After two years of chemo and nano-pebbles and other ineffective treatments seventeen-years-old orphan Alex has given up on fighting her tennis-ball-sized brain tumor. Armed with some gear and a heavy case (I pretty much guessed from the beginning what it contained, but it was kept a secret for three quarters of the book. (view spoiler)[If you want to surprise the reader, don't put the secret into the title, dearest publisher. (hide spoiler)]) she sets out to hike through the wilderness toward Lake Superior.
She has just shaken hands with an an old guy on a fishing-trip and his whiny eight-years-old grand-daughter Ellie, when something later identified as an electromagnetic pulse kills off all electronics - including Jack's pulse-maker and a lot of birds and game. Interestingly Alexs instantly not only gets back the sense of smell her tumor had previously eliminated, but is able to use it at a superhuman capacity, too. In addition she loses the slight tremor in her left hand and shortly after that - because of Ellie - most of her outdoor equippment and food. After surviving a couple of kids who were gorging themselves with the intestines of a lone camper, Alex starts to develop alarming theories about what happened to whom, in which perimeter and why Ellie's and her own brain did not turn them into juvenile cannibalists. But there is not really time to ponder, because the girls are attacked by a small pack of wild dogs and later by another "brain-zap" - who gets shot just in time by the youngish soldier Tom. Tom claims to be on holiday leave from his duty in Afghanistan and seems to have his own difficult past.
At this point the road trip/hell ride really takes off, takes some shocking, some ruthless and some unexpected turns and finally lets us hang on a real, stomach-droppingly, fist-in-the-mouth, blink-blink-blink-do-not-mess-with-me cliffhanger that costs my rating a fully filled-in and carefully lined star. (view spoiler)[I can stomach not knowing about Tom. But Ellie? The author deliberately made me love Ellie. How can she not tell us if she survived and if yes under which circumstances? (hide spoiler)]
Otherwise I liked "Ashes" (at least the first, "road-trip-style" part) quite well. But not well enough to rate it five stars (if you put the cliffy aside, I mean). And not well enough to buy the sequel, either. Some strange things about the settlement "Rule" and the relevation about it works bothered me a lot in the last third, but I am too exhausted to pull them out of the fogginess of my setting-saturated mind. Maybe I will prod/study some enlightening reviews later.
If you consider reading a rather interesting, no-filter-gruesome Zombie dystopia, "Ashes" is definitely no bad choice. But if you asked me, I would in all likelihood say: "Buy Enclave first!", because it was simply better rounded, had a far stronger pull on my emotions and a hero that stole a larger chunk of my heart. Still, "Ashes" is better constructed than the also fast-paced, pretty similarly-set, but city-based, romance-induced and self-published monster apocalypse Released, which is to be had as a Kindle version for almost nothing.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)