After reading Maggie Stiefvater's first novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, a few months ago and loving it (asIntriguing follow-up to Lament
After reading Maggie Stiefvater's first novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, a few months ago and loving it (as my previous review on it can attest), I waited impatiently for Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie to come out. I dove into it this past weekend, and though I enjoyed it a great deal, it didn't bind me like Lament did.
Ballad picks up a few months after Dee and James barely survive their first harrowing experiences with the world of Faerie. Dee has left home to attend the prestigious music boarding school, Thornking-Ash, and best friend James, who's in love with her, follows. Ballad tells its story through the alternating points of view of James and a dangerous faerie muse called Nuala, who has chosen James as her next conquest. As the best bagpiper in all of Virginia, James finds himself with little to gain at the new school, other than the opportunity to be near Dee, who has entered onto a path of self-destruction.
Ballad is a portrait of James coming to terms with his unique talents, his unrequited love and concern for Dee, his perceived isolation from others, and his growing temptations towards Nuala on multiple fronts. James is a well-drawn character, with quirks, snark, and witticisms that fully embody him. As the book progresses, you become more and more concerned for him and what compromises he may make, even at the risk of his life or soul, to stand out and feel worthy. His narrative counterpart, Nuala, also comes into focus as the story develops, and even though she starts out as a nemesis, the reader learns her weaknesses and becomes sympathetic towards her too. This book differs from Lament's fast pace and immediate draw; instead, the development of James and Nuala as characters, as well as James' mentor and friends, grows at a steady but sure pace.
Like Stiefvater's other novels, this book is very well-written, with smart characters and quick dialogue. The book differs from Lament, though, as it's more of a character study interspersed with events that show us the depths of struggle that James experiences. It's also darker in its descriptions of faeries and the thoughts of the main characters. Though I love sarcasm and wit, James' continual barrage of comments can make one weary at times and I found it unbelievable that any teachers (even the intriguing Mr. Sullivan) would put up with it for very long. There are some weaknesses to the plot, in that the climax doesn't seem too climactic and some of the characters don't show the strong emotional reactions one would expect given what they've experiencing. There are also some plot points that weren't terribly clear, but they didn't detract too much from the reading overall; I hope these will be cleared up or expanded in the books to come in this series.
Overall, a good read but with room for more in what I hope will be multiple coming novels set in this universe. Though this can be read as a standalone novel, I would recommend reading Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception first to get the backstory on James and Dee, their relationship, and what happened during the past summer. Knowing their history will provide more understanding and empathy with their characters. ...more
In Kelley Armstrong's young adult debut, The Summoning (Darkest Powers, Book 1), we meet Chloe Saunders. On the day she gets her first pGreat YA debut
In Kelley Armstrong's young adult debut, The Summoning (Darkest Powers, Book 1), we meet Chloe Saunders. On the day she gets her first period, late at age 15, she starts seeing ghosts again for the first time since childhood. After an encounter with a ghostly janitor, Chloe is sent off to receive treatment at a teen group home. However, Lyle House isn't what it first seems, and she finds herself surrounded by other teens with supernatural powers that all have been labeled as mental disorders. Soon, readers are sucked into Chloe's world where spirits are raised, friends and enemies are made, and conspiracy runs deep.
I really enjoyed this book. Armstrong's writing was strong for a YA novel, and I liked the backstory she built for her characters, especially Chloe and Derek. Chloe is smart and sure of herself, even when boys are around; it was refreshing to see such a strong female character. When romantic or sexual tension appears, it's done well with a light touch. There's a lot of mystery and suspense, especially at the end, and I'm looking forward to what happens to the characters in the next book.
On the down side, the writing was a bit slow during the middle and the ending was unsatisfying. I knew the book was part of a series before starting, but the ending literally leaves the reader in the middle of a conversation. The cliffhanger did pique my interest for the next book, but it left me also feeling very frustrated at the author for creating such an unfinished ending.
If you're looking for romance, be forewarned that this book focuses more on character development and action. The story is really about Chloe, her friends, and the trials they must go through as teens with supernatural powers. You can sense there will be more romance in the books to come, though. I'm really looking forward to delving into the sequels, The Awakening (Darkest Powers, Book 2) and The Reckoning (Darkest Powers, Book 3). ...more
Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, is a dark, dense, and meaningful book. Though it wasn't what I was exDark but gripping debut
Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, is a dark, dense, and meaningful book. Though it wasn't what I was expecting, it more than made up for that with its strong writing, complex world, and exploration of difficult issues.
Mary has grown up in a fenced village her entire life, kept in by the fear and mortal risk of being attacked by the Unconsecrated. The village, believed to be the only hub of humanity remaining, follows strict rules as dictated by the Sisterhood to keep themselves intact. However, based on the stories her mother told her, Mary believes there is more to the world beyond the fence. Soon, Mary finds herself and those she loves in danger, questioning all she has been taught and struggling for ways to survive.
Told in first person, Ryan's writing style flows easily and is evocative of Mary's inner thoughts. The style is somewhat messy, with run-ons and sentence fragments, but it works. The character's voice and her wishes/desires seem real for her age. Mary comes across as selfish and unconcerned about how her actions affect others. Other reviewers have mentioned this made it difficult to connect with her. While I agree, I found Mary's thoughts and motivations honestly reflective of a teen girl with dreams of greater things outside the fence. The novel also explores many complex issues, including love vs. commitment, personal vs. communal fulfillment, and change vs. tradition. The monsters in Ryan's book, the Unconsecrated, are truly scary. As the reader, you never doubt the mortal danger they pose. The experiences of Mary and her small group are harrowing and real.
Though I enjoyed the book, there were some weak points. The book is very dark with only a glimmer of hope. Some plot elements, like the breach of the fence and the ending, seemed contrived. They were there as obvious ways to move the plot forward and to set up the sequel. The love connections between characters were not explored or developed very deeply. It seemed more like lust or reaching for something outside of oneself, not love. I did like, however, one of the scenes near the end that Ryan wrote to show that we often take love for granted and don't realize the strength of our connection to others until it is too late.
All in all, /Forest/ was a great but dark read. If you're looking for a young adult novel with more weight and meaning than usual, I highly recommend it. I'm looking forward to the continuation of the story in the sequel, The Dead-Tossed Waves (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book 2)....more
After reading Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I couldn't wait for the release of her next book. The DeaGreat companion novel
After reading Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I couldn't wait for the release of her next book. The Dead-Tossed Waves (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book 2) did not disappoint. Gabry, the daughter of Mary, has grown up in the sheltered sea town of Vista, watching her mother take care of the lighthouse and dispose of the undead Mudo (Unconsecrated) that wash up on the beach. Gabry's life has been about fear of the Mudo and staying safe. After she takes a risk by following her friends and her crush over the Barrier one night, her entire world unravels. Her web of friends and family are missing, dead, or infected, and the only answers and hope seem to lie beyond the Barrier. Despite her fear, Gabry must decide what risks are worth it to survive, both emotionally and physically.
In some ways, this book excels its predecessor. Ryan's writing was strong in the first novel, but it's even better this time. First-person, present-tense can be a difficult style to use, but Ryan does it well with writing that is descriptive and evocative. The protagonist, Gabry, is very relatable, and characters are more well-defined in this book. Sense of place is strong, as is pacing; Ryan doesn't hesitate to take the reader into dark action in the first 30 pages and doesn't ease up after that. Relationships between characters feel real, and the romantic/sexual tension is palpable and aching. The story also allows the reader to know what happened to Mary, even if it's decades later, and questions are answered about the mythology of the Mudo/Unconsecrated. Like the first book, the novel explores complex issues, including the purpose of life, the repercussions of one's actions, and the selflessness of real love. Differently, though, the reader is left with more hope for the characters.
In other ways, however, the book wasn't as good as the first. Some plot points felt recycled, like the repetition of dangers, the need to flee, and the love triangle. Having read the first book, there was also a certain predictability that nothing would turn out well. There's a lot of death and destruction, and some of the main characters engage in or silently condone some very bothersome or violent actions. The story finished with little closure and an obvious cliffhanger ending to set up the sequel.
All in all, though, this was another dark, gripping read from Ryan, and I look forward to the continuation of Gabry's story in the next installment. Though it can be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH first. There are a few clues and poignant moments along the way that won't resonate unless you've read the first book....more
In LINGER, Maggie Stiefvater takes the reader back to Mercy Falls and the world of Sam and Grace. A fewEmotions and writing linger, but plot does not
In LINGER, Maggie Stiefvater takes the reader back to Mercy Falls and the world of Sam and Grace. A few months into his cure, Sam is starting to embrace his new humanity, albeit skeptically, while Grace seems less and less comfortable in her own skin. Isabel continues to wrestle with the aftermath of her brother’s death, and new pack member Cole surfaces as a cocky and potentially dangerous disruption. As all four grapple with their own doubts and inner demons, they are left to uncover whether love (of oneself, of each other, of humanity) will be enough to allow them to survive.
Compared to SHIVER, this book sat better with me due to its writing, character development, and the absence of any off-putting overtones to the animal-human relationships. As always, Stiefvater draws in the reader with lyrical writing, burning imagery, and an amazing ability to evoke emotion. Due to her talents, there are scenes in this book, namely one with Cole and a deer, that won’t soon leave me. Character development also remains as another one of her strengths; Stiefvater’s ability to show the damage within each character in this novel was superb. As new leads, Cole and Isabel stood out in their exploration of their broken selves and how they related to one another through this filter. The writer’s ability to transport me back to the rawness and immediacy of one’s emotions as a teenager was also remarkable. In addition, this installment expands and complicates the mythology regarding the wolves, their curse, and their cure.
Despite these many strengths, LINGER let me down in some ways, just like SHIVER. Told in first-person, the chapters alternated between four different voices. Though I enjoyed the addition of Isabel and Cole as narrators, each character’s voice was not always distinct, and the frequent switching of voice mid-chapter often felt abrupt. Pacing slowed and dragged in the middle third. The book’s ending was predictable and heavily foreshadowed, even if the path to get there was a mystery. Also, unlike the conclusion of SHIVER, which felt distinct and finished, this book closed with the most cliffhanger-like ending I have encountered from Stiefvater. While things changed for the characters emotionally, the plot didn’t move forward a great deal.
Even with these concerns, I’ll continue to look forward to reading anything Stiefvater writes. I hope that the final installment in the trilogy, FOREVER, provides a satisfying conclusion to the series and a little bit of healing for everyone involved, even if not in expected ways. If you’re looking for something with the same beautiful writing but more action, I highly recommend Stiefvater’s faery books, LAMENT and BALLAD....more
In Simone Elkeles' LEAVING PARADISE, a circle of friends and their families have been ripped apart by a devastating carMoving and realistic YA romance
In Simone Elkeles' LEAVING PARADISE, a circle of friends and their families have been ripped apart by a devastating car accident. After a year in juvenile detention, Caleb is able to return home to the lives that his actions altered forever. His victim, Maggie, is slowly recovering from her injuries and thinking of ways to get out of town as quickly as possible. Chance encounters force Caleb and Maggie to confront their memories of the night of the accident, what really happened, and how each of them has changed since then. In doing so, Maggie and Caleb must learn to navigate their complicated relationship, especially after discovering that no one understands what they're experiencing better than each other.
LEAVING PARADISE aptly depicts the gritty and painful aftermath that can happen when one person hurts another, even if unintentionally. Told in alternating first-person point of view, Elkeles' style allows the reader to know both Maggie and Caleb intimately and the grief and struggles that each experiences. Caleb was an immensely likeable character and voice, despite his perceived past flaws, and the portrayal of Maggie's grief, frustration, and anger felt real. The interactions between Caleb and Maggie were touching and raw, and the romantic scenes were well-done and aching, without being too sexual. Secondary characters like Mrs. Reynolds and Kendra added to the complexity of the story. Compared to Elkeles' other books, this story arc felt less contrived and the characters less self-absorbed. The author also finishes with a conclusion that makes sense for the characters, as opposed to creating an ending that would simply please readers.
Despite the emotional impact of the novel, pacing was slow in the first half, and the story arc was very predictable regarding Caleb and Maggie's relationship. At times, the writing felt forced. Caleb's character, while likeable, seemed too articulate and well-adjusted given what he'd endured. The romantic connection was also realized without apparent reason on Caleb's behalf, and Maggie let down her emotional defenses much more quickly than one would expect. Though the ending felt right, unresolved issues remain regarding betrayals, truths, and the unexpected change of heart and resolution of one character.
Taken overall, LEAVING PARADISE was the most aching and realistic book by Elkeles I have read. If I had reviewed the book objectively on writing quality and pacing, I would have given it three stars. However, the book's emotional depth and my reaction to it easily bumped it to four stars. Though it could be a standalone, I'm looking forward to the upcoming sequel, RETURN TO PARADISE, to see where Caleb and Maggie's lives lead next. ...more
Pulling together thirteen short stories by authors both new and well-known in the young adult genre, KISS MStrongest YA paranormal anthology I've read
Pulling together thirteen short stories by authors both new and well-known in the young adult genre, KISS ME DEADLY: 13 TALES OF PARANORMAL LOVE broadly covers the subject, including stories about vampires, faeries, ghosts, zombies, unicorns, and mythological gods.
Compared to other paranormal romance anthologies, KISS ME DEADLY is the strongest I've read so far. In addition to being a great way to sample the writing style of thirteen different authors, this collection excels in its inclusion of a wide diversity of paranormal creatures, the length of the stories, and the overall writing quality. Of the thirteen stories, I enjoyed eight of them, which is a higher proportion than I usually experience with an anthology. Among the stories, standouts included Karen Mahoney's "The Spirit Jar" about a grieving djinn and the vampire that helps him, Justine Musk's "Lost" about a girl's connection to the dead and the otherworld she's never known, Carrie Ryan's "Hare Moon" about a young nun in the Forest of Hands and Teeth and her internal battle between tradition and love, Maggie Stiefvater's "The Hounds of Ulster" about two lifelong friends and the unearthly woman who comes between them, and Daniel Waters' "Many Happy Returns" about parental love that never dies, even when a child does. While I was already a huge fan of Ryan and Stiefvater, this volume gave me two to three new authors to follow. Many people may also enjoy that six of the stories are linked to authors' existing works. At the very reasonable cover price of $9.95, this collection can't be beaten for quality for the price.
However, like any anthology, there were weak stories mixed in among the outstanding ones. Five stories fell flat for me, and outside of the stories noted above, even the other enjoyable ones didn't stick with me for very long. Very few of the entries were love stories in the traditional sense, which may be misleading to some readers based on the subtitle of the book. Multiple editing or typo errors also popped up in one story that was otherwise strong, and a word was missing in the blurb on the back cover. Both instances had me wishing for a more careful editor.
Even with these flaws, KISS ME DEADLY now ranks as the best young adult paranormal anthology I've read. Hopefully, other publishers will put out volumes similar to it, especially those that look outside vampires to include other creatures and mythologies like this book did. If you're looking for something similar until then, I would recommend LOVE IS HELL....more
In Gayle Forman’s WHERE SHE WENT, Mia and Adam are now living separate lives. Mia broke off things shortly after going to Julliard, and Adam has spentIn Gayle Forman’s WHERE SHE WENT, Mia and Adam are now living separate lives. Mia broke off things shortly after going to Julliard, and Adam has spent the past three years trying to work through his confusion and hurt. In the meantime, Adam’s band has become an international phenomenon, and Mia has become the cello virtuoso of her generation. In a chance encounter, Adam and Mia meet in New York City right before both are about to leave on world tours. In one night, the two must struggle to overcome years of pain and misunderstanding to see if any love remains.
Similar to the first book, WHERE SHE WENT packs an emotional punch with its direct, affecting prose, and the use of Adam as the first-person narrator in this installment adds emotional insight. This book provides an unflinching look at how tragedy can impact people differently, and this sequel shows characters that are more flawed and complicated. While Forman’s prose is unfettered, her attention to detail about the small things that bind people draws the reader in. The parallelism in structure between the first and the second books is also outstanding. Flashbacks are used deftly to describe what has happened in the past three years, and the older age of the characters allows for deeper, more realistic reflection. Beautiful and telling song lyrics are incorporated as chapter headings, and this was the first time I’ve read a book in which I felt that the lyrics really added to the story.
Early in my reading, I felt that I was going to like WHERE SHE WENT even better than IF IT STAY, but it didn’t have the same emotional impact ultimately. I was less able to connect to the characters this time because they had each become celebrities in their own ways, and there were a few times that Adam’s inner dialogue didn’t ring true or when conversations between he and Mia felt awkwardly worded. Though the ending will please many, it felt predictable and too easily resolved for me. Also, there were a few mishaps that jumped out, like inaccuracies regarding what strings a cello has.
Overall though, WHERE SHE WENT provides an emotionally impactful conclusion to the story of Adam and Mia and what happens to people after they continue to live in the wake of tragedy. I recommend this book heartily to anyone who loved IF I STAY or to those who embrace books with harsh emotional realities that end with a bit of hope.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy....more
Strong writing & creative mythology make for bloody good debut
In Tessa Gratton's debut novel, BLOOD MAGIC, Silla Kennicott has taken to keeping toStrong writing & creative mythology make for bloody good debut
In Tessa Gratton's debut novel, BLOOD MAGIC, Silla Kennicott has taken to keeping to herself after her parents' apparent murder-suicide. When a mysterious book of magic arrives, Silla decides to see if the spells work...and they do. Soon intoxicated by the power of magic, Silla also finds herself growing increasingly close to the new boy in town, Nick, who has powers and secrets of his own. When it becomes dangerously evident that her parents' deaths were only the beginning of horrible things to come, Silla, her brother, and Nick must work together to stop dark powers from using the magic for horrifying ends.
With its strong writing and creative mythology, BLOOD MAGIC felt different than other young adult paranormal romances. As the title would suggest, the book was bloodier than most, but the violence was never gratuitous and it always served to further the plot or character development. The mystery and plot twists involved kept me surprised and riveted, and I enjoyed how family and the past intertwined to create present-day conflict. The main characters were also well-developed; Nick and Silla's brother, Reese, stood out as especially likable characters who acted and thought like the young males that they were. Another strong point was the touching sibling relationship between Silla and Reese. While many may see the set-up of Silla having dead parents as cliché, this point was used as a major part of the story and therefore avoided being stale or unneeded. The romantic relationship between Nick and Silla also veered away from being trite in that it did show signs of instant attraction but it was never instant love or over the top.
While I wanted to absolutely love this book, I only really liked it though. The story was a bit slow to start, and the romance didn't grab me as much as I had hoped. The alternating points of view were essential to telling the story, but the narrators' voices were not always distinct from one another. Some chapters also shifted narrator mid-chapter, which was a bit jarring. Characters sometimes acted a bit inconsistent and the use of some metaphors, like Silla's masks, were not always clear or didn't add greatly to readers' understanding of the characters.
Even with these few stumbles, BLOOD MAGIC and Tessa Gratton are welcome and bloody additions to the world of YA paranormal romance. I look forward to seeing how the author will hone her writing further in the forthcoming companion novel, THE BLOOD KEEPER.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. ...more
Note: Since I posted my review of Insurgent almost a month ago, I figured it well past time to finally finish my review of Divergent. So here ya go, wNote: Since I posted my review of Insurgent almost a month ago, I figured it well past time to finally finish my review of Divergent. So here ya go, world!
Highly readable addition to the dystopian genre
In Veronica Roth’s debut novel, Divergent, Beatrice lives in a futuristic Chicago where society has been divided into factions. Each faction has a singular virtue, and at the age of sixteen, everyone must choose the one to which they will belong for the rest of their lives. After Beatrice makes a choice that shocks even herself, she is thrust into a world of competition and violence. Renaming herself Tris, she struggles through the physical and psychological challenges that come, all the while hiding a part of herself. As she becomes closer to her trainer, Four, and learns about growing unrest between the factions, Tris must decide how to survive, whom to trust, and how to be true to all the parts of herself.
Divergent is a highly readable addition to the growing dystopian genre. With compelling action scenes, quick pacing, and clear writing, I was pulled quickly into this book. Tris is a strong, able protagonist who grapples with real issues, and the story doesn't shy away from showing her as less likable or selfish at times. All of the characters are flawed in their own ways, and this made them more believable. One of the most likeable characters is Four, Tris's trainer and love interest, and the story does a wonderful job of portraying tenderness and concern between strong individuals, instead of the over-the-top mushy stuff often seen in other novels. Another strength of the book lies in its examination of larger issues, including how and why to choose your own path in life, whether all virtues are worth cultivating and to what extent, and how religion plays a role in the type of lives people choose to lead.
Even with these strong points, Divergent wasn't a perfect fit. Tris's character sometimes seemed inconsistent, and she often excelled at new skills too easily to be believable. Unclear world building also pulled me out of the story a few times and left me wondering how society had evolved to the described point. A few noticeable plot holes also jumped out regarding what the leaders did and did not notice about Tris's different abilities. The dramatic ending pulled at the heart, but it mostly felt like a way to clear up some complications and set up specific plot points for future novels. It's obvious that the plot will span the coming books, but the main conflict was revealed too late and made the ending seem rushed and disconnected from the first 400 pages of the book.
If I had judged Divergent on plotting and world building alone, I would have rated it as three stars. However, the tale's ability to sweep me up into the action, drama, and romance made it a quick read that I'll definitely recommend to others, thereby bumping it up a notch. I'm really looking forward to see what Roth does in her coming books, including Insurgent, where I hope she'll expand her world building, close up a few plot misses, and keep the swoon coming....more
Beautiful and evocative writing creates satisfying tale
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races takes readers to the small island of Thisby, a place wherBeautiful and evocative writing creates satisfying tale
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races takes readers to the small island of Thisby, a place where nothing is earned easily, whether it be money or respect. Sean Kendrick has found that out himself, scraping by as a stable worker. He’s no ordinary stable hand, however, since he is the only one able to truly control the fearsome capaill uisce, the carnivorous water horses that emerge from the sea. Each year, Sean races his beloved water horse, Corr, in the potentially deadly Scorpio Races. Despite the odds in his favor, there’s much more at stake in this year’s race. Puck Connolly, on the other hand, never meant to go near the Scorpio Races, but her own hard luck has changed that. As the two navigate the difficult paths given to them, they must decide which risks are worth taking.
THE SCORPIO RACES stands out as Stiefvater’s most well-written book to date. Her writing remains beautiful and evocative, and it does so this time without ever feeling overdone. She constructs a palpable sense of mood and place using her words, and the characters have authentic personalities and motivations based on what’s shared about their pasts. Certain emotional and haunting scenes have stayed with me long after I finished, and I got goosebumps while reading more times than I could count. As a standalone novel, the story was satisfying and complete in itself, and the aching closing scene had me thinking about it for days. Other strong points of the novel included its unique water horse mythology (which was explained well without too much telling) and the focus on the strengths of Sean and Puck and the meaningful relationship each had with his or her horse. When a romance did surface, it was reflective of the characters involved and based on mutual respect and admiration.
Despite these strengths, I wasn’t able to give the book five stars due to a few weak points. The story was very slow in the beginning and didn’t pick up until about page 160. Told in alternating first-person perspectives, the voices also felt too similar at times. Though this is the best book overall that I’ve read from Stiefvater, I didn’t get caught up in the characters and their emotions like I did in her faerie books (Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception and Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie). I expect that this story will appeal to a smaller audience than her Shiver novels due to its focus on the human-horse relationships and its slow pacing and quiet romance.
Even with these few small qualms, I greatly enjoyed THE SCORPIO RACES because of its gorgeous writing, tangible sense of place, and strong, resilient characters. After reading this, I can’t wait to see what Stiefvater’s two forthcoming standalone novels will bring. It feels like her work will continue to get better and better.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. ...more
Solid & engaging start to new series based on Norse myth
Tessa Gratton begins her new series, The United States of Asgard, with The Lost Sun, a t Solid & engaging start to new series based on Norse myth
Tessa Gratton begins her new series, The United States of Asgard, with The Lost Sun, a tale of two teenagers and their race to find and save the sun god, Baldur the Beautiful. Soren Bearskin has always feared the fire in his chest, the berserking, that might lead to a murderous rampage like that of his father. Conversely, Astrid Glyn, a young prophetess, lives in the shadow of her mother’s great seething and seeks to embrace it. When fate throws them together and the country erupts in chaos after Baldur goes missing, the two strike out on a cross-country trek to find the missing god and return him to his rightful place.
The Lost Sun is a solid and engaging start to Gratton’s new series, and its strength lies in the writing and the depth of emotion and conflict depicted in the characters. Set in an alternative United States filled with the creatures of Norse myth, this is a story that could have easily been overshadowed by the flash and action often associated with retold myths. Instead, however, this is a novel (and likely a series) about the characters, their struggles, and their humanity. Soren, Astrid, and Baldur are all sympathetic characters, but Soren is especially so; the dilemma that Soren faces as a berserker feels genuine and heart-wrenching. While there is a romance, it’s not the focus. This is foremost a story about friendship, loyalty, self-discovery, and self-definition. When romantic moments did occur, I also felt twinges of swoon despite the too-quickly-realized romantic connection.
Having said that, though, this novel also excels at its interpretation of Norse myth, even when playing loosely with the original tales. I enjoyed reading about this reimagined U.S. where mortals walk among demi-gods, gods, and Valkyries. The writing is rich and full of description that allowed me to easily envision every setting and situation, from dilapidated farmhouses with trolls inside to the emotional conflict roiling in Soren's mind. The story then concludes with a bittersweet ending that avoided the easy solution, which I also appreciated.
Even with these strengths, there were a few instances in which I longed for more. The romance and some friendships developed quickly and a bit unbelievably; I wish there had been more development in the initial stages of each relationship. The mythology, including the trickery involved at the climax, was a bit hard to follow at times, and I was grateful that I had at least some background in Norse mythology. And, while I love Gratton’s style, the abundance of descriptors and metaphors/similes became noticeable and distracting at times.
Regardless of these small qualms, The Lost Sun is a winning start to a new series with a unique and relatively unexplored mythos, and I’m looking forward to the coming books in the series. Norse mythology is likely to be the next big thing, and I’m glad Gratton is in on the front end of it. Highly recommended to fans of Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
In Cynthia Hand's Unearthly, high school student Clara is an angel-blood, the child of a part-angel and a human. Best young adult angel book I've read
In Cynthia Hand's Unearthly, high school student Clara is an angel-blood, the child of a part-angel and a human. When she starts having visions that show a beautiful boy standing by a forest fire, Clara and her family follow where the vision leads, all the way to a new home in Wyoming. Once there, Clara finds herself drawn to the boy in the vision, Christian, but confused by her purpose and where it will lead, especially after another guy enters the picture, a cute cowboy named Tucker. When dark forces begin to threaten, Clara must decide between doing what feels right and what her destiny demands.
Despite glowing reviews from friends, I started UNEARTHLY with trepidation. I've had bad experiences with the other angel books I've read, and I was afraid that this would be much of the same. Thankfully, UNEARTHLY was different than the rest of the pack in many good ways.
One thing I immediately appreciated was the well-researched angel lore and how the author wove bits of that mythology into her story. I really liked the world that was created, with each angel-blood having a purpose, their "glory," and the characterization of the Black Wings. The author's choice to make Clara and her counterparts part-angel, instead of full, really helped me believe in their humanity and normalcy. Clara had spunk, imperfections, and a realistic voice, and I never questioned whether an angel-blood could be that way. Even with all the talk about angels, the story also never felt preachy, even when mentions of God appeared.
The characters and their relationships were another strength. Side characters like Clara's friends were important to the story, and Clara's relationship with her mother and brother felt real. Great dialogue kept the story moving, especially in the second half. The romantic storyline presented a love triangle with two great guys, not the typical nice guy vs. bad boy. When a romance did develop, it was sweet and swoon-worthy and based on shared experiences over time. The number of healthy relationships depicted in this story, whether romantic or friendly or familial, was refreshing.
Even with these strengths, there were a few places where I wished for more. The first 100 pages were slow, and I found myself becoming frustrated with what seemed like a predictable love plot. Though the love story did change, another one of the major plot twists was too easy to figure out. The ending, though not a true cliffhanger, also left a lot unresolved. While it set up things for the next installment, I would have liked to have learned more about Clara's purpose, her mother's past, and the threat of the Dark Wings.
All in all, UNEARTHLY is the best (and only good) young adult angel book I've read, and I'm very glad I got over my apprehension and read it. I'm looking forward to seeing if Hand can continue to bring the quick dialogue, swoony moments, and meaningful relationships in the sequel, Hallowed. I sure hope so. ...more
Breezy but touching read about family & forgiveness
As a debut novel, Jessi Kirby's Moonglass delivers a breezy but touching read about dealing wit Breezy but touching read about family & forgiveness
As a debut novel, Jessi Kirby's Moonglass delivers a breezy but touching read about dealing with the past and moving forward. After years living along the beach where her mother died, Anna is uprooted when her father takes a new job. Despite being angry about the move, Anna soon learns that her new beach home is closer to her mother's memory than she expected. She also finds that new friends and a new perspective might bring her closer to understanding her father and the tragic past that has distanced them.
This short, succinct book has so many things to like about it. Kirby's writing is clean and clear, and the story doesn't dwell too long on anything, resulting in excellent pacing. Great dialogue that always felt real also moves the story forward. Anna is a confident, capable, and self-assured character that I believed could be a real teen. The romance, while present, wasn't the focus and didn't overwhelm the main story about Anna and her father. The author also creates an excellent sense of place and beach culture. Whether the characters were walking on the beach or exploring deserted cottages, I could imagine being there too.
The greatest strength of the novel, however, lies in Anna's relationship with her father and how it's depicted. Their relationship is touching, even with their reservations around each other, and felt very honest. Anna's father is portrayed as a real person, complete with his own emotions, friends, and issues. Despite Anna's frustration with him and their growing silence about her mother, he is there for her. I really enjoyed reading about this type of parent-teen relationship instead of the absent or neglectful parents so often seen in young adult literature.
Though all of these things were great, the story had a few places where improvements could be made. Some plot points were too convenient or predictable, and the characters' problems were often resolved a little too easily. Some descriptions in the first part of the story also made Anna seem a bit shallow and too boy-focused. Tyler, the love interest, came across as too cocky to be really swoon-worthy. Ashley, while a great secondary character, also seemed a bit unrealistic in her immediate connection and friendship with Anna, especially since Ashley could have been friends with many other people due to her combination of beauty, wealth, and personality.
Even with these quibbles, MOONGLASS was just the summer beach read with a bit of substance that I needed now as winter sets in. I look forward to reading what Kirby writes in the future, and I hope that fans of similar authors (Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti) will snap up her work too. ...more
In Insurgent, Veronica Roth’s much anticipated sequel to Divergent, the stakes are even higher. Tris and a small group have escaped after the simulation that killed countless people, but their struggles are far from over. Possible war looms between the factions, and Tris and Tobias are among those most wanted by the different sides. Tris must grapple with grief, guilt, and deception as sides are declared and choices must be made, including ones that threaten her and those she loves.
Though I enjoyed the first book, Insurgent was even better with clearer world building, stronger character development, and more intricate plots twists. Like Divergent, the story reads quickly and easily, but this installment has a much quieter, somber tone. Tris, Tobias (Four), and all of the survivors are dealing with the emotional and political fallout after the simulation, and it shows. All of the characters, including those the reader loves and those who are despised, are fleshed out more and given added layers. Tris’s struggle to move forward while burdened by grief and guilt is portrayed in a way that feels real and poignant. Though she engages in a lot of selfish or thoughtless actions in this book, all of those actions seem like honest attempts to deal with her loss, her choices, and how she should best work to honor those she loves. Tris and Tobias also continue to bring the swoon with simple words and small touches, despite having problems. Their relationship encounters major hurdles in this installment, but they are all reasonable and justified given what’s happening. The relationship they share provides a much-needed counterpoint to show that love and connection is worth fighting for and is possible even in a world that’s falling apart.
In addition to these strengths, the plot was unpredictable and gripping. The novel is full of unexpected alliances, betrayal, action, and rebellion on multiple fronts that keep the story moving. The world building also improved dramatically over that of the first book. I really enjoyed being immersed in the different factions, and the author’s description of each group allowed me to imagine them clearly. I also understand now why some information was withheld in the first book, given some of the significant plot reveals.
Even though this book was great read, I still experienced a few bumps. The story starts immediately after the end of Divergent with little to no recapping of events, so it took me a little while to remember or figure out who certain people were or what had happened previously. A few typos and continuity errors pulled me out of the story, and some betrayals/alliances/connections seemed a little too convenient to allow certain parts of the plot to move forward. The book also suffers a bit from middle-book syndrome in that it can’t stand on its own, and the ending leaves off in a dramatic place right after a big reveal.
Overall, though, Insurgent is an impressive sequel that leaves me eager to see where the author will take the story next. Given what’s revealed at the end of this novel, I can’t imagine how Veronica Roth could wrap up the series with only one more book, but it’s no matter to me, as I plan to keep reading whatever she offers....more
Though I should be terribly ashamed of this rating, I have to admit that this book was the addictively readable, sometimes swoony stuff that brought mThough I should be terribly ashamed of this rating, I have to admit that this book was the addictively readable, sometimes swoony stuff that brought me into the fold of YA literature. It was rife with anger-inducing sexist stereotypes, unhealthy relationships, and poor writing, but Meyer does weave a tale that pulls the reader in. That doesn't forgive it all its faults, but I admit to being sucked in, all while yelling at the characters (literally) about their foolishness....more
Powerful and easily read account of the 1955 lynching/murder of 14-year old Emmett Till, an event that few of us know about but that helped spark the Powerful and easily read account of the 1955 lynching/murder of 14-year old Emmett Till, an event that few of us know about but that helped spark the U.S. civil rights movement. Well-written, moving non-fiction that could be great as a text to pair with To Kill a Mockingbird or similar for classroom use.
ETA: I've since found some claims re: a few factual inaccuracies in the book, but if true, they are still minor enough to not take away from text too much....more