Even though Jane Nickerson’s Strands of Bronze and Gold was a retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale, I wish the synopsis hadn’t stated so because let’...moreEven though Jane Nickerson’s Strands of Bronze and Gold was a retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale, I wish the synopsis hadn’t stated so because let’s face it: if you know what the fairy tale is about, it definitely ruins the climax. Assuming you don’t know the gist of the original fairy tale, let’s just say that Strands of Bronze and Gold is a slow-paced, creepy (beware, it does take some time to become that!) tale with gothic elements, set in the South before the Civil War. Although its secondary characters were forgettable (which is too bad because most of them were POC characters), Strands of Bronze and Gold features a sympathetic protagonist, a well-developed villain, and a realistic depiction of abuse.
Sophie was a character that I found pretty easy to relate to. Having her father die, she leaves her siblings to go live with her godfather who she hopes will provide her with a better life and eventually help her siblings as well. Once at Wyndriven Abbey, Sophie forgets her beliefs for a bit as she adjusts to now living a life of luxury. Fortunately, Sophie is able to see past the glitz later on and realize that perhaps she doesn’t want the exact life that her guardian is living. Nowhere is this more evident than in Sophie’s treatment of the slaves employed by Monsieur Bernard.
Poor Sophie is unable to handle her situation with Monsieur Bernard so easily however. At first, things appear great, with Monsieur Bernard providing her with ample gifts. But, she soon starts feeling slightly uncomfortable as Monsieur Bernard occasionally begins hitting on her. Having developed a minor crush on her godfather, Sophie initially brushes this off and makes excuses for her godfather’s behaviour, but the reader quickly becomes alert to more troublesome signs in their relationship like Monsieur Bernard’s temper and Sophie’s increasing isolation. Luckily, Sophie realizes that her godfather may not be as charming as he appears to be and quickly outgrows her crush, especially once she meets the local preacher, Reverend Gideon Stone.
The romance between Sophie and Gideon was very much insta-love, and I couldn’t buy it because I think Sophie would have fallen for anybody that gave her some attention and treated her decently. As a character, Gideon paled in comparison to Monsieur Bernard, who could be charismatic in one moment and furious, dismissive and manipulative in other. You just never knew which side of his you’d see!(less)
I love finding out about new Canadian authors. So, when I discovered that Elsie Chapman’s Dualed was available on NetGalley, I requested it. The synop...moreI love finding out about new Canadian authors. So, when I discovered that Elsie Chapman’s Dualed was available on NetGalley, I requested it. The synopsis sounded fantastic, and I thought that West and her Alt would become BFFs and try to bring down Kersh’s government together (or something like that). Yeah … not so much! What I got was a story with ridiculous worldbuilding, a protagonist that was hard to like, and a plot with very little substance.
In Dualed, the gated city of Kersh attempts to protect its citizens from the violence of the world outside by isolating them and making itself self-sufficient. In case the Surround does decide to attack Kersh though, the Board – which we get very little information about – ensures that every adult living in the city is capable of becoming a soldier since they’ve all been trained to kill (and have killed at least their Alt with what appears to be little remorse). Basically, that’s one of the purposes of having Alts; the other is that due to the problem of infertility, the Board wants that only the best version of two couples’ genes survives.
Though there seems to be some discontent with the Board’s system, I personally find it preposterous that most of Kersh’s citizens could be so complacent about having Alts. It’s sickening to imagine that people could be okay with the thought of ten-year-olds possibly killing each other! Also, for a city deemed to be a safe haven, the price of living in it seems awfully high what with all the violence (e.g. Alts killing Alts, Alts hiring strikers, civilians getting caught in the crossfire and becoming Peripheral Kills, etc.) occurring on a daily basis.
Then we have West herself. At the beginning of the book, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for West because she had lost her parents and siblings to violence. However, once West became an active (i.e. she has to kill her own Alt or risk being killed), it became really hard for me to understand her decisions. She freezes up when she’s initially activated (yet had earlier forced her brother’s best friend, Chord, to hunt down his Alt ASAP), pushes Chord away rather than letting him help her, and continues to work as a striker (West figured it would be a good way to get some more training) despite having a target on her back.
The only reason I finished Dualed was because Chapman’s ability to write a thriller was good enough to keep me curious about the ending. I kept waiting to see when West would run into her Alt, but eventually, all that chasing started to feel incredibly pointless. It took far too long to get to the predictable ending!
I’m not sure where the sequel will go since Dualed could have easily been a standalone, but I know I won’t be reading it. I really wanted to love Dualed, but it just ended up being a major disappointment.(less)
Pretty much the only redeeming thing about Sarah Zettel’s Dust Girl was the way Zettel managed to make the atmosphere of the Dust Bowl era come alive...morePretty much the only redeeming thing about Sarah Zettel’s Dust Girl was the way Zettel managed to make the atmosphere of the Dust Bowl era come alive because the plot was just so slow-paced and confusing with things being mentioned or events occurring in an unpredictable manner. Besides the random plot, the ending was really weird and completely out of the blue. As well, the characters weren’t that interesting, and it was hard for me to picture Callie in my mind since her age was never mentioned. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but Callie sometimes acted like a tween and at other times acted as if she was an older teenager. (less)
Suffused with wit and humour, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan isn’t at all like your typical YA novel! Here are three reasons why: 1) The main characte...moreSuffused with wit and humour, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan isn’t at all like your typical YA novel! Here are three reasons why: 1) The main character, Kami, is smart, persistent, and has a voice in her head that she often talks to. Adorably quirky, Kami knows she’s a little weird and is okay with it! 2) Kami’s parents not only make frequent appearances throughout the novel, but actually have a personality of their own! Her father, for example, is hilarious! Here’s just one of Mr. Glass’ brilliant quotes: “Why are you putting on lip gloss, my daughter? Dad asked. “Trip to the library? Trip to the nunnery? I hear the nunneries are nice this time of year.” … “Are you going out on a date?” Dad asked tragically. “Wearing that? Wouldn’t you fancy a shapeless cardigan instead? You rock a shapeless cardigan, honey.” (pg. 143) 3) There’s no love triangle … or even much of a romance. Instead, the tension in the relationship between Kami and Jared comes from the fact that they have a beautifully complicated relationship where they know each other intimately (mentally, anyway) but have also succeeded at building psychological walls so that there is some semblance of privacy. Once they discover that the imaginary voice in their head isn’t imaginary at all, neither of them knows what the other person should be to them. Should they ignore each other, continue to be friends or become a couple?
If it weren’t for the weird pacing of the plot, Unspoken would have definitely garnered a higher rating from me. The book starts off great and ends with a surprising ending; but it was the slow-paced middle that I had problems with since it made me feel detached from the characters. Another problem I also had with Unspoken was that although I really liked that it managed to be consistently entertaining, the seriousness of some events or moments was lost due to Kami cracking a joke or doing something ridiculous.
With a vivid Gothic setting, a fun mystery, and amusing dialogue; Unspoken was a good introduction to Brennan’s writing for me. This certainly won’t be the only novel of hers that I’m going to read! (less)
I seem to be having difficulty writing reviews lately – watching the Olympics nonstop may have something to do with it – so I’ve decided to instead st...moreI seem to be having difficulty writing reviews lately – watching the Olympics nonstop may have something to do with it – so I’ve decided to instead state five reasons why you should read Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina. Here we go:
1) The worldbuilding: Besides the appeal of dragons, the world that Hartman created was incredible in and of itself. It literally felt like Hartman thought of everything down to the minutest detail – characters were even discussing the works of her made-up philosophers!
2) The coming-of-age aspect: Although Seraphina is marketed as a fantasy, I think it can be enjoyed by anybody because it’s very much also a book about a young girl growing up, trying to figure out her place in the world, and learning to accept herself.
3) The main character: Seraphina was just so fantastically complex. At times, she comes off as fragile and you just want to give her a hug; and then at other times, you realize that she’s actually pretty brave and tough. All in all, Seraphina was a protagonist I could easily relate to and root for.
4) The secondary characters: I felt like all the secondary characters had something important to contribute to the story. Best of all, nobody seemed like a stereotyped character since even the minor characters were really well-developed.
5) A romance that doesn’t overpower the plot: Although Seraphina’s realization that she loves Kiggs seemingly came out of nowhere (or maybe I was just oblivious to the signs), the romance never felt like an instant love situation (possibly because the two had interacted with each other a few times before Seraphina’s sudden insight into her feelings). I also liked that the love triangle that develops in the end isn’t like your typical love triangle because a) there are two girls and one guy and b) it wasn’t created to add more drama for the sequel or because a character is irresistibly attractive, but because there ends up being a conflict between duty and love. I was so thrilled to see Hartman stay true to her characters’ natures and acknowledge (through her characters) that it’s not an easy choice.
If you can get past the slow beginning and stick with Seraphina, I assure you that you’ll find a beautifully written story with multiple fully-rounded characters!(less)
I’ve read a few novels dealing with the themes of grief and loss, but C.K. Kelly Martin’s My Beating Teenage Heart stands out for its lovely prose and...moreI’ve read a few novels dealing with the themes of grief and loss, but C.K. Kelly Martin’s My Beating Teenage Heart stands out for its lovely prose and way of getting the reader engaged into the story.
The book opens with a nameless being who simply exists among the stars before she's sucked back to the world of the living. Who is she? What has happened to her? Those answers will be revealed in time since Ashlyn is just as lost in the dark as the reader. Not a ghost but more like a consciousness, she’s also unable to help Breckon, the boy she has become connected to somehow.
Breckon’s past is perhaps only slightly less mysterious than Ashlyn’s. His alternating point of view informs the reader that he blames himself for his sister’s death – how she dies is unknown at first – and shows that he’s clearly in deep pain and suffering. Martin does a great job of contrasting Breckon with Ashlyn – one would do anything to live again and the other couldn’t care less.
Much like Ashlyn, the reader can only be a helpless bystander as Breckon rejects the emotional support offered by those close to him (even as they try to come to terms with Skylar’s death) and attempts to forget about reality through a variety of means. However, this in a way also distances Breckon from the reader who may have never experienced such a tragic loss.
Although the ending was a little disappointing because it was kind of neat and the connection between Breckon and Ashlyn wasn’t as significant as I thought it would be; I liked where Martin chose to end My Beating Teenage Heart. It seems like a logical point at which to conclude Breckon’s and Ashlyn’s story lines, but still leaves the reader with hope that the main characters will be okay.(less)