What makes a five-star read? For some people, a five-star book might mean "near-perfection" in storytelling, characterization, plot, prose, pacing, thWhat makes a five-star read? For some people, a five-star book might mean "near-perfection" in storytelling, characterization, plot, prose, pacing, theme, and enjoyment. For me, however, a five-star read usually must have all of the following: a certain degree of uniqueness to the story's execution, great characters whom I come to love, a high level of enjoyability, and (most important of all) a story that grips me from beginning to end. If a book can grant me all of those things, then said book and I will undoubtedly have a wonderful reading courtship.
Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel was one such book.
Just a few hours ago, I honestly didn't expect Dust Girl to garner a five-star rating from me. My misgivings were many since fairy-centric books have become a bit of a tired trend in the past few years. How many times can we read about secret fey heritages, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts warring as only light and darkness can, and creatures of fairy tales and legends who are often just as horrific and monstrous as magical and mysterious? Added into the mix were an "American Fairies" spin and a setting of 1930's Kansas, two things that could have been downfalls if not executed properly. In a lesser writer's hands, Dust Girl might have been a disaster, a book full of good ideas that never met their full potential...but Sarah Zettel is definitely not a "lesser writer" since her book soared and broke through the barrier of my expectations.
In dust-ridden Slow Run, Kansas, day-to-day life is a struggle for Callie LeRoux. The dusty air clogs up her lungs and makes breathing nearly impossible at times; her "mad" mother refuses to leave the dying town all because of a long-ago promise that seems unlikely to be fulfilled; and her lack of a father is a detriment as well as a mark of scorn and judgment in society. As more and more people leave Slow Run, desperation clings to Callie. Will both she and her mother die in this abandoned town? But the dust is stirring with a changing wind to come...
Almost all the qualms I held about Dust Girl were thrown away as soon as I began reading. Callie's voice is sympathetic and realistic, tugging at the right heartstrings and making you care about this girl whose struggles are burdens upon her shoulders. The feel of the setting and time period is believable and vibrant as if Zettel had used a time machine to go back in time and take notes on just the right things to make her story's world grounded but not overbearing. Even before I reached the author's note at the end, I knew that a lot of time, care, and research had gone into making the historical aspects to this tale as true and honest as possible.
That's actually what I appreciated most about this story: its truth and honesty. Even with creatures and magic and otherworldliness present in the plot, the story is very grounded in portraying humanity and the struggles many people face while living in "normalcy." Though there are shades of optimism and idealism to the story, many of the characters have faced very real hardships such as poverty, abuse, hunger, ridicule, and judgment. I think it's a trend of our modern materialistic society that many historical fiction novels tend to follow middle- or upper-class people while forgetting or downplaying the great majority who often struggled to survive.
As for the fairies in this story, they are very much a presence (and even a threat) in this first installment, but I think this novel has only just grazed the surface of Zettel's American fairy mythology. Already the mythology feels familiar yet unique, with both light and dark factions of fairies as well as animal-spirit guides and creatures hiding in human skins. I definitely look forward to how the mythology will expand over the series and what the revelations will mean for Callie and her continuing adventures.
Though I know that I may end up being in the minority with my love for this book, I really hope that readers will give Dust Girl a try since it is so much more than a historical fiction novel or another spin on fairy lore. It's a journey, an account of a girl trying to survive and managing against all odds to bear the rough winds that life sends her way, and to me that's definitely the kind of story worth reading.
Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley....more
In which a partying prince falls in love a Kate Middletonesque fae, who has been protecting the British royal family for centuries, and who must makeIn which a partying prince falls in love a Kate Middletonesque fae, who has been protecting the British royal family for centuries, and who must make an impossible choice amidst a backdrop of a palace murder and paparazzi mayhem.
Since I feel as though I'm being punked by the placeholder book blurb, I'm just going to say that I love the idea of a fae guardian protecting a royal family, so...here's hoping the book will be good reading come 2013....more
Angels. The world seems to be obsessed with them, given all the art and fiction we devote to their names. Some people see angels as their muses, creatAngels. The world seems to be obsessed with them, given all the art and fiction we devote to their names. Some people see angels as their muses, creatures to worship, guardians who protect the meek and oppressed, or even just avenging warriors who wage a great war of good and evil which we humans cannot see. But what is truth when it comes to these creatures? Is there any truth in the jumble of tales that surround them?
A Flight of Angels begins with a seemingly ominous occurrence: an angel suddenly falls from the sky and lands within a forest. Nearby fey creatures, curious yet wary, gather around the fallen, unconscious form and talk amongst themselves to decide what to do with this creature who may prove to be a threat once he awakens. The only things they know of angels come from mortal rumors and tales, so each creature shares their knowledge through stories in the hope that one might help to shed light on who this angel is and why he fell. But, as is true with any story, truth and lie are intermixed...so much so that it is often difficult to tell which is which.
The five stories, written by creative minds like Holly Black (author of The Modern Faerie Tales series) and Bill Willingham (creator/writer of Fables), shed different lights upon many aspects of angelic and Biblical mythos: the story of Adam and Eve, angel duties within the framework of the human world, the angel of death, guardian angels, and even the fall of Lucifer. All of the stories are intriguing and fascinating in their own ways, but not all of them bear the same level of "narrative punch." The revisioning of Adam and Eve's story, called "Original Sin," is one of the stronger tales of the bunch, though the ending tale, called "Shining Host," also bears quite an impact that leads to the outside story's startling, yet oddly fitting, climax.
Rebecca Guay's art for the entire graphic novel is very beautiful with a unique art style for each of the five stories. However, there are instances where the fluid art is disrupted by things such as facial photo manipulations that never quite seem to fit. Such instances seemed so odd and unnecessary to me, especially given that Guay's realistic style of art seemed fine enough on its own without such obvious measures. Other than that little nit-pick of mine, I really enjoyed the art and found myself drawn into each story less because of the narrative or prose (though there were some very nice instances of pretty words and thoughts) and more because of the art's allure.
For anyone who enjoys stories about angels or even just interesting takes on lore and myths, I would definitely recommend A Flight of Angels since it holds a lot of imagination within its one hundred and twenty pages. Don't let the graphic novel format turn you away because you might just miss out on something special, meaningful, and even a little bit sorrowful....more
Ooh. The blurb intrigued me enough on its own, but the title is actually also the title of a Placebo song, "Every You Every Me" (click link for a YouTOoh. The blurb intrigued me enough on its own, but the title is actually also the title of a Placebo song, "Every You Every Me" (click link for a YouTube video with the song and lyrics). Very, very intriguing indeed....more