Discovery: I’ve loved Libba Bray’s books ever since the first Gemma Doyle, A Great and Terrible Beauty.
+ Humour. Everyone and their mothers will say t...moreDiscovery: I’ve loved Libba Bray’s books ever since the first Gemma Doyle, A Great and Terrible Beauty.
+ Humour. Everyone and their mothers will say this, but Libba is truly one of the funniest women I’ve ever encountered in literature and in real life. Her signature brand of crazed humour is the biggest stamp on this novel, keeping it from tipping into preachy territory. Miss Rhode Island’s secret is a particular favourite subplot and I love the not-so-subtle digs at popular culture. This book seems custom-made for 90s kids.
+ Characters. The Miss Teen Dream pageant is populated by colourful characters, each of whom bring a whole set of insecurities and goals to the island. Each of them are forced to face more than their fears: they also have to come to terms with what they want out of life. Miss Texas is the key example, and while I can’t talk about her too much without spoiling anyone, I will say that I’m pleased with her ending. A desert island changes people, as we all know from countless castaway books and films. Libba Bray reminds us that that change is also a choice.
- Length. To be honest, I’m on the fence regarding the length of this book. It was longer than I expected, and keeping all the names and plot lines straight was challenging. Bray quickly switches from using the state titles to the girls’ names, sometimes in the same paragraph and it can get difficult to keep up.
- Lack of focus. I also thought that certain subplots were unnecessary and/or not explained very well. I’m still a little confused about the Corporation’s role and the motivations of certain antagonists. The book’s focus was on the girls, but I think I needed a bit more exposition to really understand the underlying story. Going Bovine may have been stream-of-consciousness but Cameron tied the story down excellently. This book seems to flit from one theme to another without ever really settling down.
Recommendations: This is a satire of everything feminine, so take it with a grain of salt. I would recommend this to the older end of YA readers, who are better equipped to follow the references and inside jokes with which Bray fills this novel.
Ugh my heart hurts so much. I am not coherent enough to write a proper review right now, but I LOVED IT....moreMy original post:
I can't believe it's over.
Ugh my heart hurts so much. I am not coherent enough to write a proper review right now, but I LOVED IT. Thank you, Melissa, for such a wonderful, thought-provoking series.
A proper review:
Discovery: I’ve been patiently waiting for this novel, the final book in the Wicked Lovely/Tattoo Faeries (depending on who you ask) series, for years. I first read Wicked Lovely in November 2007 and it remains one of the best birthday presents I ever bought myself.
+ Ensemble/world. One of the things I love most about this series is the vibrant cast of characters. Only Fragile Eternity (Book 3) served as a real sequel–Ink Exchange and Radiant Shadows opened different curtains on the WL stage. Darkest Mercy brings all the fey and humans together for one final satisfying stand. I really enjoyed the character development, especially in Niall, Irial, Donia and Keenan.
On a related note, I will be forever in awe of the world that Melissa Marr created. It’s creepy and passionate and so very alive that I’m scared the translation from text to screen (Wicked Lovely is going to be a movie!) will either take it too far or not far enough. The fey and their courts are perfectly nuanced in their presentation and it’s not hard to imagine this other world surrounding us.
+ Seth. It’s no secret that for the last four years, the teenager in me has harboured a tendre for Seth Morgan. This is a point for Melissa Marr’s characterization because I’ve never really found tattooed and pierced guys attractive. His attitude and actions speak far more than his appearance, though, and of all the characters in the series, he undergoes the most startling transformation.
I suppose what I like most about Seth is his determination. Wicked Lovely introduced him as Aislinn’s friend-who-wants-something-more, but didn’t stop there and that’s the best thing about it. The five books have seen him grow and experience pain and make decisions that speak of his maturity and acceptance of the faerie world around him. More than anything, his devotion to Aislinn isn’t blind: he pursues her and her world actively, making sure that when it all ends and whether either or both of them die, they see each other as equals.
+ Conclusion. I will argue with anyone on this, because I feel like it was the one of the most satisfying series endings I’ve ever read. I can’t say much without spoiling anyone, but I loved the simplicity and integrity of it. One of the themes in WL is the importance of compromise. These days, so much of the world is coloured gray and it isn’t easy to live a black-and-white existence. Marr’s faeries reflect our own on-the-fence choices and in the course of the series, they are each faced with decisions they don’t want to make. How they deal with it brings about conclusions none of them can foresee and the sheer bravery they display in return is commendable.
- Action scenes. In the course of reading this novel, I couldn’t help but compare it to Radiant Shadows, the previous book which I’ve read maybe 20 times. At times, it felt as though I was watching the action scenes happen through a blurry glass window. They didn’t feel real enough and I found myself wishing it would end so I would know who survived. In Radiant Shadows, I could barely keep myself from whimpering as my favourite characters took hits.
Recommendations: A stellar conclusion to a gorgeous series, this chapter will satisfy young adult readers, and provide lots of discussion, especially for faerie lovers.
Oh God. I am not coherent enough to write out a review right now. I'm just going to go crawl into a sock...moreMy original post:
CRYING ALL THE TEARS FOREVER.
Oh God. I am not coherent enough to write out a review right now. I'm just going to go crawl into a sock drawer and sob for days.
A proper review:
Discovery: Early buzz on Goodreads and book blogs that I follow. Oliver’s first novel, Before I Fall, was an excellent read and it interested me enough to want to check out her follow-up books.
+ Gorgeous, intricate language. The novel deals with the subject of love in a very clinical manner, going so far as to medically label the “disease” amor deliria nervosa. It’s reminiscent of Lois Lowry’s The Giver in this way, though Lena is a far more introspective character than Jonas. She is whip-smart, but there is a deep sense of loneliness and distance in the way she sees the world around her.
+ Alex and Lena’s relationship. It’s obvious from the first moment that Alex and Lena meet that a relationship will develop, but the reader is never quite sure about who falls first. Alex’s introduction is intriguing and fits his mischievous nature really well. Their relationship is written in a way that suggest their feelings for one another–the reader is taken along on an unpredictable ride, filled with uncertainty, fear and a stark and unavoidable fascination.
+ Friendship. It’s easy to forget that Lena has an important relationship before Alex: her best friendship with Hana Tate. Oliver managed to touch the innermost fears of most girls–not looking pretty enough, not being talented enough, not being daring enough–and relate it to how they approach friendships with people they believe embody the traits they want to have. Lena is a brave character, but it’s only when she is with Hana that the true Lena shines.
+/- World-building. Dystopian novels depend on a solid world, and if an author is lazy or indifferent, even the best writing will fall apart. I did think that The Book of Shhh was named rather strangely, but I’m willing to give Oliver the benefit of the doubt and hope that it’s explained in the sequels. As for its contents, I was amazed by the detail and reinterpretation that she came up with, as it’s creative enough to pass for a real book. I’m also curious about the examinations and how exactly they were created.
- Pacing. While I was very quickly caught up in the book, I did think that there were slow chapters. Lena’s scenes with her family are jarring compared to the dreamy mood of the rest of the novel. Some chapters move extremely quickly, while others take their time.
+/- The ending. It was brilliant. Really. But I have to put it down as a negative point too, because after reading it, I had to put the book down and actually reconsider picking it up again. I read this book five days ago, and I still haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to read the sequel.
Falling in love is beautiful, but it is also painful. The ending of this book is much the same way. It’s difficult to describe that pain without spoiling the novel, but suffice it to say, the last pages of your copy may experience heavy torrents. It’s the kind of ending that makes you throw your book across the room, even as you want to hold on tight.
Recommendations: Not for the faint-hearted. I would recommend this book to everyone who has ever wondered about love. Just be prepared to cry.
Release Date:April 5, 2011 Publisher: Dutton Juvenile Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 260 For...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: April 5, 2011 Publisher: Dutton Juvenile Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 260 Format: Hardcover Source: Personal copy
It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.
Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.
Discovery: After finally finishing If I Stay, I immediately--and I do mean immediately--went to the bookstore and bought Where She Went.
+ Intensity. Where If I Stay was poignant and pensive, Adam's story is deeply devastating. The pages bleed with his emotion. It's commonly assumed by people that artists feel too much (Van Gogh is just one depressing example out of many) and in this case, they would be right. Adam Wilde's torment is a silent kind, which he himself has difficulty voicing. The reader quickly realizes that only one person can understand him, and it's the one person he can't bring himself to be with. All in all, these factors make for an explosive and emotional book that I devoured in a single hour.
+ Romance. Contemporary romance is something I've always struggled to enjoy, because it can feel very cheesy and uncomfortable to read. It's also rife with cliched dialogue, which is one of the biggest turn-offs in my reading experience. Thankfully, Gayle Forman succeeds with another beautifully-written story of love in all its forms. Just when I thought I'd reached a threshold for adorable and emotional moments between Mia and Adam, another one would break through my defenses. I was reduced to speechless hand-waving and head-holding. The pages fairly sizzled as Adam and Mia talked and wept and existed with each other for the first time in three years. To be honest, I couldn't take this book in all its unashamed, gritty glory, dear readers. It was simply too much for my fragile heart to handle--it was so very real.
The final say: Gayle Forman concludes Mia and Adam's story with emotional gentleness and incandescent prose, ensuring that readers' hearts will never be the same again.
Discovery: I was one of the last people I know to read Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins’ debut novel, so I w...moreGalaxies and stars in my eyes.
Discovery: I was one of the last people I know to read Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins’ debut novel, so I was determined to pick up a copy of Lola as soon as it came out. (World’s Biggest Bookstore had two copies available as early/late as yesterday and I ran down after work to get one.)
+ Vibrant characters. If someone were to ask me to describe Lola in one word, it would be joy. I had so much fun reading this novel–finished it in two hours!–and a huge part of that is due to the characters. Lola jumps off every page and her voice is just as strong and unique. I really enjoyed her interaction with her dads and it was easy to get to know her. Lindsey, her best friend, was the character that made me sit up and go “That’s me!” Anna and Etienne’s appearances made my heart dissolve into a puddle (I may or may not have had to stifle high-pitched squeals into my pillow last night). And Cricket…oh, can we just talk about Cricket for the rest of the blog post? No? …Okay, fine.
You know how Belle from Beauty and the Beast sings “I want so much more than they’ve got planned?” This was my tune while waiting for Lola. I wanted someone more than just a pretty British boy who’s also an artist (though I do seem to have a weakness for them). I wanted Stephanie Perkins to surprise me, to make me want to get to know another dreamy fictional boy, especially since I don’t seem to be lacking in them lately. Cricket was everything I could ever want and more. He’s an inventor! He helps his figure-skating sister! He studies star charts! There may not be enough exclamation points in the world for me to keep going. This is why I love Stephanie Perkins’ characters: they’re never exactly who you think they are.
+ Romance. I’ll throw it out there right now: I don’t like bad boys. I get the appeal, but I personally would not want to take all that baggage on. Nice guys are my Kryptonite (see Williams, Rory [Doctor Who] and Mellark, Peeta [The Hunger Games]). So understandably, I spent a sizeable chunk of the book wondering what Lola saw in Max. But the book’s not about them, is it?
The first appearance of our titural “Boy Next Door” had me wheezing from giggling so much. That’s the moment I knew that I’d like him. Cricket and Lola are like the earth and the moon: they are each other’s satellites and it’s obvious from the start that they’re not over whatever happened two years ago. I liked that Stephanie Perkins didn’t drag things out and had them face each other early on. The development of their relationship was believable, though I did want to sit Lola down for a few minutes and tell her that it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Then again, I wanted to do the same for Anna. There were lots of adorable moments and I genuinely like them together.
+ Setting. I’m an East Coast girl, born and bred, so books set in San Francisco hold a rare kind of appeal for me. I’m not a fan of glitzy L.A. or rainy Seattle; the Bay Area’s always been my favourite city on the West Coast. I loved the descriptions Perkins provided of the roller-coaster streets and the little bits of flavour that she sprinkled throughout the book. The music festivals sound amazing!
Recommendations: I love this book. I really really really love it, maybe not as much as Anna and the French Kiss, but still lots of love. As a contemporary YA romance, everything works brilliantly. Stephanie Perkins definitely has another winner on her hands.
Discovery: I am a jar and proud of it. Maureen Johnson is one of my favourite authors and this new series is just what I’ve been looking for.
+ Ghosts....moreDiscovery: I am a jar and proud of it. Maureen Johnson is one of my favourite authors and this new series is just what I’ve been looking for.
+ Ghosts. Bless the day this book was published, because I’ve been waiting for a great ghost story for ages! Vampires and werewolves and angels do nothing for me, but ghosts? There’s a gold mine that’s just dying (HA HA) to be explored. I loved how random the situation seems to be: a Southern girl moves to London for ten months and comes face-to-face with Jack the Ripper. There aren’t any tired old cliches or tributes to successful ghost stories here. Maureen Johnson expertly ties together her own mythology and sprinkles it with a healthy dose of historical accuracy, making for a romp of a tale. Of course, the reader is haunted (it’s just too easy) by a question right at the start: what is “the name of the star?” The answer is a brilliant play on words that all readers will enjoy.
+ Humour. I’m going to point this out even though most people who’ve read an MJ book already know how funny she is. It’s not a ha-ha kind of humour, but more like a snicker and a shared look of woe over how no one else seems to get it but that’s fine, that’s fine, we are all safe and happy in our jars and troosers. A lot of the things I laughed at were one-liners and references to other books or TV shows that I wasn’t expecting. If you know me well, you’ll know why I burst out laughing during the costume party scene. It was a great balancing act and one that Maureen succeeds at with aplomb.
+ Smart, snappy writing. The MJ books I’ve loved most were ones narrated in the third-person, like The Bermudez Triangle and Suite Scarlett. Naturally, the discovery of Rory’s first-person perspective surprised me. It worked well for the story–the reader needs to feel that connection to Rory and what she’s going through. I also enjoyed the voice MJ employed because of its innocence and wry intelligence.
There have been some complaints that the first 100 pages were mostly exposition and not enough action. I can see why they might say that, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It’s clear that the story needed that kind of extended set-up for the rest of the novel to work. One thing I’ve always liked about MJ’s books are that they are very easy to read. You’re not struggling to understand overly lyrical prose, but at the same time, her personality shines through. I love it when books shine a light on the writers behind them, because they give the story new dimensions.
Recommendations: Teen and adult readers will both enjoy this gritty and enthralling ghost story from the Queen of Danube, Maureen Johnson. No promises that you won’t want the second book in the Shades of London series IMMEDIATELY after reading.
Discovery: Ever since I first saw the synopsis for this book in May, I’ve been dying to read it. The 90s kid in me had a veritable party when I won an...moreDiscovery: Ever since I first saw the synopsis for this book in May, I’ve been dying to read it. The 90s kid in me had a veritable party when I won an ARC from Lenore!
+ Themes. The plot is fairly straightforward: Emma and Josh try out the internet for the first time–I’m pretty sure all you 20-somethings can already hear the sharp dial tone–and find their Facebook pages, 15 years into the future. The story is appealing to both the young and young at heart, because who isn’t even a tiny bit curious about their future selves? Emma and Josh quickly discover that the internet is like life itself–seemingly easy to understand but lots of hidden catches hang around to trip you up.
Emma is exactly the kind of stubborn and inquisitive teenager many of us were once upon a time. It’s easy for the reader to understand why she might want to take control of her life, and the difficulties she has with those consequences. Josh is a rational and kind boy who isn’t quite sure of himself, and learns how to be more confident in the course of the novel. The Future of Us is about the power of choices and beliefs, both of which hold an immeasurable influence on all of us.
+/- Nostalgia. In 1996, I was eight years old. I was about six months away from getting my very first computer (a Compaq Presario with Windows 95) and that famous America Online CD-ROM. Reading this book was like waking up in my old room again, with Saturday morning cartoons and Dunkaroos on the kitchen counter. That said, I would be the first to admit that this novel isn’t going to appeal to everyone. For one, the pop culture references can sometimes be unintelligible for younger readers who didn’t grow up during the 90s. There are pages where they come one right after another and if you constantly have to look up the people, places and things that are mentioned, it can take away from the experience.
Recommendations: My generation (the 20-something crowd) will definitely enjoy the throwbacks to our childhood games and experiences.
Discovery: Anything Melissa Marr does automatically goes on the TBR pile–I have an ongoing love affair with the Wicked Lovely series.
+ Charm. I’ve fou...moreDiscovery: Anything Melissa Marr does automatically goes on the TBR pile–I have an ongoing love affair with the Wicked Lovely series.
+ Charm. I’ve found that I tend to have high standards for short story collections, mostly because I was given so many brilliant pieces in university. If there are only 20 pages in a story, it better hold me in thrall from the first paragraph to the last. Not every story in this collection was able to do that, but they each had their own charming quirks, little tidbits that made me smile and continue to the next page and the next, even if I was a little confused about a plot twist. I didn’t realize that some stories were set in the same universe as the author’s previous books, but they were all intriguing enough that I added them to my TBR pile.
+ Themes. Enthralled seems to suggest an anthology full of love stories and starcrossed romances. Instead, the reader gets 16 fics about the importance of journeys. When I read Enthralled two weeks ago, my life was pretty quiet and settled. At this moment, however, I’m that girl on the cover: there’s a mysterious road before me and I’m looking back, not quite sure of where I’m going, but knowing I want to keep walking anyway. The time I spent away from the anthology sharpened those parallels and made the stories more valuable to me. Being a teenager is a journey in itself and it’s not always easy to see who one’s true companions are. Each story in the collection dealt with that uncertainty in a careful and beautifully-written manner.
- Backstory. Just a small caveat for readers who are unfamiliar with any of the authors in this anthology: if I recall correctly, half of the stories are set in the same universe as the author’s other books. Some stories aren’t difficult to understand, while others may require a little brushing-up on the background of that universe.
My favourite stories:
“Scenic Route,” Carrie Ryan “Things About Love,” Jackson Pearce “Merely Mortal,” Melissa Marr “Gargouille,” Mary E. Pearson
Recommendations: Iwould definitely give this book to discerning teenage readers and those looking for an well-written themed anthologies.
Discovery: I’ve never read any of Sarah Mlynowski’s books before but Ten Things sounded like a fun, frolicking adventure.
+ Humour. The two hours I spe...moreDiscovery: I’ve never read any of Sarah Mlynowski’s books before but Ten Things sounded like a fun, frolicking adventure.
+ Humour. The two hours I spent reading this novel were two of the most entertaining hours of my life. April is a wacky girl and that wackiness only becomes more and more obvious as the book goes on. Part of the humour comes from her own naivete, but the reader never feels like she’s going to fail. Her clear narrative voice carries the novel and makes it fun to follow. Certain situations seem set-up to be funny and are simply okay until April starts to consider them. That said, it isn’t a ha-ha kind of funny, but more oh-my-God-no-way-is-she-really-oh-my-gosh trail of nervous laughter and shared embarassment with April. To be honest, it’s hard to explain just how funny Sarah Mlynowski’s dialogue is unless you’ve read the book.
+/- Plot. While I liked the pacing and set-up of the book, the plot offers a more mixed view. On one hand, April’s year seems to be set up for some epic stuff: no parental supervision and a friend who lives it up can only equal crazy adventures. I didn’t read the cover copy, so I had no idea what to expect and that anticipation made the reading experience far more fun. I saw a lot of myself in April–wanting to try new things, but really nervous about them–and I liked cheering her on as she staked her independence.
On the other hand, some of the things April and her friends do seem really over-the-top and unbelievable. I always felt like they were dancing on a very narrow wire and that made me a little cynical that they could pull it off. I wanted her to succeed, but at the same time, I wanted to sit her down and say “April, maybe you’re moving a little too fast.” Thankfully, she realizes this too and while I personally might not have done the same things she did to fix it, I do admire her determination and good heart. Mlynowski’s writing pulls in some bonus points here–the writing is perfect for the tone of the story and doesn’t bog it down with unnecessary lyrical prose. April and her story are simply fun to experience.
- Certain characters and their motives. The last two points may have made it clear just how much I like April, but some characters weren’t so pleasing. I did find that Vi, April’s “housemate,” was larger than life and not in a good way. Her interaction with April did make me wonder at times if peer pressure was a factor in April’s decisions and I’m not sure how to feel about how Vi is glamourized. I also have to ask why she decided to let April live with them. It’s a fast decision, one that’s glossed over in favour of getting to the “Ten Things,” but I do think it’s an important part of the story. What really connects these girls?
Recommendations: I enjoyed this book, but I think I might be too old to find it really believable. Mlynowski does offer up a tasty dish of intrigue, romance and growth and teen readers will have fun crossing off their lists with April.
Go visit Sarah Mlynowski at her website and follow her on Twitter @sarahmlynowski.
You can check out Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have) on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.
And just as a little bonus, my own list of Ten Things I Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have), University-Edition:
1.Slept in a coffee shop 2.Stayed up all night to buy tickets for a basketball game 3.Pretended I was my own twin sister (spoiler alert: I don’t have a twin) 4.Dared a friend to cannonball into a pool with his suit on 5.Joked about posing with a 3-foot poster of Darren Criss in the middle of a mall (spoiler alert: guess what I got for my birthday that year?) 6.Made my entire floor (I lived in a dorm) read The Hunger Games. (spoiler alert: there may have been actual wailing once they got to Mockingjay.) 7.Agreed to visit the red-light district at 3 a.m. with a huge group of friends on a Friday night (spoiler alert: my best friend and I almost got picked up) 8.Fluffed Darren Criss’ hair (I actually don’t regret this at all, but I probably shouldn’t have done it because now some teenage girls want to maim me.) 9.Done NaNoWriMo last year 10.Waited so long to read Anna and the French Kiss. (Clearly, I am not as daring as one might think.)(less)
Discovery: I first saw this book on Goodreads, and that sighting was quickly followed by mentions on Publisher’s Weekly and book blogs.
+ Voice. The st...moreDiscovery: I first saw this book on Goodreads, and that sighting was quickly followed by mentions on Publisher’s Weekly and book blogs.
+ Voice. The story is told through alternating chapters, focusing on Lochan, then Maya. Despite the differences in age and temperament, Lochan and Maya’s voices are complementary. Lochan’s fears and anxieties are a well-placed foil for Maya’s calm, ethereal nature and together they unravel a devastating story of love. I was also enchanted by Tiffin and Willa, and Kit’s story is just as harrowing to read about as Lochan’s.
+ Themes. I’m sure there are readers who will pick this book up simply for the controversial subject matter. Incest is still one of the great taboos in a society that has used sex to advertise everything from cars to musical instruments. When the topic is hinted at, there is an automatic wince, a refusal to hear more, a need to protect oneself from the knowledge of it. Forbidden doesn’t shy away from that reaction. Both Lochan and Maya are aware of the consequences of what they are doing, almost as much as they know they need each other. The question posed to readers is this: Was it really worth it in the end?
Too much of a good thing is always bad, including love. Was it really love or simply a “sick” need for affection? The power in this novel comes from the uncertainty it stirs up in its readers. We feel deeply for Lochan and Maya and we want to see them happy. After everything that happens in this book, who wouldn’t? But how far would we be willing to go to afford them that happiness? Is it really for us to decide? Can that kind of love exist between two people who never asked to be born into the same family? Forbidden challenges its readers to hear the voices of two children who are caught in circumstances they cannot control, who are making decisions we may not understand or approve of, and that is all. It’s enough.
Recommendations: Some of you may have noticed that I didn’t include any negative points. I rarely do this, but I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this novel. It was emotionally scarring, in the best way, and I will definitely buy a copy of my own to read and reread. While I would recommend this novel to everyone I know, the fact remains that it contains mature scenes and young teens should read this with a parent’s guidance.
Release Date:October 25, 2011 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books Age Group: Young...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: October 25, 2011 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 240 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC from Claire Legrand
For as long as Esmerine can remember, she has longed to join her older sister, Dosinia, as a siren--the highest calling a mermaid can have. When Dosinia runs away to the mainland, Esmerine is sent to retrieve her. Using magic to transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily to the capital city.
There she comes upon a friend she hasn't seen since childhood--a dashing young man named Alandare, who belongs to a winged race of people. As Esmerine and Alandare band together to search for Dosinia, they rekindle a friendship...and ignite the emotions for a love so great, it cannot be bound by sea, land, or air.
+ World-building. The world that Jaclyn Dolamore creates in this novel is, bar-none, one of the most gorgeous settings I've read about in the last few years. It is a kind of scrappy beauty that permeates Esmerine's life, and I couldn't help but be awestruck at the sheer differences between our world and hers. I loved that mermaids co-existed with humans who co-existed with winged creatures. I loved the inevitable conflicts and the medieval feel to the book. Between the Sea and Sky inspired a sense of wonder in me up to the the very last page.
+ Romance. There has always been something inherently romantic about the idea of mermaids to me. Many stories about mermaids focus on what they can't have--relationships with humans--and what they have to give up to get it. And while I truly adore those stories of forbidden/sacrificial love, it's also lovely to have a story where things can work out for the best. Esmerine and Alandare are quite obviously meant for each other, but their love story doesn't feel contrived. In fact, I would say that they are at their best when they're with each other, which is ideal for any relationship.
- Point-of-view. I enjoyed reading this novel, but there were times that I had to work a little to make myself continue reading. My main issue was the point-of-view and the distance it creates between the reader and Esmerine. For the first few chapters, I felt like there was a glass wall between us: I could see what she was doing, and even understand why, but it didn't really affect me. I genuinely like her as a character, however, and I wish that had been more obvious from the start.
Recommendations: Definitely check this book out for the beautiful setting and romance, because it's worth the somewhat-slow first few chapters.
Discovery: After reading Once a Witch, I wasn’t going to stop until I’d finished the gorgeous sequel.
+ Conflicts. I’ll try to talk about this positive...moreDiscovery: After reading Once a Witch, I wasn’t going to stop until I’d finished the gorgeous sequel.
+ Conflicts. I’ll try to talk about this positive point without spoiling the ending to Once a Witch. Tamsin doesn’t see herself as the black sheep of the family anymore, but that sudden shift doesn’t go unnoticed by the rest of the family. She has to deal with the fact that more than half of the family is now afraid of her. I loved that Carolyn MacCullough doesn’t shy away from writing about the awkward situations that are sure to pop up, and I liked that she didn’t discount Tamsin’s own feelings about it.
+ Historical context. I mentioned in my review of Once a Witch that I would have liked to see more of the Greene’s history. What made them the kind of witches they are, and what really makes them different from the Knights? This novel answers all of those questions, giving Tamsin and the reader both families’ perspectives. Some may disagree with me, but I do think that the Knights are written in a sympathetic manner.
- Rushed pace. I peeked at the number on the last page before I started reading and was dismayed to see 288. It was disappointing how how short the novel is, and it’s quite obvious in the pacing. Tamsin is quite pressed for time in her quest to find out what’s going on with her family’s history, but there are times when the writing suffers because of that rush.
Recommendations: As a sequel, Always a Witch serves its purpose, but it does leave the reader wanting more. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though Carolyn MacCullough’s set it up that way.
Release Date:July 4, 2011 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Age Group: Young Adult Page...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: July 4, 2011 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 304 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy received from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review
What happens to the girls nobody sees—the ones who are ignored, mistreated, hidden away? The girls nobody hears when they cry for help?
Fourteen-year-old Luce is one of those lost girls. After her father vanishes in a storm at sea, she is stuck in a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village with her alcoholic uncle. When her uncle crosses an unspeakable line, Luce reaches the depths of despair. Abandoned on the cliffs near her home, she expects to die when she tumbles to the icy, churning waves below. Instead, she undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.
A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. The mermaids are beautiful, free, and ageless, and Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: they feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks.
Luce’s own talent at singing captures the attention of the tribe’s queen, the fierce and elegant Catarina, and Luce soon finds herself pressured to join in committing mass murder. Luce’s struggle to retain her inner humanity puts her at odds with her friends; even worse, Catarina seems to regard Luce as a potential rival. But the appearance of a devious new mermaid brings a real threat to Catarina’s leadership and endangers the very existence of the tribe. Can Luce find the courage to challenge the newcomer, even at the risk of becoming rejected and alone once again?
Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.
Discovery:Lost Voices is the first mermaid book I've read in years, thanks to all the buzz on book blogs and Goodreads. [Full disclosure: I am writing this review after having read the second book, Waking Voices, so many of the themes I noticed are more fully fleshed out in WV. ]
+ Luce. The fourteen-year-old protagonist of this novel isn't a Katniss or a Gemma Doyle or even a Bella. She's just a girl looking for a home and the cabin she inhabits with her uncle is a trap in itself. It's clear from the first page that she never belonged on land.
There are a lot of things I loved about this novel, but Luce herself was a big part of it. Her tentative and vibrant voice carried the story. There were times when I had to put the book down because my heart would ache with sympathy and concern for her, and the rest of the mermaids. None of us were wise at 14. But Luce will never age, never grow up, never have a real future full of changes. It is a terrifying fate that was handed to her, and while she might seem fragile and easily broken at first, she becomes a force to reckon with. Her story is inspiring as it is terrible.
+ Themes. Popular culture is familiar with the image of the carefree, beautiful mermaid. None of them asked for their fate, and their story challenges the reader to reconsider what justice really means. Is justice served when the mermaids sing to kill? Do they have the right to take revenge on innocent humans for their crimes? And is music truly beautiful when it commits acts of violence? The mermaids were victims, but the reader learns to consider all sides of the story.
Honestly, Lost Voices is not an easy book to read. The story is emotionally wrenching, and the characters are so very alive that it almost makes you want to look for them in the ocean. But it is a story that needed to be told, and told well. T.S. Eliot writes in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each/I do not think that they will sing to me. In Lost Voices, the melodies are haunting and flow through every word. It is up to the reader to decipher the true nature of those words and see the beauty beneath it all.
Recommendations: When I am asked to recommend a mermaid novel, this is always the first to come to mind, and rightly so. Lost Voices draws deep into the reader's soul and captures them in its unending song.
Discovery: Lots of book buzz put this book on my radar, but it’s the story that hooked me. I haven’t read an epic fantasy since Game of Thrones, so I...moreDiscovery: Lots of book buzz put this book on my radar, but it’s the story that hooked me. I haven’t read an epic fantasy since Game of Thrones, so I was looking forward to sinking my teeth into this book.
+ Elisa. Rae Carson’s protagonist seems to be a textbook case of strong-heroine but that perception shifts just as quickly as the sands around Orovalle. I thought I had her pegged within the first few chapters, but I was wrong. At first, Elisa is exactly what one might expect: an insecure girl who’s thrust into a situation from which she can’t break free. But over the course of the novel, she emerges as a girl who’s aware of her weaknesses and pushes past them anyway. It’s easy to forget that Elisa is only sixteen during the events of the novel–her insights into human nature are mature for her age. Nevertheless, Rae Carson doesn’t let the reader forget that at the end of the day, Elisa is a teenager who has found an extraordinary well of strength in herself. She is a wonderful example for girls everywhere.
+ Religion and power. When I started reading this book, the first mentions of religion made me nervous. I am Catholic, but religion in novels always makes me a tiny bit anxious because either it’s full-on hate for organized religion or heavy-handed adoration. Thankfully, the themes in this novel were expertly handled. I love the parallels drawn between religion and power, how both can twist saving acts into the worst kinds of abuse, and how it’s often the smallest and least powerful that truly understand the nature of love. The idea of destiny is also twisted–Elisa isn’t alone in her quest and that cooperation saves her life more than once.
+ Writing style. I won this book from Karen Hooper in a comment contest. Karen asked her readers to tell her why they deserved to read The Girl of Fire and Thorns and I had this to say about the matter:
As a little girl, I burned my hand. The fear of fire has stayed with me since then, to the point where I can’t hold a lit candle without having a panic attack. I chose to be a writer but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. More writers are rejected and ridiculed every day than find success, and it really can be a bath of fire sometimes. But books like Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns inspire me to keep going. One day, it will happen for me, and in the meantime I have to find a way to break away those fears. Somewhere out there, there may be another young girl afraid to spark the flame of passion and joy inside her and I might be the lucky person who can help her. Isn’t that the best thing a writer can achieve?
In case you didn’t know, this is Rae’s first book. It’s also, hands-down, one of the best books I’ve read in the last two years. That doesn’t come from nothing. It’s obvious that Rae cared about her story enough to make sure that it received the best treatment possible, and the writing is simply superb. The kingdoms are beautifully described, the characters full and vibrant and the dialogue smart and intense. The work she put into crafting Elisa’s story is inspiring and intimidating, and I’m so glad that I got the chance to read this book.
Recommendations: If I could, I would put this book into the hands of every person I meet. For now, I’ll just have to settle for stroking the cover lovingly when I see it in bookstores and wait for my birthday to buy it. BUT YOU SHOULD ALL ORDER IT RIGHT NOW.
Pride and Prejudice sweeps into YA with this adorable retelling from Claire LaZebnik. Her creativit...morePosted on Seashell Reviews at Mermaid Vision Books!
Pride and Prejudice sweeps into YA with this adorable retelling from Claire LaZebnik. Her creativity with the tropes of Austen's work is both entertaining and heartwarming, with characters that burrow into one's heart as easily as Darcy and Elizabeth do. The realistic dialogue was my favourite part of the novel, as well as the high SA-WOON factor that Derek Edwards brings to the table. Elise Benton is a heroine to watch, and I can only wish for more of her perceptive voice.(less)
Release Date:December 1, 2011 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 28...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: December 1, 2011 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 281 Format: Paperback Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: For about five or six weeks, I debated whether to even pick this book up. While there isn't a lot of contemporary YA that I won't read, the premise just didn't strike me as anything impressive or unique. (The tagline made me choke on air.) Then the reviews started pouring in. Friends whose tastes in books are similar to mine were practically pushing Catching Jordan into my hands and insisting I would love it. What can I say? I'm a graceful loser, and it's all because of Miranda Kenneally's prose.
Jordan's story is rather predictable, and I winced several times because of her obvious attempts at being one of the boys. After the first few chapters, however, I stopped reading for the story. Kenneally's real talent lies in her dialogue and description. I found myself laughing so hard I collapsed onto my pillows at some of the one-liners she gives her characters. Where John Green throws witty, intellectual banter, Kenneally is a master at gritty locker-room teasing. There is an honesty about her characters that makes you hope for them, even if you can guess where everything's headed.
Part of that hope lies in the romance. While I didn't swoon, I did giggle at the comedy of errors in which Jordan finds herself. I was impressed with the way Kenneally handled the theme of trust and what it means for boys and girls alike. She lets her characters ask questions of each other and of themselves that I think many YA writers shy away from. She gives them space to breathe, to make mistakes and find the courage to admit to those flaws and weaknesses. Again, there aren't many surprises in this book, but I don't think readers will mind that. If anything, I think this new take on a romantic comedy will leave them seeing familiar love stories in a new light.
The Final Say: For a truly enjoyable and smart romance, Catching Jordan should be your first pick.(less)
Release Date:October 18, 2011 Publisher:Scholastic Press Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 404...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: October 18, 2011 Publisher: Scholastic Press Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 404 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy from Scholastic Canada
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
Discovery: I was iffy about reading this book, and when a review copy arrived at my doorstep, I decided to take the plunge. [Note: I won't really be talking about the plot, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. Believe me, this is the highest compliment I can give a story.]
+ Setting. Ireland is one of my favourite places in the world, and The Scorpio Races just blows all my previous fantasies of rich shores and beautiful hills out of the water (pun intended). Thisby Island is one of the most unique locations I've come across in literature. It may seem scrappy at first, but Thisby is a strong island, with people who believe in daring fate to do her worst. They are connected to the island in ways that even they can't see, and as someone who moved around a lot during her childhood, those roots were fascinating to explore. Puck and Sean's home gives birth to the capaill uisce the same way it does the people of the island, with rough waves and foam that will stay in the minds and eyes of readers everywhere.
+ Writing style. Full disclosure--I did not enjoy the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. The language just didn't evoke any real emotion or connection to the story, and I have yet to crack open my copy of Forever. That said, I was swept away by Maggie Stiefvater's writing in this novel. There are too many gorgeous lines to quote, but I'll mention my favourite (which appeared early on):
Everything in me says to abandon the struggle. Fly with her into the water.
Threes. Sevens. Iron across my palm.
I whisper: "You will not be the one to drown me."
Stiefvater's prose is stark, but it takes flight in different ways for each character. Sean is a no-nonsense boy who is determined to make his own path; Puck is a girl afraid to dream. There are times when reading this book felt like prying open their souls, and all the credit goes to the beautiful language. Even the capaill uisce gallop through the pages, their heartbeats just out of earshot in each sentence's careful rhythm. Novels like The Scorpio Races remind me of why I fell in love with literature--there is no better feeling than being led into a world so beautifully sketched out that you forget to breathe.
Recommendations: Stories like this don't come along every year. Definitely add The Scorpio Races to your wishlists and gift a copy to your favourite reader.
Release Date:December 5, 2011 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group:...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: December 5, 2011 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 336 Format: Hardcover Source: Personal copy
Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent's divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, "Old Lucy" still exists, and he's determined to find her... even if it means pissing her off.
Garden State meets Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist in this funny and poignant illustrated novel about opposites who fall in love.
Discovery: While browsing Goodreads lists one lazy afternoon, I came across this gorgeous cover. If you know me, you know that winter is my favourite season--despite the dangers of frostbite--and I loved that the summary sounded like a quirky, David-Levithan-esque novel.
+ Illustrations. Let's be honest, sometimes it can get exhausting to look at pages and pages of straight text. I probably read upwards of 1000+ pages a week and when I'm curled up next to my pillows, I sometimes need something special to want to keep reading. Wintertown was one of those books that I just breezed through, because the illustrations were amazing. In fact, I can't imagine this story without illustrations--they complement Emond's writing so well and tell their own story. I loved that they weren't super polished and even that the lines seemed to pulse with uncertainty. Evan has a talent to be sure, but he hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet. I loved the potential that I could see in every hand-drawn page.
+ Plot. Slice-of-life stories are some of my favourite pieces to read. Studying creative writing gave me a taste for unvarnished, simple stories about complicated people. And man, were Lucy and Evan complicated. Stephen Emond has a knack for writing coming-of-age tales that get to the heart of all that insecurity and uncertainty. It takes courage to really grow up, and watching Lucy and Evan try to figure things out was both heartwarming and scary. I remember what it was like to be unsure of my own future, and that perspective made reading this book a truly exceptional experience.
+ Romance. This book pushed all my buttons, it really did! When I started reading, I was actually comparing Wintertown to Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (hence the David Levithan mention above). It didn't take long for me to be utterly enchanted by the quiet charm of this story. Where D&L is boisterous and feisty, Wintertown is careful and shy, much like their protagonists. I loved that the romance had so much to do with the setting as well--when it snows, the world looks like a completely different place, and anything can happen. There are so many possibilities surrounding Lucy and Evan, and watching them realize those new dreams was wonderful.
The final say: With vibrant and quirky characters, Wintertown will charm every reader. Stephen Emond writes a story alive with hope and reminds us that our best dreams aren't always the ones we set out to have.
Discovery: I originally got an eARC of this book in August from Galley Grab, but I didn’t have time to read it until last week when I bought a copy. I...moreDiscovery: I originally got an eARC of this book in August from Galley Grab, but I didn’t have time to read it until last week when I bought a copy. In the month-or-so between, I heard lots of praise for this fun and fancy-free story and knew I’d have to add it to my list of contemporaries.
+ Setting. Whatever stroke of brilliance gave Leila Sales the idea to set a book in a historical re-enactment community, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love YA, but reading stories set in high schools can get exhausting. Summer stories also tend to be set on the beach or in beach towns, and I want something different. Essex was a charming and entertaining place in itself. I will admit that I’ve wondered what life is like for the interpreters in places like Colonial Williamsburg and Fort Mifflin. Leila Sales gives her readers a group of people who are passionate about what they do and still have a sense of humour. After all, it takes a lot of devotion to one’s work to stand around in a heavy costume during the summer and take photos with people you’ll never see again.
The War between Essex and Reenactmentland was also a highlight of the novel: leave it to the teens to make an otherwise-tedious summer into two months of ambushes, pranks and hilarity. I loved the creativity and enthusiasm that each character displayed in different ways. A companion novel that explores Reenactmentland would definitely find its way onto my TBR pile.
+ Voice. I’ve read a few reviews that took issue with Chelsea and her narration of the book. It is understandable that Chelsea is a little self-centered or oblivious to things around her–she’s a teenager and at that age, the smallest dilemmas can blow up to gargantuan proportions. That said, I enjoyed her generally optimistic nature and her insistence on finding the humour in any problem. Readers will find it easy to sympathize with Chelsea because she genuinely wants to be a better person.
- Pacing. Past Perfect is a quick read, but I do feel like some of the characters were underused because of how fast it moves. Bryan and Tawny stood out the most among the supporting characters and I would have liked to see more of their actions throughout the war. Of course, this book is from Chelsea’s point-of-view, so any additional time spent with Bryan might not be great for him, but it would certainly give the reader more to work with.
Recommendations: Definitely check out Past Perfect if you’re looking for a thoughtful romp through a historical reenactment town. You’ll never look at period costumes the same way again.
Rating: Very good.
Go visit Leila Sales at her website and follow her on Twitter @leilasalesbooks.
You can check out Past Perfect on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.(less)