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.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. 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.
Release Date:February 21, 2012 Publisher: Harper Teen Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 432 ForYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 21, 2012 Publisher: Harper Teen Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 432 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Melissa Marr is one of the reasons for my great appreciation of young adult fiction. Before reading Wicked Lovely, I had never really found a faery story that could capture my imagination. Faery Tales & Nightmares is an intimate visit into the intricate fantasy worlds of Marr's canon.
As this book is a short story collection, I'd like to discuss each story using a scale of 1-10 (according to how well the story was constructed, its organic unity, and enjoyability).
"Where Nightmares Walk" - 5: This is probably one of the weakest stories in the anthology because it doesn't really make much sense. I feel like this was a part cut out from a longer story or novella. The characters were vaguely sketched out, and the plot was a little perturbing, but the reader isn't given a satisfying conclusion.
"Winter's Kiss" (Fairy Tales) - 7: The familiar setting is a plus for this story about the Wicked Lovely faeries. I personally enjoyed seeing this universe again after DarkestMercy, though it wasn't as involved as I would have liked it to be.
"Transition" (Vampires) - 9: Utterly chilling, this story originally appeared in the anthology Teeth: Vampire Tales. While I didn't love the story, it is one of the best examples of Marr's writing talents. The reader won't know what to expect and the conclusion is well-earned.
"Love Struck" (Selchies) - 8: Between this story and The Secret of Roan Inish, is it any surprise that I fell in love with selkies? This story was previously published in Love is Hell, and is my favourite piece from that collection. Marr's deft control over Alaina and Murrin's romance is something both teens and adults will appreciate.
"Stopping Time" (WL World) - 7: Leslie from Ink Exchange makes her first appearance in this collection. Niall and Irial's struggles to deal with Leslie's decision at the end of that novel are portrayed in an interesting manner. While I can't discuss much of the story because of spoilers, I will say that this was one of my guilty pleasure stories.
"Old Habits" (WL World) - 8.5: I was surprised by the length of this story and consider it more of a novella. Again, Niall and Irial take center stage and their relationship, while hinted at in the Wicked Lovely series, is revealed in all its gritty glory. I definitely think they deserve a whole other book.
"The Art of Waiting" - 4: Interesting concept, not enough page time. Marr's penchant for vaguely named/unnamed characters is a blow against this story because it doesn't actually give readers a character to invest in.
"Flesh for Comfort" - 9: Perfect flash fiction to counter the weaker stories in the collection. I was very creeped out by this piece, and the social commentary is unsettling in its accuracy.
"The Sleeping Girl and the Summer King" (WL World-ish, the short story that started the series) - 6: I'm not sure what to think of this story. Fans of WL will recognize the characters and conflicts, but I'm not sure that it was necessary to include this piece. After reading WL, seeing the background of the story seems a little redundant and contrived.
"Cotton Candy Skies" (WL World) - 7: Another story that's got me on the fence. Rabbit was a great character and while I liked seeing more of him especially after Radiant Shadows, the way Marr brings him back is strange. Again, this story could have benefited from length.
"Unexpected Family" (WL World) - 8: Seth! As many of my friends know, I adore Seth unconditionally. That said, the first few pages felt a little repetitive, I did enjoy seeing him strike out on his own. Out of all the characters in the story, I was most interested in Seth's development and this story brings him full circle.
"Merely Mortal" (WL World) - 7: A cutesy piece about Donia and Keenan. As I'm not invested in them, I wasn't too interested in their story, but the writing itself was much more enjoyable than I remembered when it came to those two.
The Final Say: Melissa Marr fans will enjoy rediscovering their favourite characters and universes, but new readers may not be as satisfied with Marr's first and rather uneven collection of stories....more
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 fouDiscovery: 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.
Release Date:February 21, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult PageYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 21, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Penguin Canada
Tell Me More: Dying of a literally broken heart? It's the stuff Lifetime movies are made up of, and while I would normally avoid similar plots like it's my job, I had a hunch that TCHOYAM was going to be the exception to my rule. Jess Rothenberg has written one of the strongest and most heartfelt contemporary YA novels I've been privileged to read in my entire life.
One question I always ask when it comes to books about the afterlife: why should I care about this character, post mortem? If their lives have already ended, what is there left for me to read about? Seeing the family deal with their loss isn't enough--there has to be a truly compelling reason to convince me that this painful reflection on a life taken too soon is worth it. Brie Eagan is worth it all.
I haven't connected with a character so completely since Anna and the French Kiss. Brie is funny and clever, but she can also be selfish and reckless--in other words, a real teenager. Her inability to accept her death at the hands of her boyfriend (though indirectly) is understandable, and her insistence on finding the truth is admirable. I've seen reviews where people complain about how whiny she is, and all I have to say is she died when she was 16. Expecting adult, mature behaviour isn't fair, and I believe that she is a truly dynamic character who continues to have wonderful potential to grow even after her death.
Another aspect of the story that made me a bit anxious was the hint of a love triangle involving Brie, Jacob and Patrick. My own feelings about love triangles are enough to fill a whole other blog post, but thankfully, Rothenberg steered her characters in the right direction. While the reason behind Jacob's defection is a little predictable, it didn't take away from Brie's heartbreak and served to flesh out Jacob's character as well. In fact, the vibrancy of the characters is this book's greatest strength. And Patrick, oh my dear sweet Patrick Darling. Let's put it this way: given the choice between Augustus Waters of The Fault in Our Stars and Patrick? I would refuse to choose and keep them both with me forever.
Writing-wise, Rothenberg has captured the teenage voice to a T. Her commitment to telling Brie's story the right way is obvious from the first page, and I couldn't think of anything that needed to be edited down for clarity or to improve the pace of the novel. Her editorial skills must have been a blessing while writing this book. I never felt that the story could go any other way, and having that kind of faith in an author (a debut one at that!) is wonderful. I look forward to Ms. Rothenberg's future books with the same enthusiasm I give to John Green, Maureen Johnson and Stephanie Perkins. She deserves it.
That's Not All:
> That plot twist about 3/4 into the book? I burst into tears and would not be comforted. Granted, I am a crier, but I was so emotionally attached to the characters that I couldn't help myself. > I have gained a newfound respect for cheese, despite the fact that I don't eat it. > Brie's little brother Jack and dog Hamloaf are now two of my top ten supporting characters in YA.
The Final Say: This is the start of a long and loving life with The Catastrophic History of You and Me. Thank you, Jess Rothenberg, for giving me a contemporary novel that will never break mine or other readers' hearts.
Don't forget to check out my interviewwith Jess, in which we discuss theme songs, writing vs. editing and that amazing title.
Release Date:January 24, 2012 Publisher: HarperCollins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 FoYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 24, 2012 Publisher: HarperCollins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Jen (Library Gal Reads)
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.
As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...
Discovery: I've always been fascinated with the darker side of mythology, and the Hades/Persephone myth is one of my favourites. When I heard about Everneath, I immediately put it on my wishlist--modern retellings are always interesting to consider.
+ Creepy factor. The story opens with a chilling description of the Everneath, and Nikki's captivity is uncomfortable to witness. Cole is a smarmy, almost perverted presence, and it's easy to imagine him wrapped around her mind, warping it with his own selfishness. I loved Brodi Ashton's theatrical writing style and attention to detail in these scenes, both of which link Everneath to its mythological roots. I definitely wish there had been more fantasy and less contemporary scenes, because this is where Ashton's story shines.
- Characterization. Despite the strong start, I quickly grew disappointed with Nikki. For a girl who presents herself as untouchable and distant (which necessitates confidence), she's not as strong as she thinks she is. I've noticed a pattern in stories like these: the main character often feels that they can't tell anyone their secret for some important reason. That's all well and good, but in this particular case, I didn't really see why Nikki had to allow her family to believe that she was doing drugs or just running away. As much as this is a paranormal fantasy, the events are still based on reality. Sixteen-year-olds aren't allowed to just disappear and then come back for no reason. I never got thought that her family hated her, but I do think that Nikki treats them and her friends unfairly and it doesn't make sense. Martyrdom for the sake of martyrdom is tedious to read about.
- Pacing. Six months, four months, two weeks after, three weeks before--I was extremely frustrated with the pacing and structure of this novel. By the time I got halfway through the story, I was experiencing whiplash from the fast switches between time periods. Nikki's indecisive nature and constant backtracking made it difficult to keep track of the story. I often had to reread previous pages to remember if I was supposed to like Jack or hate Jack. As much as I would have wanted to suspend my disbelief regarding certain events and attitudes in the story, the structure was just too unwieldy to follow. The last 15 pages were slightly easier to understand, and I will consider reading the second book if it's more straightforward.
The final say: While I don't believe that Everneath will become a classic retelling of the Persephone myth, its fantasy and romantic elements are sure to please teen readers.
Release Date:February 7, 2012 Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin) Age Group: Young AdultYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 7, 2012 Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 326 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Penguin Canada
Tell Me More: Out of all the paranormal entities in popular culture, the witch has to be my favourite. The word itself conjures (pun very much intended) up images of cauldrons and broomsticks, but it's their role as female icons that draws me in.
At first glance, the feminist dialogue seems to dog your every step--the reader can't go a page without being told that Cate and her sisters are different, that the Brotherhood would kill them if they knew their secret, that they are trapped in a patriarchal society, et cetera. The foreshadowing is also quite obvious. This emphasis does make the first half of the novel a bit tedious, and it's the reason I couldn't read the book in one sitting. I believed in the message from the start, however, and it was awesome when Cate finally grew into her own voice.
Born Wickedis a curious novel in that it never really gives the reader a charged climax. I see similarities to Marissa Meyer's Cinder: both novels are the first book in their respective series, they are narrated by wonderfully strong young women and more than anything else, they are there to set up the story for an extensive and detailed conclusion. It didn't take much to get me invested in Cate's life and I appreciated the care Jessica Spotswood took in molding her character. Her confidence and willingness to dance to her own beat is something young women should see in their own female role models. I never worried about her, because I myself was confident that she would be strong enough to deal with anything that came her way. It's so refreshing to be able to say that about a character in YA fiction.
And of course, no review of Born Wicked can go without mentioning the illustrious Finn Belastra. When I first heard about the book, my initial reaction was "Of COURSE, Cate falls in love with their gardener." It's a very common trope in romance novels, especially ones set in the Victorian or Regency era (which Born Wicked is based on). However, I was quite pleased with the direction Jessica Spotswood took in her story, and I do feel that the love story is a fulfilling one. I'm crossing my fingers against any love triangles!
That's Not All:
- So much LGBTQ love! - Okay, can I just talk about how smooth Finn is? He's redeemed that name for me.
The Final Say: Wonderful character development, intense romance and a protagonist that leaps off the page in all her glory--Born Wicked has it all!...more
Release Date: August 28, 2012 Publisher: HarperTeen Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 352 FormaYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: August 28, 2012 Publisher: HarperTeen Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 352 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: If there's one thing Lesley Livingston does well, it's smart and sassy adaptations of European mythology. Starling is just as enchanting as the Wondrous Strange trilogy, and highlights Livingston's charming writing style just as well.
Mason Starling is--dare I say it?--the Livingston heroine to the letter. She's clever and capable, with a touch of the strange about her. Even without having read the synopsis, it's clear from the first chapter alone that Mason is a mystery even to herself. On a related note, I've always found it interesting that paranormal stories mirror the unpredictable nature of adolescence. Mason isn't an easy character to know, and the reader discovers her identity the same way she does, through action. Livingston takes her readers into a new world, with unfamiliar rules, and it's only through actually participating in it that you can begin to unfold the richness of that world and its people.
Starling is an extremely lively novel, and the pace is rewarding for readers who don't like a lot of exposition before getting to the exciting parts. As you find out about Fenrys and the supernatural conflicts that awaits Mason, the story is deepened with just the right amount of details to help flesh out both worlds. I will admit that I was wary of what Fenrys would be like in this story--he had never felt quite real to me in the Wondrous Strange trilogy. But from his outstanding entrance to the very last page, he is a solid and believable person and the right kind of partner for Mason to have on her journey. There's a very real sense of that partnership throughout the entire story. They complement each other and best of all, neither of them are afraid to tell each other off. The development of their relationship is realistic and understandable, and it never takes away from the focus of the plot.
The Final Say: The Norse gods may have already made their comeback with Thor and Loki, but Starling can certainly give both boys a fight to remember. Young women will find an admirable heroine in Mason, who never fails to remain interesting as well as dangerous.
Release Date: May 8, 2012 Publisher: Harper Collins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher for blog tour
Tell Me More: Over the last year, I find that I've grown quite dismissive of most paranormal fiction, especially those with vampires and werewolves. The oversaturation of these supernatural beings have turned me into a reluctant reader, and it makes me less likely to recognize the few gems that still appear on bookshelves. Make no mistake, Hemlock is one of the precious few jewels in paranormal YA.
Hesitant as I was during the first few chapters, Kathleen Peacock's characterization and plot were immediately captivating. Mac is a believable seventeen-year-old heroine--a bit reckless, but smart and observant all the same. She remains the grounding force for the story, which was a refreshing change from stories where everything happens to the heroine. While I had moments of impatience, I attribute that more to my own age rather than Mac being a horrible character. She is very much in control of her life, and Kathleen Peacock gives her a story worth following. Werewolves take the secondary role in this character-centric murder mystery, and while they are interesting, I was far more invested in the human aspect of this story.
Kyle dances on the edge of becoming a stereotypical love interest, but remains on the safe side throughout the story. He is romantic and dangerous and everything teen readers love about the "mysterious loner dude" (copyright Forever Young Adult). But by far, the character I was most interested in was Jason.
His position in the story is tenuous, and as the reader, you come to grasp that Jason isn't his own person. He's grown to be whatever the people around him want him to be--Mac and Kyle's friend, Amy's boyfriend, his father's troublesome son. I got the sense that Jason has never really made a choice that was fully his. That changes, of course, but unfortunately, the events in the story don't work the way he wants them to. In some ways, he reminds me of Marauder Era!Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter. Mac and Kyle are clearly strong people, but Jason finds himself falling behind. His friends don't mean to belittle him, but they do, and in that light, I can understand his frustration and helplessness. That inability to do anything useful--at least, in his opinion--leads him to some unsavoury actions and choices. He serves as a wonderful foil for Mac's own take-charge attitude and provides a much-needed dynamic for their group of friends.
The Final Say: Hemlock will take readers on a heart-stopping ride through mysteries and paranormal surprises with characters that are so real, you can almost hear them breathing beside you....more
Release Date:January 10, 2012 Publisher: Delacorte Press Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 10, 2012 Publisher: Delacorte Press Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.
An evil presence is growing within Europe's royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina's strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar's standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina's help to safeguard Russia, even if he's repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.
The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?
Discovery: Which nine-year-old girl in the 1990s wasn't obsessed with Anastasia? Is it any wonder that as soon as I heard about this reinvention of Imperial Russia, I jumped on the chance to read it?
+ Setting. It's been close to 200 years since Russia was ruled by a glittering monarchy, but it seems as though the world's fascination with this mysterious country hasn't faded. As a kid, I loved reading about the palaces and summer homes that the nobility traveled to, and the holidays they celebrated. The Gathering Storm does a marvelous job of painting that world for its readers. Unlike the stoic British Empire and its ilk, the Russia we read about in Bridges' novel is volatile and dangerous. You can almost hear the ice crackling in conversations between the royals, and the tension in each scene is perfectly set.
- Narration. With such a dizzying cast of characters and longer names than most readers are used to seeing on the page , The Gathering Storm needed a strong voice to leap off the page and guide the reader (and make the constant repetition of _____ ______vna a little less tedious). I liked Katiya the moment I met her, but sadly, her voice was drowned out by the story. The narration isn't as tightly written as it could have been. At times, it feels as though Katiya is simply repeating what she's heard from other people instead of taking control of the story. She is an interesting character, but the writing doesn't reflect enough of that uniqueness. It also makes me wonder why Danilo is written as an all-powerful force and someone Katiya cannot ignore. She's rather scathing and fearful of him when he's not around. I'm hoping that the second book will give Katiya more control over her fate.
The final say: Bridges does a wonderful job of setting up a terrifying world of intrigue and supernatural creatures, and I'll definitely be picking up The Unfailing Light!
Release Date:December 6, 2011 Publisher:Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & SchusteYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: December 6, 2011 Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 497 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada
In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa's powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister's war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?
As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.
Discovery: Receiving this ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada was the catalyst that made me start The Infernal Devices.
+ Jem. This is, bar none, Jem Carstair's story. His amiable and kind nature permeate every page, which is part of the reason why I loved this book. Out of all the characters in Cassandra Clare's novels, it's Jem that enchanted me from the first page and Jem who will keep me reading this series. I don't really subscribe to the school of Tortured-Bad-Boys-Are-Better, so I appreciate characters like him all the more. Some may argue that Jem has his own baggage and rightly so. But does he let that ruin all his prospects for happiness? No, and that's why I respect him.
Cassandra Clare's writing takes on a different tone when it's focused on Jem. The mood of the story changes, becomes less dark and urgent, as the reader learns to understand Jem. More and more, he becomes a steady flame for Tessa and the rest of the Institute to light their way, but that comparison also makes me wonder if it's a set-up for his--say it ain't so!--death in a later book.
+/- Plot. Holy plot developments, Batman! Clockwork Prince moves at a faster clip than Angel, and the twists come one after another. Thankfully, none of those twists involve familial relations between certain love interests. The dangers that Tessa must face feel more tangible and there were definitely moments where I found myself worrying about their fates. One thing I mentioned in my review of Clockwork Angel was its unsettling similarities to fanfiction, and I'm happy to say that that wasn't a problem in Prince. I see a lot of speculation in store for many readers, especially because of that sucker-punch of a final chapter.
+/- Love triangles. I knew going into this series that there was going to be a love triangle. Barring my own frustration with that ever-more-popular trope, I have taken to viewing the Will-Tessa-Jem relationships in a new light. And unfortunately for my shipping heart, things are not going to end well.
It's no secret that I dislike Will. But I do think that Tessa is going to pick him in the end. Clockwork Prince may be Jem's book, but all signs point to Tessa choosing to throw caution and reason to the wind for Will. They deserve each other. I'm not saying that in any negative way, but simply as a statement of fact. There is something in Will and Tessa that calls out to each other and I don't think that either of them can resist it. Many of the events in Prince reference that draw, and set up a final installment which cannot have a perfectly happy ending. I haven't quite decided how I feel about this, and I probably won't know for sure until after Clockwork Princess is released next year. The development of this relationship is written in an interesting way, but it is going to break my heart.
Recommendations: This second installment of The Infernal Devices will please old and new fans alike, with a scrappy humour and romance that readers will revel in for weeks after reading.
Release Date:January 3, 2012 Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin Age Group: Young Adult Pages:You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 3, 2012 Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 293 Format: Paperback Source: ARC received from publisher
Discovery: I was given an ARC of this book to review and I originally thought that it was about a faery changeling, which would have been awesome.
+ Interesting premise. Kudos to Hocking--she wrote a shocking prologue that would draw even the most reluctant reader into the story. I liked that she didn't shy away from the violence and that Wendy's confusion was palpable as she related what had happened on her sixth birthday. The cover copy might not have hooked me, but I definitely wanted to know more about Wendy and why her mother would risk going to jail to kill her own daughter.
- Flat characters. With the way Switched opened, I was expecting a fast-paced plot and vibrant, witty characters. Unfortunately, I got neither. Wendy talked the talk, sure, but I never really got a sense of her personality or saw anything unique in her perspective. For someone who is touted as "special" and "one of a kind," she's very dull and indecisive. She wants to know what's going on, but she doesn't actually try to find out. She is content to let Finn or Rhys or Elora tell her what to do, and in the few instances that she isn't content, she just lets it all go anyway. I don't see any reason to cheer for her, because it doesn't seem like she knows what she really wants.
My main reaction to the other characters was "...so?" Again, the way that they're written makes them seem hollow. Elora makes proclamations and condescending remarks, but they have no real sting behind them. The reader is told, not shown, that Finn "loves" Wendy. How? How did they fall in love? What real bonding experiences have they had? The dialogue seems forced, all smoke and mirrors.
- Uncompelling plot. I've noticed a trend in YA paranormals where the boy has to steal the girl away to keep her and/or her family safe. This trope doesn't convince me of anything, much less that they belong together. And let's be realistic, characters in YA are teenagers. They are legally restricted from doing a lot of things, and if they go missing, authorities are informed. That's why I can't suspend my disbelief over the events in Switched. Wendy's mother tries to kill her and is sent to a hospital--that's all well and good. But Wendy runs away from home and her older brother and aunt--who claim to love her dearly--don't tear up the city trying to find her? They're okay with a sixteen-year-old girl's declaration that she "has to leave?" It's baffling.
I also didn't find much of the Trylle world to be interesting. Frankly, it seems the label "troll" was just tacked on after writers had run the gamut of paranormal creatures. Other than the Trylle's fascination with jewels, I found nothing to suggest that they were really trolls. It takes more than a paranormal creature to make a book worthy of the term "urban fantasy," which I believe Switched might have fallen under had it been written well.
The final say: As an intended successor to the tiers of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, Switched falls far from the mark with lackluster characters and a shallow plot.
Release Date:March 1, 2012 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 367 FoYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: March 1, 2012 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 367 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: In writing a story set outside reality (paranormal/dystopian/fantasy/etc.), the writer runs the risk of never giving enough information to justify that story. Reading is considered a form of escape--we pick up books to experience different worlds, but if the author isn't careful, the illusion is easily shattered and they are left with dissatisfied readers. Embrace is a clear example of that pitfall.
Within the YA sphere, there are an awful lot of books that exist because the main character is special. Sometimes the MC is thrust into focus because he/she is the only one who can defeat the bad guy (Harry Potter, anyone?), sometimes it's because he/she is the long-lost descendant of another special person. Sometimes it's just because, as it is in Embrace. Violet's mother died when she was born, so she is automatically part-angel. I find this problematic because it seems careless and unfair to people like Violet. Funnily enough, the reluctance to accept her "destiny" that she displays throughout much of the novel is one of the few traits that remain constant about her. As a reader, I need more than the special powers tag to care about a character or want to see that character succeed. I need characters that are more than the sum of their parts: seventeen-year-old, motherless, super pretty, well-off (or at least middle class), part angel. Violet is average, and I don't see any latent potential to be anything more.
The structure of the story itself is as average as Violet. Each chapter, instead of moving along at the quick pace I'm used to from paranormal stories, drags and extends each scene until I felt like I was just watching a really long movie. And it's a shame, because Embrace had the capability to be a commentary on free will and the human privilege vs. right to choose a certain kind of existence. The mythology behind the angels is introduced fairly early on--though it was delivered in a very cliche manner--and I wanted more of that backstory. Instead, Shirvington chooses to introduce another hot boy and have him and Lincoln represent the choice that Violet needs to make.
It's that kind of lazy conceptualization that I find most disappointing in YA. Teenagers are not shallow, and when stories like this are put out there for them to consume, it only adds to the cycle that the general public laments on a daily basis. When a story about the power of choice and knowledge dissolves into nothing more than a love triangle, it is massively disappointing. This is not to say that a well-written love triangle has no place in YA. But if the situations were reversed, if Violet was a boy, torn between two girls, would it be as appealing? Would readers still want more romance or would they be more interested in the themes of the story? What if Lincoln and Violet had become best friends, partners and comrades in the fight against fallen angels? And my biggest question: why does a romantic relationship have to exist in order to make the plot move along?
Embrace is not an awful book. But it is a symptom of the general consensus that many readers are making about their own society and relationships. Love is grand, love is great, and yes, it even makes the world go round. But love in itself can be wrong and it can be damaging. A story about the dangers of wanting too much and not loving yourself enough to know your limits should know better than to perpetuate an illusion.
The Final Say: Readers looking for predictable, casual YA paranormal fare will find much to enjoy in Embrace, but otherwise? Skip it....more
Tell Me More:2013 brings another trilogy to its long-awaited conclusion inClockwork Princess,and like many YA readers, I was eager to know exactly howTell Me More: 2013 brings another trilogy to its long-awaited conclusion in Clockwork Princess, and like many YA readers, I was eager to know exactly how Cassandra Clare would tie up all the loose ends in The Infernal Devices. Unfortunately for me, only disappointment lay down that path.
It’s been about 15 months since I last read Clockwork Prince, but I do still think of it with fondness, mostly because so much of that story was centered on Jem Carstairs. He has consistently been the most developed character, more than anyone else in the series, and I enjoyed getting to know him better. But in Clockwork Princess, Clare tries to bring the story back to focus on Will, Tessa and Jem, and it doesn’t quite work so well.