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.
Discovery: I saw this book on a historical fiction blog and decided to read it because Egyptian history has always intrigued me.
+ Powerful imagery. It...moreDiscovery: I saw this book on a historical fiction blog and decided to read it because Egyptian history has always intrigued me.
+ Powerful imagery. It’s always difficult to write historical novels without digressing into boring facts and figures. Shecter masterfully painted the world of Cleopatra Selene and her family without ignoring the people and places around them. There was an equal balance of intimacy and historical accuracy. Selene herself approaches everything with a keen eye and a healthy dose of curiosity, giving the novel someone to relate to and understand. I especially loved that Shecter didn’t dwell too much on what Selene or the rest of her family looked like, choosing instead to focus on what they do and letting that define them.
+ Themes. It’s common knowledge that Queen Cleopatra IV is one of the most famous women in history. She is mostly recognized as a seductress, marrying both Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius, which means that the rest of her work in Egypt goes unnoticed. During that time, Cleopatra was surrounded by male rulers who did far more despicable things, yet it is her name that is dragged through the mud. Cleopatra’s Moon gives the reader a unique perspective into a woman who was a mother and a wife, someone who loved and was loved dearly. I saw a comment on a Goodreads review (can’t remember who it was, but this quote is CERTAINLY not mine) that went something like “It’s feminist without being anachronistic” and I have to agree.
Selene herself has to deal with a whole other society in Rome, one very much focused on men and their strengths. I’d like to think that that experience molded her into a woman who knew how to survive using only what she had, and not manipulating others. The Selene of this book is strong but tentative in her actions and decisions. It’s wonderful to watch how she grows and develops the passionate nature her mother passed on to her. She makes mistakes but she doesn’t let them define her. As strong female characters go, Selene fulfills many of the traits I expect and then some.
Recommendations: Older readers are best served by this novel, due to some intense scenes and mentions of sensuality. The writing style is easy to follow for all readers, however, and the length of the book won’t deter truly interested readers.
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:January 1, 2012 Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books Age Group: Young Adult Page...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 1, 2012 Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 304 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Scholastic Canada
Two sisters discover what's truly worth living for in the new novel by the author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD.
TWO SISTERS: Kate is bound for Stanford and an M.D. -- if her family will let her go. Mary wants only to stay home and paint. When their loving but repressive father dies, they must figure out how to support themselves and their mother, who is in a permanent vegetative state, and how to get along in all their uneasy sisterhood.
THREE YOUNG MEN: Then three men sway their lives: Kate's boyfriend Simon offers to marry her, providing much-needed stability. Mary is drawn to Marcos, though she fears his violent past. And Andy tempts Kate with more than romance, recognizing her ambition because it matches his own.
ONE AGONIZING CHOICE: Kate and Mary each find new possibilities and darknesses in their sudden freedom. But it's Mama's life that might divide them for good -- the question of *if* she lives, and what's worth living for.
Discovery: I haven't read any of Stork's previous novels, but this story of sisterhood hooked me from the first line of the premise.
+ Themes. As the older child in my family AND a former med school applicant, I was immediately interested in Kate's story. I didn't expect her to be exactly like me, and I was especially eager to see what her relationship with Mary was like. (I only have one younger brother.) The story revolves around family and the choices we make because of how we see them in our lives. My admiration for this theme mostly comes from my own position in life right now: I'm an adult, but I'm still very much attached to my family. When and how does one separate oneself from family? How do you know if it's the right time? And what kind of person will you be without them?
- Writing style. Irises was a challenging book to read, mostly because I was never quite sure what it was supposed to be about. Kate and Mary never seemed real or fully-formed to me. I couldn't pinpoint where the book was set, except somewhere in the southern United States. (I can't be too sure about this, though, since Kate and Mary talk about Stanford as though it's hundreds of thousands of miles away.) This distance made it difficult to enter the world of the story.
Mama Romero is meant to be a shadow over Kate and Mary's lives, and when their father dies, her continued "existence" seems to overpower the girls. Unfortunately, I wasn't sold on it. The girls say they love their mother, but I never felt that love from them. I also wish we knew more about Papa Romero. What kind of person was he? The story ends without any sort of solid evidence that he was a good/bad father. In that same vein, I wanted to sympathize with Kate and Mary, but how does one sympathize with characters that don't seem like they really care? Both the girls are prickly and put up walls so quickly that the reader could get whiplash. The way they talk and act is dated, but there is no indication that the story is set anywhere but the present.
Overall, I don't feel like I was told enough to develop an emotional investment in the story. I felt like I was watching a vague art film, and that Kate and Mary's lives had absolutely nothing to do with me. I was disappointed by that, because I was so interested in Kate and her dream of becoming a doctor. Sadly, that determination and intelligence wasn't manifested in the story.
- Pacing. After careful thought, I've come to believe that the pacing may have contributed to my disconnection with the book. There are gorgeous lines to be sure, and I found myself on the edge of falling in love with the text many times, but it never really carried through. It's almost as if Stork is trying to intrigue his reader through telling them as little as possible and zooming past important conversations. Every time I wanted to know more, I would get less than a page of pertinent information. Every time I wanted the story to go faster, I would get an entire chapter of meandering text. Neither of these things are awful, but it does make a story more difficult to read, especially when there is a lack of emotional connection between the reader and the story.
The final say: While Irises may not have gotten much love from me upon the first reading, I'm looking forward to reading it again. It reminded me of other books that I wasn't too keen about on the first try, but fell in love with upon subsequent rereads.
Tell Me More: There's something about a book that doesn't mind taking its sweet time to grow on you. Maggie Stiefvater is an author that has always intrigued me, despite the fact that I did not enjoy her first series. There is a magical quality to her writing style and it gently encourages you to turn the page and let the story surround you. My experience reading The Scorpio Races was much like uncovering a dream so real, you could almost touch it, and The Raven Boys continues that trend splendidly.
Part of the reason I enjoy Stiefvater's most recent books is because I never know what I'll find. A girl who can see the dead? Standard YA fare, you might say. I can name a dozen books just like it. But ley lines? A group of boys on a quest which none of them really understand? A secret that must be guarded? It seems like a crazy mix of a story, but in Stiefvater's hands, all of these tropes take on new life. I was particularly interested in the points-of-view that Stiefvater chose to employ: they all insert a distance between the reader and the characters, which reinforces the dream-like quality of the story. The details she chooses to include are always on-point, as well, and I never felt like I was being told too much or too little about the setting.
And what a setting it is. From the first time we enter the cemetery with Blue to the monstrous 1136 Monmouth that houses Gansey and his friends, the locations set the tone of the story. There is a sense of uneasiness in every scene which helps to keep the mood of The Raven Boys suitably dark and eerie. I could put the book down at night and get back to it in the morning without feeling as though I'd lost the flow and feeling of the story--I couldn't stop thinking about what would happen next, and that's one of the best compliments I can offer as a reader.
The Final Say: Maggie Stiefvater's rich new paranormal series will ensure that you will never want to leave the side of The Raven Boys. Blue, Gansey and the rest of the gang will please readers looking for gorgeous prose and a challenging story.