Release Date: January 3, 2012 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 387 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Discovery: I've been friends with Marissa for the last few years, thanks to the Sailormoon fandom. When she first started talking about writing a futuristic fairytale for NaNo, I was amazed by her dedication to the story (three books in one month!). Fast forward three years and Cinder is now on shelves (at least here in Ontario). It's more than a little heartwarming.
+ World-building. This is actually going to be a two-part discussion (see Questions), so let's dive into the positives first. Cinder and her "family" live in New Beijing in the Eastern Commonwealth. Meyer peppers the story with amazing detail and subtle changes in mood. It's not difficult to imagine living in this era, when we all imagine technology will be at its best and everyone is content. Not so for the residents of the Earth Kingdoms, who have to deal with a terrifying scourge called letumosis. Needless to say, the descriptions alone were enough to make my skin crawl. It is a brave and unique decision to have a disease looming over the fates of the characters--Meyer never makes the reader feel secure or that their favourite characters will be safe.
+/- Characters. As the book has come to be known as "Cinderella as a cyborg!," it's pretty obvious to casual perusers that they'll find the evil stepmother, stepsisters and Prince Charming himself in the story. Plus, who could forget the iconic glass slipper and the meek girl going after her dreams? But there's the rub: I don't particularly feel for Cinder herself. I'm interested in her story so far as it fits into the bigger picture of the Lunar Chronicles. Strangely enough, reading this book reminded me of my reintroduction to Sailormoon. I don't really mind Usagi/Serena/Sailormoon, and I'm glad she's there, but her personality doesn't make me desperate to know her. Likewise, Cinder is strong and smart and sometimes a little inconsistent, but while she has some awesome traits, I don't relate to her. I do love her place in the story and I am eager to see what she does next, so I suppose my full judgment will have to wait until at least Scarlet in 2013. (Full disclosure: I am not a big fan of Cinderella-the-Disney-Princess at all.)
That said, how I love the supporting characters! I was immediately intrigued by Prince Kai (my closest friends can probably guess why) and while I was afraid that he might be a little stereotypical, I loved that he was also highly intelligent and valued integrity. I definitely want to know more about Adri and Pearl--their bitterness is palpable in every scene they're in. Queen Levana is the one to watch, it seems, and I cannot wait to see more of her in the next three books. These characters become even more fascinating to watch when they're together. Is it bad that I'm hoping for a Levana/Adri sparring match later in the series?
- Questions. I spent the first few days after reading Cinder completely enthralled. I liked the story, I liked the characters and I liked the themes. (And that cliffhanger was upsetting!) But in the month-and-a-half that followed, I've reread it and have come up with some questions that I feel have to be addressed in the next three books.
The story is a tad predictable, but that can be easily overlooked because of its readability and great writing. However, I don't think some of the story was set up as well as it could have been, especially when it comes to the Lunars. It's understandable that the reader won't get all the answers in the first book, but I don't think it would have hurt to get a few throwaway sentences about how the discovery of the Lunar Race came about. Their power seems so absolute and their presence so strong in people's lives that it makes me wonder how they could have gone unnoticed for so long. The Doctor Who fan in me likened them to the Silence of series 6, which were absolutely terrifying at first meeting, but grew less so with so few logical explanations behind their existence. Their discrimination against other races is also something I want to see explored further--there is almost always a reason for this, and if there isn't, it needs to be more obvious.
I also want to know more about how Cinder can actually exist. I've heard comparisons between this and The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which is one of my all-time favourite novels. Granted, Jenna Fox was a one-off with just a companion novel and Cinder is part of a four-book series. But I trust Meyer's iron grip on the story, especially since she's mentioned that a 60-page document with character profiles and timelines helped her to craft the series. Many of the things I wonder about are little nitpicky inquiries, and I'm hoping that Scarlet will answer some of them for me.
The final say: Dancing in glass slippers isn't the only challenge for Marissa Meyer's Cinder, and readers are sure to be enchanted by the plucky heroine and her dangerous new world. If you love fairytales, don't forget to add this one to your list!
Release Date:February 21, 2012 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Age Group: Young Adult PageYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 21, 2012 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 352 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher at Ontario Blog Squad meetup
Tell Me More:Wither was a novel that snuck up on me in the best way. Though the similarities to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale are unmistakable, I saw great potential in this dystopian series despite having never heard of it before I bought it.
As I mentioned in my review of Wither, Lauren DeStefano's prose is utterly brilliant. Where Wither may have fumbled a bit in the middle of the story, Fever is superbly written and pulsing with action and revelations. DeStefano's knack for description knocks everything out of the park and she pairs it with plot twists that will appall readers. Rhine's life is almost always in jeopardy, but she is a resilient main character. That said, some of her actions were perturbing at best, and ridiculous at worse.
Without giving away any spoilers, I'd like to discuss Rhine in connection to the extremely powerful male characters in the novel. As readers will discover, what Rhine goes through in this book makes Wither look like a trip to a daycare. The abuse she suffers at the hands of the carnival ringmistress and Vaughan is truly horrifying. Unfortunately, I'm starting to feel like there is no way out for Rhine. The love triangle holds no interest for me, because I think she is better than both men. This is one case in which I am Team Rhine more than anything else. No matter where she goes, it seems there is always going to be a man who wants to control her in one way or another. And sadly enough, rape becomes a trope in this novel.
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed reading Fever. But I am bothered by how rape was used to "advance" the plot, when really all it does is add more scars to Rhine's soul. While I would love to see this series earn its happy ending from a bath of fire and blood, there were times when I felt as though those scenes were there for shock value. I can't see Rhine ever becoming truly happy with Linden or Gabriel, because both of them see her the way they want to see her, and not who she really is. I want Rhine to be happy, but I don't see how that can happen in the world they inhabit. My anticipation for the third and final novel is tinged with anxiousness for her future, and I'm starting to believe that I want more for Rhine than the story is willing to give.
The Final Say: Chilling and terrifying, the Chemical Garden trilogy pushes on with a harrowing account of Rhine's next steps after leaving the mansion. Readers' hearts will break for Rhine and her seemingly impossible search for a real life and happiness....more
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 anDiscovery: 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.
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
Release Date: February 28, 2012 Publisher: Harper Teen Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 375 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Around page 301, I posted this status update on Goodreads: "I think--no, I KNOW--that everyone who I forced to read Delirium is going to hate me forever." While most people who read Delirium loved it even as they cried over its horrific twists of fate, Pandemonium is going to be a polarizing story for many readers. Those who are looking for familiar footholds in Lena's world will find themselves lost--the entire mood has shifted. This is not the hopeful side of amor delirianervosa we knew in Delirium,but instead readers will be forced to endure its pain, its struggle and eventually, its loss.
Lauren Oliver opens Pandemonium likening Lena's difficult journey through the Wilds to rebirth and a new life. While I can see why she chose to compare it to giving birth, I see Pandemonium (or Pandy, as Ms. Oliver and my fellow fans like to call it) more like an ode to grief. The ending of Delirium stunned many readers, and like Lena, I found myself crawling along trying to deal with what had happened. It didn't seem real, and Oliver doesn't expect readers to forget that loss. The Lena we follow in this book is war-torn and beaten to within an inch of her soul, and yet she is expected to pull herself together and continue to live. I think it is easy to forget that the characters in books like these are only seventeen, eighteen, barely old enough to move out, let alone fight in a revolution. And yet it is that indomitable quality, that spark of bravery that we admire so much in them. Pandemonium forced me to consider whether I could be that brave, if I could lose everything dear to me--my friends, my family, the boy I love--and still be willing to fight for the rest of the world.
And where in the world could Lena find hope after what she's gone through? The most polarizing aspect of Pandemonium, in my opinion, will be the introduction of a new character and their connection to Lena. While I can't say much without spoiling much of the book, suffice to say that I was a whirlwind of emotion throughout much of the novel. I felt deeply for Alex in Delirium and the new developments in this book both confused and enchanted me. After all that's happened, I find myself extremely invested in Lena, because I trust her to know the right thing to do. She alone still sees love as love, and not a weapon or a disease or an inconvenience. That unwavering faith in her heart assures me that my adoration for this series isn't going to waste, and that Requiem will be a conclusion worth waiting for.
That's Not All:
> That first chapter tricked me and then made me cry. Basically, you'll need tissues for most of the novel.
> Lauren Oliver's writing is even more superb in this installment. The description of the Wilds is breathtaking, despite its physical ugliness.
The Final Say: Lauren Oliver is truly a tour de force when it comes to dystopian novels--Pandemonium will leave readers breathless and amazed once again....more
Release Date:April 3, 2012 Publisher: Simon Pulse Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 296 Format:You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: April 3, 2012 Publisher: Simon Pulse Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 296 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC borrowed from blogger friend
Tell Me More: I've spent about two months thinking about this book and its ending, without any real satisfaction to be found. While I enjoyed the final installment of the Curse Workers series, I still find it lacking in many ways.
Holly Black is one of my favourite authors, and I am a great admirer of her writing style. The rough edges of her prose thrill me to no end and her books are--in my opinion--staples of urban fantasy literature for all ages. Most of her books combine character and plot to create organic stories, but the Curse Workers series is notable for how it's focused on characters, specifically Cassel Sharpe. While we are intrigued by Lila and her Mafia-esque family, it's clear that Cassel is the one to watch. As Black Heart opens, Cassel is heading toward an inevitable choice between the people he loves and doing the "right" thing. The stage has been set, but the players are still fumbling in the dark. While reading this book, I felt like I was blinded too--revelations come out of nowhere to slam Cassel's choices. It does feel as though you're just barely holding onto a speeding car. That said, I find myself questioning the pace because it doesn't allow the reader to come to terms with everything that's happening to Cassel and Lila.
Halfway through the book, I started to feel like I'd lost track of Cassel. His choices seemed erratic and his way of thinking wasn't the sharp (pardon the pun) wit I'd grown used to in the previous books. There was a weakness about him, a vulnerability that wasn't present in White Cat and Red Glove which intrigued me far more than the actual plot. Unfortunately, the length of the book constricted those new touches. He spends so much time being strong and trying to stay ahead of everyone else that the initial spark of Cassel Sharpe is lost in the background.
That is the reason why the ending rings hollow to me. I don't feel like that Cassel is the one I knew in previous books, despite arguments like "he's changed for the better!" A happy ending needs to be justified and while part of me is fangirling, the other half firmly believes that there needed to be more of an emotional growth to make the ending worth savouring. Very few of the major issues between Cassel and Lila are actually worked out, and even though Holly Black fixes some in realistic and believable ways, they can't possibly be enough to get the kids through the rest of their lives. I appreciated the sense of potential, of the future that lies ahead for both of them. That doesn't mean I think potential can make everything work.
To be fair, I did enjoy this book. It had the same dangerous flavour and witty exchanges that have become the Curse Worker hallmarks. I just wish there was more for Cassel than a ride into the sunset.
The Final Say: Holly Black will have you savouring every page of the final chapter in Cassel Sharpe's deadly world, and wishing there was much more of it to be had....more
Release Date: March 20, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin) Age Group:You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: March 20, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 448 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: When I was sixteen years old, I was incredibly naive, idealistic and a bit reckless. I certainly couldn't have been placed in the position of saving an entire race, and I definitely would not have had two gorgeous boys fighting over lil' ol' me. Why? Probably because I was sixteen, incredibly naive, idealistic and a bit reckless. Also, I wasn't the "heroine" of a YA paranormal romance series.
More and more, the trends in YA fiction veer towards these soaring feats of power and dramatic escapes from death. Both the Harry Potter and Twilight series tell stories of great power discovered in oneself, though we can all agree to disagree as to which one is actually great literature. The point is, teens are in a very precarious position: they are given responsibility, but (hopefully) not enough of it to ruin themselves. They are expected to know better than their younger siblings, but they are still dismissed as "too young." Books provide them with an escape hatch from the roller coaster of adolescence, and I certainly don't blame anyone for enjoying that. But where do we draw the line between escape and harmful idealism?
The plotline of A Temptation of Angels is pretty standard for a YA paranormal story: girl is in trouble, girl meets mysterious boy, girl discovers she has super special secret powers, girl meets even more mysterious bad boy, girl saves the world, girl is still torn (*sob!*) between boys. Let's switch it up, shall we? What happens if we put the boy in the girl's place? Wouldn't so-called feminists rail at the audacity of this boy? "He can't be in love with two girls, that's not fair! He needs to pick one! He's a manwhore and a jerk!" And yet, it's perfectly fine for a girl to lead both boys along? Oh, but see, she's beautiful. She's absolutely gorgeous, and she's smart, and she's good-hearted AND the best part? She has no idea that she's this amazing. Helen isn't a relatable heroine. She's a Barbie doll, upon whom young impressionable girls will attach all their insecurities and dreams and wishes.
The term heroine is thrown about so often these days that it's begun to lose its meaning. The dictionary defines it as:
A woman admired or idealized for her courage or noble qualities.
Not once is appearance mentioned. Can you name a YA bestseller with a less-than-gorgeous heroine? I am sure they exist, but I certainly don't hear about them. Covers depict beautiful models in flowing gowns, men who look nothing like the usual score of high school boys. As a Fine Arts student, I understand the need for aesthetics, but I also think that it does readers a disservice. We are led to believe that every heroine needs to look like that, that it's the only way to find men like that, and frankly, I do feel a little insulted. Helen asks some questions for which the answers are rather obvious, and yet we're expected to see her as this perfect person? Forgive me if I found myself getting up close and personal with my desk again and again. The reader is also asked to believe that Helen's "courage and noble qualities" are natural traits, but considering every time Griffin has to save her because of a reckless decision, I don't quite see her that way. Courage is also knowing when to fight.
Speaking of fighting, Helen's two love interests are, at best, lackluster copies of Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes (Gone With the Wind). They love her, oh how they love her. But...why? I don't subscribe to the belief that real love is something you can develop in a few days, and I just didn't see enough evidence of it in this book to suspend my disbelief. These kids may have great powers, but they are still kids. Contrary to popular opinion (at least in a bookstore's YA section), falling in love is not something you enter into lightly. It's also important to consider the tropes that Helen "falls in love" with. Griffin is a good boy, Raum is bad. She's known them for a few days at best, and yet she's swept away by...what exactly? Passion is not equal to love. I feel passionately for my bookshelf, but I don't love it and I certainly don't expect it to love me. Helen is sixteen, and I find it patently ridiculous that I am asked to accept her adventures as just another YA story, when they don't seem to be based in any reality I can understand. Yes, I do expect common sense and you know, a desire to stay alive and be safe to exist in YA books. Whether they are set in Timbuktu or the farthest regions of outer space, I expect characters to rise above their tropes and give readers something to invest in and ponder beyond the last page.
You can love all the problematic stories you can find. That's totally fine, and I don't expect everyone to throw off things they enjoy just because there are flaws. But in light of the trends that are dominating the YA scene and its target audience, it becomes even more important to address those issues and provide venues to discuss them and their effect on society. Personally, I am unable to ignore those social issues when I find them, which can make it difficult to enjoy a lot of the books that are being released. I am very disappointed that I couldn't enjoy A Temptation of Angels, especially since I loved Ms. Zink's previous work.
The Final Say:A Temptation of Angels won't be finding its way on any of my recommendation lists any time soon. Paranormal romance fans will find much to love, but should they attempt to pick the story and themes apart, the illusion will be shattered....more
Release Date:January 3, 2012 Publisher: HarperCollins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 ForYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 3, 2012 Publisher: HarperCollins Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Harper Collins Canada
Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.
As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.
They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.
+ Setting. I loved everything about the Never Sky! These days, it seems as though the weather is the only thing we can't control with technology, and the world that Veronica Rossi writes about seems all too possible. I definitely want to know more about how the Aether developed and when it became necessary for the people to inhabit the Realms instead of the outside world. While I'm not a nature girl by any means, I found myself enthralled by the challenges that this kind of habitat would pose to its inhabitants. I loved that it played such a big part in how certain characters developed and changed, for better and for worse.
+/- Characters. Having heard so much about the brilliant story and vibrant characters in this book, I'm sorry to say that very few of them were actually compelling to me. Aria's personality felt hollow, a shell of what it could have been. The story moves her along more than anyone else. For most of the book, it seems as though she simply reacts to the things around her and never takes charge. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Perry who is simultaneously passionate and cold. As a reader, I never felt as though he was someone I could invest in, because he seemed so fickle. His devotion to his nephew Talon is remarkable, and I admire him for that, but I wasn't sold on Perry-and-Aria.
I think a lot of the tension comes from the fact that we're meant to believe that they fall in love with each other. I hoped--even though it was probably silly--that they would become and remain friends. Opposites attract, sure, but neither of them seemed right for the other person. The way the relationship comes about feels contrived and when I finished the book, I couldn't tell you for sure that they're meant to be together. I do want to know more about them, and maybe the second book will give me reasons to like them as a couple.
The final say: Dystopian and sci-fi fans will be pleased with this horrifying look at a world gone wrong and the people fighting for survival.
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.
Tell Me More: If you're at all familiar with this blog, then you know that my reactions to paranormal novels can go one of two ways: either I find many themes to criticize, or I love it unconditionally. Mermaids, not surprisingly, tend to be the combo breakers. My own fascination for the sea and its mysteries tends to colour my opinions in ways I don't always see. Of Poseidon, while remaining a novel I enjoyed, does have some areas worth poking a finger into and seeing what comes out.
The scope of the novel is rather ambitious for a debut author, and I must commend Anna Banks for daring to rewrite mythology and fantasy to lay the foundations for her story. There aren't many holes in the plot, and what holes exist seem to be questions that will be answered in the succeeding novels. Speaking of succeeding novels, I had no idea this was supposed to be a series when I read it, and the ending did catch me by surprise. I had fully set myself up for a standalone novel, and I will admit to moments of frustration near the end when it didn't look like things were going to be wrapped up. If I had known there would be a second and third book, I might have been a little more forgiving toward some characters and plotlines.
That said, what Banks offers in this first installment is more solid than many debut novels. There's no dancing around the big reveal of Emma's ancestry, and though the way it plays out is a bit predictable for someone who has read so many paranormal novels, it is still fun to watch unfold. The entire story is extremely enjoyable and its lighthearted nature makes it an easy read as well. Banks is particularly gifted with zippy dialogue, which won't come as a surprise to anyone who follows her on social media. I get the sense that there is a lot of Anna in Of Poseidon, from the laugh-out-loud humour to the sentiments and frustrations that Emma expresses. That extra nudge of author personality adds to the spirit of the novel in many ways. Despite the paranormal/fantastical nature of the story, it has a human heart and a very human joy, one that will please readers of all ages.
The Final Say: Surprising me with a knock-out mermaid story, Of Poseidon carries itself with grace and humour. Anna Banks is an author to watch and laugh with, as she merrily swims along....more
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.
Tell Me More: There are some books that becomes so precious to me that I can barely string two words together about how much I love them. I keep them hidden in my mind and soul, turning them over and over and always finding something new. I grow afraid of telling other people about them because they may not understand and it would be physically painful to watch them lose interest in the story. Purity is only the second book of the year to do that to me, with The Fault in Our Stars as its only rival for Angel's Favourite Book of 2012. I realize that may seem like an impossible comparison, but both of these stories connected to me in ways I'm still discovering every day. They have also challenged me to find the words I need to express those discoveries, and the effects they've had on my life.
I am religious. I believe in God, in Jesus, in Mary, in the spirit of the church that I belong to. But I'm also 23 years old and I've never lost someone dear to me, nor have I ever had to make the Promises Shelby makes to her mother. Despite the myriad differences between Shelby and I, it isn't difficult for me to understand the crisis she undergoes in the novel, and the choices she makes because of it. I know things eventually get better, but Shelby doesn't, at least not yet. Jackson Pearces has created a painfully real character in Shelby, and the story is lit up by her powerful spirit.
In analyzing Shelby and her journey, I found myself turning back to my notes on Gabriel Marcel from senior year's Philosophy of Religion class. Much of the novel is spent on Shelby's personal challenge--how can she keep her Promises without having to make a vow of purity?--but there are poignant and beautifully written moments where she curls in on herself and admits her uncertainty about everything.
How is it possible that God understands what's best for me, what I should or shouldn't do, if he isn't human? If he hasn't loved someone, hasn't lost someone, hasn't wanted someone?
How indeed. Is it fair for God to ask us to follow Him when He doesn't have to deal with the double standards that women are held to? Is it fair for God to say what's right and what's wrong and what's fair when He isn't the one watching mothers die? Gabriel Marcel studied these questions and ultimately dismissed them. To Marcel, an understanding of God and the things He does or does not do comes from our experiences with other people. Shelby's questions are to be expected from a girl who's lost something very dear, and it's the people around her that comprise her faith, not an invisible (at least to her) God.
Beyond anything else, I want to commend Jackson Pearce for taking on those inner conflicts and being fair and honest in her writing. As I read Purity, I had to turn off my instinctual disagreement when she expressed her doubts in God, because it's not something I have a right to feel uncomfortable with. I may have a strong faith, and I may know my own mind, but Shelby is still working her way to that kind of certainty. She is selfish, she is reckless, she doesn't make the best choices and she isn't always honest about it either. But I dare anyone to say that she's a bad person just because she struggles with the idea of God and purity.
It was extremely satisfying to see the topic of sex and virtue be held up to scrutiny, especially in light of the laws being passed in the United States. Girls need to know that there are people they can talk to and places they can go to consider their choices, whether it's a church or counseling offices or just their own homes. Like Shelby, so much of what girls endure daily isn't upfront, but under the surface, making them doubt themselves. Personally, I've always questioned the right of the church to dictate what I can do with my body, because they've never actually asked how women feel about those rules. Purity is a great way to start that dialogue with the girls in your life and let them know that they have agency and power over their body.
Lastly, I was pleased with the way love was brought gently, softly into the story. Shelby's two best friends may be the foil to her father's distance, but I never once doubted that she was surrounded by people who loved her. Like many of us, Shelby struggles with that belief--it was heartbreaking watching her doubt herself. With chapters that detail exactly how Shelby comes to see her own worth and the importance of loving those who have been there for her every broken step of the way, Purity shines.
The Final Say: I couldn't have asked for a stronger character or a more beautiful story. Purity is a book I will put away on a beloved shelf to give to my future daughter....more
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: May 1, 2012 Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 384 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from author/publisher
Tell Me More: Over the last six months, mermaid novels have multiplied, quickly being touted as the new "angels" of YA. After all, the ocean is the last great frontier, and no one knows exactly what is to be found in its deepest corners. Zoraida Cordova's debut novel The ViciousDeep is a crackingly honest story about a boy who discovers just how many secrets can lie under the waves.
There is no one like Tristan Hart. At once irreverent and introverted, passionate and shy, he is just one of the story's many enigmas. His narration is well-paced, his voice unmistakable and vibrant. Zoraida's characterization sold me on this boy who is, quite literally, in the middle of two worlds and made me worry and cheer for him. I am hesitant to label him as a "jock," even though he heads the swim team, because he doesn't seem like he cares enough about it. But neither could he be termed an "outcast"--his moments of arrogance will have you rolling your eyes more than once. The complex nature of his character kept me interested even in chapters where I could pick out the next few plot twists.
Speaking of plot, the initial exposition was a bit tedious and unevenly paced. You aren't given enough time to let Tristan's world sink in before some major changes start to happen, and if you're a fast reader like me, it's double whiplash. Once the plot hits its stride, however, it steadily builds to the climax with lots of great scenes between Tristan and his family and friends. I appreciated how Zoraida took the time to give each of her characters both shining and rusty moments--it helps to solidify their voice in my mind, especially Layla. She took shape almost immediately in my head and I loved that she was confident and comfortable speaking her mind. She could have easily been overshadowed by Tristan, but I got the sense that they are each other's halves in a way. There's something each of them need to be a whole person and they haven't quite realized what it is yet.
Lastly, the mythology that Zoraida creates in The Vicious Deep is remarkable, because it is at once familiar and novel enough to turn heads. I loved the structure and clarity of hierarchy that is displayed. When a story's background is thought out well, it becomes invisible to the reader. It wasn't easy picking out things that could have been improved, backstory-wise, and that's something to be lauded.
The Final Say: The Vicious Deep will draw readers into a realm of skin-prickling mystery and brilliant characterization--I dare anyone not to find something to like in this thrilling new YA series....more
Tell Me More:If I had to narrow down my experience wYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: If I had to narrow down my experience with this story to one word, it would definitely be "surprise." Jessica Brody's tale of a pampered, spoiled heiress may not sound like it has substance, but the layers of characterization, humour and just plain good writing made me believe in it from page one.
Surprise #1: Lexington Larrabee was a great character. While real-life people like her may be lambasted as much as they are adored in popular culture, I genuinely enjoyed Lexi's idiosyncrasies. I could relate to her frustrations, even if I've never worried about losing a multi-million dollar trust fund. It was obvious from the start that Lexi's self-esteem issues and attitude were the products of a not-so-healthy family life, and Brody handles each of these aspects with an understanding heart. There was a real optimistic teenage spirit to this story--you get the sense that Lexi's determination to get what she wants is also what's going to lead her to the right place. There's also a brilliant family dynamic that I won't discuss for fear of spoiling the plot, but suffice to say that this is a contemporary story that you could never have expected. And that leads us to...
Surprise #2: Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer hilarity of this book. Lexi is placed in awkward situation upon awkward situation, she deals with people who do jobs she never knew existed, she experiences the fallout of her own mistakes. All of these things are not only written well for the development of the story, but they are also really funny to read about. Brody has a way of finding the humour in any situation, and she plays it off Lexi's own honest lack of knowledge about the real world without being condescending. I loved knowing that readers from any part of the economic spectrum could find ways to relate to Lexi and her journey. Many of Lexi's experiences actually reminded me of my own, as I'd grown up with a nanny and housemaid who ensured that I didn't have to do chores. Remembering how I'd had to learn to do the laundry and clean the house properly made Lexi's experiences more real--and more funny--to me.
The Final Say: YA needs more genuinely funny and heartwarming stories like 52 Reasons. Take this one to the beach. And school. And L.A. And New York. Just take it and love it.
Tell Me More:In the year or so since I've been bloggYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: In the year or so since I've been blogging, I've read and reviewed more novels about mermaids than I've read in my entire life. They've always fascinated me, but I've only been able to really savour the richness of their mythology in the last few months. Ethereal and mysterious as they are, it can be difficult to push through the haze and find a story worth telling. Sarah Porter did it once with Lost Voices, and she succeeds again, brilliantly, with Waking Storms.
For quite a while, I caught myself referring to this book as Waking Voices, which was a great connection that my brain drew on its own. Luce is certainly waking up to the loneliness of her existence, and she begins to own her voice and her actions. Despite losing the chance to grow up physically, she learns to grow emotionally--she takes the risk of loving someone besides herself, and she learns to deal with the consequences of her actions in the previous book.
Curiously enough, many readers are bothered by how quickly the relationship between Luce and Dorian develops, but I believe this is one instance where the "insta-love" can be pardoned, at least for this book. It's important to remember that Luce is 14 years old, and will never have the chance to grow up. She certainly makes leaps and strides in emotional growth, but at heart, she is still a child. She encounters emotions and situations that even adults would be hesitant to experience, and she does her best with what she knows. Those of us past adolescence know how heightened everything becomes, from the slightest insult to the greatest joys. I never excused Luce for her actions, but I can very much understand where they come from, and I appreciated Sarah Porter's dedication to letting Luce's characterization expand even as it remains realistic.
... I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves Combing the white hair of the waves blown back When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
Likewise, the plot is one that unfolds slowly and steadily. Luce's decision to split from her tribe of mermaids was a brave one, and her journey is just as compelling. Early in the story, a beautiful poem by T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is mentioned, and unconscious or not, the story runs parallel to the poem. The last line is particularly chilling to consider in reference to Waking Storms: Luce is surrounded at all sides by human beings who are cruel, reckless and selfish. The very race with whom she wishes to co-exist wants to destroy her. Her tribe has morphed into something she cannot fathom. Sarah Porter's prose is gut-wrenchingly beautiful, even when it is heavy with sadness.
There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate; Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, Before the taking of a toast and tea.
Time and the loss of it is a theme that lies quite heavily on the story. The mermaids' time seems to be ending, and Luce and Dorian's relationship is slave to lost time as well. There are mistakes and risks in looking back at the past, and Luce and the mermaids are trapped by their instinct to seek revenge for those experiences. It's a time for change for each and every character in this book, and that is a truly powerful and creative dynamic to add to the story.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
Luce is the eye of the storm in this trilogy, despite her wish to live a quiet and peaceful life. Like J. Alfred Prufrock, Luce is searching for something she can't quite name, because of fear and anger and loss. After reading Waking Storms, it's very obvious that she will have to make some awful choices to get her wish, and she will have to face the things she can't forgive herself for doing. The Luce that readers will find at the end of this installment is vastly different from the damaged young girl inLost Voices. She grows into a girl who will be worthy of the battles she has to fight in the next book, whether it's against her tribe, Dorian or herself. Her inner strength will carry her through, despite the temptation to take the easy road. I look forward to seeing her grow into a formidable and truly beautiful person.
The Final Say: While Lost Voices is captivating and enthralling, Waking Storms is powerful in the raw pain and uncertainty it displays. Sarah Porter raises the stakes, not only for Luce, but for every single character, with writing that is more melodic than a song.
Release Date:March 27, 2012 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Age Group: Young Adult Pages:You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: March 27, 2012 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 234 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Perspective is a volatile and explosive part of being human. A slight change in the way an event is seen can mean the difference between life and death. History is written by the winners, and lamented by the defeated. But possibly the scariest thing about perspective is not knowing if you can trust your own.
Brian James pens the story of an artistic, ethereal girl named Sabrina and her struggles with seeing the world in the "right" way. As hard as it must already be to receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Sabrina is also a teenager, on the fence between childhood and adulthood. Learning how to believe in yourself is challenging enough without the added pressures of feeling like two or three different people. What is there left for you to believe in, anyway?
James' writing is simply electric, pulsing with all the potential readers will find in Sabrina. Relating to her disillusionment and insecurities comes easily--we have all been in her shoes once or twice. The descriptions of what Sabrina sees on a daily basis are particularly captivating, and make her later decisions that much more poignant. Her relationship with her family also interested me, and I wish there had been more of it to fully flesh out the history behind her diagnosis.
Despite the brilliant characterization, the love story falls flat, and as I read, I wished it had just been relegated to a tiny subplot. I understood why James may have decided to have Alec play such a big role in Sabrina's development, but there were times when it felt contrived. Much of the reason why has to do with the ending, which I don't want to spoil for people who are considering picking this book up. It wasn't an awful ending, but I do think that a bit more length and development would have given it more justification.
I am hesitant to say I enjoyed this book, because I don't think that's the right word for it. Rather, I was left in awe of what beautiful, committed writing can do to heighten an already emotional and unique story.
The Final Say: Life is But a Dream is a story for those who are coming to trust in themselves more than the world, and for those who want to find the strength to do it....more