Tell Me More: If you know me, you know I'd be hard-pressed to resist any tale that uses period elements, even if the main genre that the story residesTell Me More: If you know me, you know I'd be hard-pressed to resist any tale that uses period elements, even if the main genre that the story resides in is dystopian. So yes, my hopes were high for Landry Park, but unfortunately I found it predictable at its best and offensive at its worst.
The life of Landry Park, literally, is dependent on the class issues that permeate the story. The reader is introduced to this peculiar new world through Madeline Landry, who enjoys the lifestyle powered by abuse of the lower classes, even as she expresses a vague desire to change it. In various exposition paragraphs, the reader learns that Jacob Landry, Madeline's ancestor, invented Cherenkov lanterns as a power source after a devastating war with the Eastern Empire. What's left of America is miserable, save for the 1%, now known as the gentry, who are not the government but more powerful.
Madeline is not a very memorable heroine, and neither are many of the other characters. She fits into the trope of a dissatisfied rich girl well enough, and I understand her desire to educate herself. But what is it all for? She tells her father that it will make her a better owner of Landry Park in the future, but even her attachment to the estate feels half-hearted. I never really felt like she was a fully-formed character, capable of standing on her own. I have read of heroines like her before, and she does not do much to distinguish herself from the rest. I never felt like she was in true danger, and I was not emotionally invested enough in her to worry either way. Even the relationship between her and David was dulled by how obvious it was that they would end up together.
On a more serious note, I am particularly bothered by the seeming demonization of Asians as the Eastern Empire, even as a character espouses that "race is no longer a factor" in this futuristic world. I believe this is the first book in a series (correct me if I'm wrong), so there may still be more information to be gleaned about this war in future installments, but what I have so far is just that China, Japan and the rest of Asia decided they'd had enough of America's environmental overreaching and invaded. If this is the war that has changed the landscape of the globe, describing its impact requires more than a few passing sentences. Race can never not be a factor. Including token black and Indian characters among the gentry is not enough to claim that, especially since America's "enemy" in this story is made up of Asians. The difference alone establishes that race is a factor. Frankly, I find it is easiest for those for whom race has never been a factor to imagine a world where it isn't. So why the Asians? Why this cause? I would love to know more about the background of this war, so that I can ground myself further in the story.
The class issues that Hagen attempts to address also fall flat because there just isn't enough solid worldbuilding to hold them up. So much of the book is set in a very small area, because Madeline herself is isolated from knowing much about her life. As a reader, this can quickly become frustrating, because there isn't enough ground covered to stabilize the world the author asks us to believe in. At the very least, why did fashion in this future world return to that of the 1800s? Was it meant as a sign of how out-of-touch the gentry are with the rest of the world? I can't be sure because we get no hints as to how the social norms developed hand-in-hand with the rise and fall of certain classes. Reading this book felt a lot like being surrounded by gorgeous, filmy curtains that aren't actually hiding anything substantial or valuable or even new.
The Final Say:Landry Park may dazzle readers new to the genre, but there is not much to see past the first few fireworks, and less to remember.
Tell Me More: There's something to be said about a series that starts with its protagonist at her lowest point
SPOILERS AHEAD--Read at your own risk!
Tell Me More: There's something to be said about a series that starts with its protagonist at her lowest point. Most dystopian novels beckon readers in with comfort and familiarity, but Shatter Me was different from the start. Juliette Ferrars is a heroine who is on her knees, broken and undone. Two books later, she becomes a force of nature in her own right, much like the young woman who first created her. Ignite Me is not only a satisfying ending to the trilogy, but a story that illustrates Tahereh Mafi's growth and undeniable talent on every page.
Going into Ignite Me, I was absolutely terrified that I would hate the book. Unlike other final books in dystopian trilogies, I didn't know what to expect out of this novel, and I couldn't decide if that lack of expectation was better or worse than my other experiences with books like Delirium and Divergent. Once I started reading, however, I forgot all of my anxiety and worries. The story is just as tightly woven as its predecessors, possibly more so now that Juliette understands what she is capable of, and the battle at the end is all but guaranteed. Her journey is clear: Shatter Me was Juliette learning about the extent of her powers, Unravel Me was the reveal of the choices she has to make knowing what she can do, and Ignite Me is where those choices are made, for better or for worse.
That kind of story requires a writer who knows her characters inside and out, and is willing to follow them through the hard choices. Tahereh Mafi's prose is raw and unflinching, and it captures the conflict that lies in Juliette's very being with authority. Juliette might be powerful beyond her own imagination, but she is also seventeen years old, and Mafi's writing style reflects Juliette's youth and determination. Even when she doubts herself, her thoughts are lined with steel, and I never once doubted that she is capable of paving her own path, even if no one is at her side.
But while Juliette is strong enough to stand on her own, it is comforting to see that she doesn't have to. Kenji and several other Omega Point residents return in Ignite Me and their presence brings a necessary lightness to the story's intensity. I loved that Kenji and Juliette's friendship grows stronger in this book, and that there is someone that isn't a potential love interest who makes the effort to understand her. I loved that Juliette learned to appreciate the support system that Omega Point created for people like her, and I loved that she valued them for who they were.
In my review of Unravel Me, I hypothesized that "Adam’s desire to keep [Juliette] safe blinds him to the fact that she still has agency." (view spoiler)[I wasn't pleased to find I was right about this halfway through the book, but I do think that it's that same point that shows that if Juliette should choose to be with anyone, it should be the man who sees her for who she is and accepts her. I don't think that Warner takes pleasure in the pain Juliette can cause, but he also won't pretend that it's not a fact of her life. He won't coddle her, and he'll help her in any way she asks him to, because he believes in and trusts her. Mutual respect is far more appealing than overprotectiveness, and I think Kenji makes that point far better than I ever could in a conversation with Juliette halfway through the novel. Warner and Juliette are both aware of what the other is capable of, and once they realize it, they make a conscious choice to use those abilities to help rather than harm. They are both capable of sacrificing parts of themselves, but neither will let the other do it. (hide spoiler)]
The best part is that Juliette knows all of this, and she comes to her own conclusions. Her sense of self-awareness has developed over the course of three books, and she is willing to face the battle ahead with open and clear eyes. She won't end up with someone because it's what is expected of her. She won't take action just because it's the right thing to do. Her every movement is done to set herself free so that she can make those choices on her own. And frankly, it would have made perfect sense to me if she hadn't ended up with anyone at all. (view spoiler)[I loved that her final battle was to save her best friend's life. (hide spoiler)] I loved that Mafi made her feelings and her choices matter.
Ignite Me does not end on an ambiguous note. Juliette, as she's done in the previous books, commits to a path and sees it through. There is devastation, but there is also hope. (view spoiler)[Warner tells her to "ignite," and she does light a flame that destroys the world they knew. But she also brings light and perspective, and their world is never going to be perfect, but it does become a world of potential. (hide spoiler)]
The Final Say: With its focus on Juliette's self-discovery and claim on her own freedom, IgniteMe is a satisfying and powerful ending to the Shatter Me trilogy.
Having grown up with the Royal Diaries and Disney Princesses, my fascination with royalty won't comPosted on Seashell Reviews at Mermaid Vision Books!
Having grown up with the Royal Diaries and Disney Princesses, my fascination with royalty won't come as a surprise to anyone. One of the things I loved most in books about princesses was the attention to detail, the way authors could make you feel as though you were the princess in the story, be it about Anastasia, Elizabeth I or Sara Crewe. Sadly, this was not the case with Galaxy Craze's The Last Princess. A raggedy plot combined with pacing that could give one whiplash does not make for a pleasing story. I wanted desperately to like Eliza and cheer for her, but I could barely find a moment to gain my footing in the story, much less understand her plight or her sudden romance. As a post-apocalyptic stories go, The Last Princess fails to impress or elicit any strong impressions....more
Release Date:February 28, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 4You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 28, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 459 Format: Paperback Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: Most of the buzz I've seen surrounding this book are consistently focused on its similarities to The Hunger Games. To which I say: what similarities? Where THG is a dystopian society, with touches of sci-fi, Blood Red Road is more like a Western thriller. If I had to draw parallels to any sort of media, the closest might be the late, great television series Firefly. As a reader, I didn't appreciate the blurbs' attempt to condition my mind into seeing something that isn't there, even if that illusion would sell more books.
That small grudge against the blurbs can explain why I did find it difficult to enjoy the story at first. As I began reading, my brain kept trying to point how dissimilar Blood Red Road was to THG, and if it was distracting to me, it'll be distracting for other readers. I can see how Saba might be compared to Katniss, but I see them as two completely separate and unique characters. Saba is angry, dependent and reckless. She might be the most challenging character I've ever encountered, and she doesn't make it easy to know her. One aspect of her personality that I found confusing was her attachment to Lugh, her twin. While it's easy to say that twins share a kinship unlike any other, I never really felt that kinship. If anything, Saba seems to be more dependent on Lugh, rather than an equal relationship. It did get to the point where I started to wonder if Saba was a little bit in love with Lugh. While that doesn't bother me at all, I would have appreciated more indications either way.
Overall, the character development strikes me as uneven and the plot races along without it at times. My interest was peaked, but I couldn't quite care for any of the characters, and the ones I was concerned for weren't given enough page time to really win me over. The plot is unique and overwhelmingly complex at certain points. Young has a tight control over Saba's story and her eye for detail is superb. There is always something at risk in Blood Red Road, and you are never quite sure what you could lose next.
Another salient point that should inform your decision to read is the writing style and dialogue. Moira Young employs a Midwestern style of narration, and if readers aren't familiar with that way of speaking, it may be difficult to proceed with the story. Quotation marks are also missing from the story, which may bother some readers. Interestingly enough, I also believe that Blood Red Road can stand on its own. It is meant to be a series, but should you decide to stop after this book, you won't feel like something is missing. Frankly, I am glad for it, because I don't see myself continuing the series at this point.
The Final Say: Blood Red Road was an okay book, interesting but not intense and a challenge to invest in. Readers interested in a high-stakes story with unique elements will find much to enjoy in this series....more
Discovery: Retellings of fairy tales always make their way onto my TBR pile, but I was especially intrigued by this post-apocalyptic twist on “SleepinDiscovery: Retellings of fairy tales always make their way onto my TBR pile, but I was especially intrigued by this post-apocalyptic twist on “Sleeping Beauty.”
+ Voice. Rose is very much an innocent and while that naivete can sometimes become tedious for the reader, it’s very clear why she thinks and speaks the way she does. It’s obvious to the reader just how awful her “fairy-tale life” really is, but she doesn’t seem to lose any sense of optimism. Rose has a quiet strength, only emerging when she needs it, because she doesn’t actually ask for much. I enjoyed her curiousity the most–she wants to learn but is afraid of what the knowledge would mean. I liked seeing her cast that fear aside when she realizes it can only do her more harm than good. She’s also quite funny and insightful; I appreciated Otto all the more because of her interaction with him.
+ Sci-fi and fairy tales. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my standards for dystopian novels are high. Thankfully, Anna Sheehan delivers a world that is complex and beautifully rendered. I had a great time imagining the limoskiffs and comms and other gadgets that Rose’s futuristic world used. Stass is also a noteworthy piece of tech and the ethics of its use gave the novel a perfect backbone. The juxtaposition of such a technologically-centered future with a fairy tale makes for some complicated questions–like “Was waking Rose the right thing to do?”–but Sheehan handles them all with deft precision and care for the characters she’d created. The revelations in this novel are expertly paced and
- Length. I do feel that some sort of a companion novel is necessary, if only because Sheehan included characters that readers will want to know more about even after Rose’s story has ended. I LOVED that the romance wasn’t the focus of the book. It’s easy to imagine where a second novel might go: Otto is a particular favourite of mine and I’d love to know more about his life.
Recommendations: A Long Long Sleep is a truly unique and complex novel, which will keep readers up all night trying to solve the mystery of Rose Fitzroy. They won’t be disappointed.
Discovery: While searching for books that were similar to The Hunger Games for a blog post I wanted to write, I happened upon Eve. I was lucky enoughDiscovery: While searching for books that were similar to The Hunger Games for a blog post I wanted to write, I happened upon Eve. I was lucky enough to win a copy from Karen at FWIW.
+ Reality. I can pinpoint the moment I decided to read this book: the second I read the words “The Handmaid’s Tale” on the cover. While I’m very wary of any books that are marketed as “blank-meets-blank,” it takes a lot of guts to compare a new YA novel to a classic dystopian, especially one written by Margaret Atwood. The world Eve lives in is deliciously creepy and the descriptions of her real future are horrifying. I would have loved to know more, and in that way, the novel succeeds. Dystopians rely on a strong background to draw the reader in.
- The “huh?” factor. With such a strong start, I was expecting the novel to be an excellent look at the dynamics of a male-female relationship when so much is at stake. I was very disappointed. Nothing about what Eve is taught in school comes across as unpredictable, and after a few pages of “Men are evil!,” I got bored. It becomes more confusing as the book goes on. Eve and her encounters with men aren’t anything to write home about and the cave scenes were lackluster at best. All in all, I found it very difficult to care about the story, but I was hoping that Eve and the other characters would make up for it.
- Lack of character development. I’ve heard comparisons of Eve to Kathy H. of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. As a reader who adores that book with the fire of a thousand white-hot suns, I would say no. I can see where the comparison might have arisen, but Eve has none of the inner passion that Kathy H. has and none of the smarts either. Kathy is not nearly as naive or reckless as Eve. This book isn’t the worst I’ve ever read, but it doesn’t help that Eve is simply too naive to be likeable. She doesn’t think about her actions and still expects things to work out the way she wants them.
I’m not sold on Caleb either. For a character who’s supposed to be dreamy enough to sweep Eve off her feet, he’s surprisingly bland. I finished the book without seeing any proof that he’s worth Eve’s time or mine. Arden, on the other hand, makes an excellent case. She is smart, but isn’t given enough credit by the author (in my opinion) to become a truly vibrant character.
Recommendations: I don’t hate this book, but I do feel hoodwinked into believing that it would be a jaw-dropping story. The problem might be that I’ve read so many dystopians that it’s difficult to refrain from drawing parallels, but Eve doesn’t match any of the books it’s been compared to. In conclusion, it’s just not for me, but maybe other readers will enjoy it.
Release Date:January 24, 2012 Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 304You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 24, 2012 Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 304 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Hachette Book Group Canada
Discovery: I hadn't heard too much about this book before October last year, but I loved the premise and was looking forward to the Canadian setting.
+ Science (!) A confession: between the ages of seven and 14, I was obsessed with diseases. You name it, I read about it: ebola, AIDS, scarlet fever, smallpox, sleeping sickness, the list goes on. So imagine how thrilled I was to have a YA novel that dealt with the fallout of an epidemic. Megan Crewe doesn't overwhelm the reader with scientific jargon, but that almost makes it worse. No one knows what's really going on, and human nature doesn't do well when it's kept in the dark. While I thought it was a little contrived that Kaelyn's father was a doctor and a scientist, I was glad to have a front-row seat to the work he was doing and the effects on his family. As terrifying as diseases are by themselves, what they do to society is just as scary.
+ Structure. I unabashedly love epistolary (read: written as letters) stories. There's not a lot you can hide in a letter, and Kaelyn's own mental and emotional state are out for display in each one that she writes to her best friend Leo. It was easy to trust Kaelyn, to understand everything she's going through, and even the fears she won't name. I also like that her letters represented hope: she's writing to someone, unconsciously willing him to know about her life. The letters help her keep her sanity and fight for survival. This kind of organic unity (hello, creative writing terms) makes the story even better.
> O Canada! I've never been anywhere except Toronto and Ottawa, so reading about the maritimes was lovely. > Mysterious boys! Who says nice guys finish last? I'm sold on the specimens we have in this novel.
The final say: Granted, you won't be able to look at chatty people the same way again, but The Way We Fall is a must-read for anyone who is fascinated with epidemics and the myriad ways they change our lives.
Release Date:February 8, 2012 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Age Group: Young Adult PYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 8, 2012 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 448 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: The sudden influx of dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels over the past year has made contemplating the future rather terrifying. Most plots center on the things we take for granted and lose--freedom, safety, emotion. The main characters in many of these books often live comfortable lives, before coming face to face with something outside their experience. It's that catalyst that begins an "epic saga" that will change the world forever. As much as I thought the characters needed a bit more vibrancy, Pure does answer to the call of the dystopian epic in a massive way, by pointing the finger at our governments' actions today.
Pure suffers from what I personally like to call the Tolkien Syndrome: an overwhelming amount of description and detail in otherwise lackluster scenes. Note that I didn't say the writing was horrible, nor were the descriptions poor. Tolkien was a wonderful writer, but he also had a tendency of describing blades of grass on a mountain individually for paragraphs on end. Baggott's strength lies in this love of detail, and her world comes alive because of it. Unfortunately, because there is so much that she chooses to describe about Pressia's world, the pacing of the novel takes a huge hit. Getting through the novel took me longer than I thought it would, simply because I had to keep stopping when I got bored with the slow-to-nonexistent movement. Plodding through the story takes more patience than what most YA readers may be used to giving, so it only makes sense for me to recommend this as an adult novel.
As for the plot itself, readers won't see much action until about halfway through the novel, a point which some of my fellow readers confess they never reached before giving up. Once it begins, however, Pure takes off running. The theme of the story I found most interesting was the consideration of nuclear warfare and its consequences. As children born in the late 1900s, we are all very familiar with the fallout of World War II, and if last week's North Korean nuclear launch is any indication, there is a healthy fear among the world's populations of what could happen in a nuclear war. Power and control have become overwhelming forces in society, and each day brings a new limit to push. I was highly impressed with the message Baggott chooses to tie into her story, and her writing is a chilling testament to her talent. Here's hoping the following books are also infused with that same strength and honesty.
The Final Say: Though it may require more of a commitment than other novels, Pure is a worthwhile read which will leave you looking at our society through a clearer lens....more