A lovely fairy tale, with melodic prose and themes that resonate beyond childhood.
Tell Me More:Any fairytale worth its pages is capable of making thA lovely fairy tale, with melodic prose and themes that resonate beyond childhood.
Tell Me More: Any fairytale worth its pages is capable of making the reader feel like maybe, just maybe it could happen to them too. It calls up a realm of possibilities just strange and magical enough to let the reader step out of their world, while remaining grounded in reality. Beastkeeper is one such tale, and in Cat Hellisen's capable hands, it is the kind of story you could easily read over and over again.
Sarah is a protagonist reminiscent of those oral traditions: she is curious and observant, always on the edge of tipping over into dangerous ground. Despite that, she seeks safety and stability, and when her mother leaves the family and her father begins to change, she has to learn how to find that stability in herself. The voice that Hellisen chooses to employ for Sarah highlights that hidden steel in her--it's steady, carefully paced and honest. It grounds the reader even as Sarah begins to discover the curse and its challenges.
Beastkeeper doesn't just refer to the person whose love prevents the monstrous transformation. Sarah discovers that she is a beastkeeper in her own right, that her determination and strength of will keep despair at bay. She doesn't lose herself in self-pity, but keeps going. Those qualities drive the story from being a simple fairy tale into a commentary on the value we place on our abilities and self-worth. Sarah acknowledges that she is important and that she is worth fighting for, and before she asks anyone else to fight for her, she'll fight for herself. She fights for the right to keep her consciousness and to continue living. She makes the choice that her family has struggled with for decades, and she makes it with a remarkable confidence.
The Final Say: Cat Hellisen's take on Beauty and the Beast is a powerful statement on the strength and determination we carry in ourselves, hand in hand with the beasts of our own anxieties and fears.
Every time I felt myself finally sinking into the book (in a good way), some homo/transphobic comment would come up and I'd step back again. I'll needEvery time I felt myself finally sinking into the book (in a good way), some homo/transphobic comment would come up and I'd step back again. I'll need to give it some more thought before I settle on a proper rating.
Tell Me More: In my experience, the hardest books to write about aren't the ones you develop an overwhelming love for, nor are they the books you hate. They're the books that are objectively well-written, with interesting themes, that don't quite manage to pull you in completely. As much as I wanted to love I'll Meet You There, my reading experience logged it in as one of those books.
Skylar and Josh's story begins in a dusty California town, a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of town. It's an interesting shift from many YA novels set in suburbs or big cities, and Demetrios sketches the details well, making it easy to picture Creek View as you read. Sky's frustration with her life is palpable, as she strives to metaphorically run instead of walk, as most people in Creek View do. She wants to make something of herself, a sentiment readers will understand without difficulty.
Sky was as easy to understand as Josh was challenging, and I do attribute some of that to the lack of experience I have with the military and military families. That said, I would have liked to see more of who Josh was before he joined the Marines. His short chapters were powerful, but their impact on me was lessened by the casual homo/transphobia that he expresses throughout the novel. Was there a reason why he thought those offensive expressions were okay? Was it something he'd grown up hearing? The answers to those questions wouldn't excuse the homo/transphobia, but it would provide a baseline for Josh's development.
What development does happen is tied mostly to the romance between Skylar and Josh, a relationship that felt more lackluster than exciting to me. I understand on an objective level why they might work as a couple, but I just didn't feel that connection between them. If anything, I felt more passion from Skylar when she was thinking about leaving Creek View than when she was with Josh. They do seem to find something in each other
The Final Say: As much as I wanted to love I'll Meet You There, the story wasn't compelling enough to convince me to meet it halfway. I wouldn't rule out trying Heather Demetrios' debut novel, but this wasn't the novel for me.
Maybe I'm missing something, but this book was one of the most haphazard and confusing reads I've had in a long time. Also not quite sure what the poiMaybe I'm missing something, but this book was one of the most haphazard and confusing reads I've had in a long time. Also not quite sure what the point religion was supposed to serve in the story: if it was supposed to be a commentary on Christianity, belief or lack of, free will, or divine retribution. Characters drawn in broad strokes make it hard to understand the motivation behind their choices.
Tell Me More:Satisfying conclusions to a series seem to comefew and far between, and as a story's world expands, the more there is to wrap up. HappilyTell Me More: Satisfying conclusions to a series seem to come few and far between, and as a story's world expands, the more there is to wrap up. Happily, Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy sails past satisfying right into amazing, with Ruin and Rising answering to the stakes that Shadow and Boneand Siege and Storm have created.
The astonishing terror of Ravka has not been diminished in this novel, despite the weakness that plagues Alina Starkov. While she is physically incapable of fighting back against the Apparat, it hasn't stopped her from speaking her mind and trying to find ways to escape. And that's the sum of Alina: she is strong not just as a Sun Summoner, but as Alina too. She might hate being called a saint by the people who worship her, but she also doesn't see the powerful sense of self that she carries. Whether or not she deserves the title doesn't matter so much as the fact that her desire to do good and save the people she loves is obvious to the people around her. Each book has found her questioning her abilities, but never that drive to protect, and Ruin and Rising affords her the chance to do that, but possibly at a very steep price.
Sacrifice is not a new theme to the series, and almost every character is faced with harsh choices that take a piece of their souls. (view spoiler)[Nikolai sacrifices the presence of his parents to provide Ravka with a fair and just king, and that choice only proves to be the beginning of his pain. The Darkling sacrifices every other possibility of a fulfilling life in his pursuit of power, and while many readers (including myself for a good long while) may still want him to be with Alina, this book proved that their paths still lead in opposite directions, as similar as they might have been. Mal sacrifices any other possibility of a purpose to fight--"I am become a blade," his back declares unswervingly, and as I read it, I couldn't help but mourn him. (hide spoiler)]More than ever, the reality of war and destruction and loss of self is present in this novel.
Does Bardugo succeed in translating that reality into a story that completes this trilogy well? Some readers may feel a twinge of deja vu for Mockingjay, as both stories end with similar choices from their protagonists. My review of Shadow and Bone brought up the way both Katniss and Alina are capable of carrying their stories from start to finish without a love interest, and that holds true for Ruin and Rising. (view spoiler)[I don't know that I wanted her with Mal or the Darkling at the end of it all, I don't know that that aspect of it was earned. I was more satisfied by Alina's choice to disappear into normalcy than the knowledge of who she ends up with, and I felt that if nothing else, Alina had earned a life that would never ask more of her than what she could give. Whether or not she choose to give more anyway is up to her, and if that translates to a great love and marriage, then more power to her. (hide spoiler)]
The Final Say: Ruin and Rising is the perfect title for this phoenix of a novel, a true expression of the chaos and strength that lives in each of its characters.
Release Date:March 13, 2012 Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan) Age Group: Young AdYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: March 13, 2012 Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 192 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: With the exception of Go Ask Alice, there are very few YA novels that attempt to tell the story of kids faced with the temptations of drugs, sex and "free love" in the last five decades. The taboo subjects that were only whispered about in the 1970s are now blurted out on social media without a thought. The internet has knocked down barriers to communication and knowledge, and it isn't quite clear yet if that freedom will ultimately help or harm future generations. Susan Carlton makes a brave choice in writing about a teenager who makes reckless choices in an era where she had everything to lose.
Without delving into the morality of abortion, I will say that I was apprehensive about how Carlton would handle the emotional, mental and physical effects Chloe would encounter because of her choice. Stories like this aren't cookie-cutter material, and writers can't insert names and still make it a story worth reading. It becomes important to find a heart to the story, the reason for telling it in the first place. If Chloe wasn't flawed in a familiar and poignant way, there wouldn't be a reason to care for her. Teens are notoriously stereotyped as apathetic and uninterested in anything but themselves. For Chloe to matter, they need to be able to see themselves in her. Carlton channels this need wonderfully, and makes it clear that there is always more at stake than we can see at any moment.
I was particularly impressed by her choice to use the third-person POV, instead of the easy out of a first-person narrative. Carlton trusts her readers to be smart and savvy as they follow Chloe to San Francisco. There's no talking down to readers, which is why I would recommend teachers and parents be available to guide their teens through this story. It's not explicit by any means, but there are questions that will come up and require some additional explanations.
In the end, the great potential of Love & Haight is defeated by the lack of length. There simply isn't enough to satisfy readers, and while I wouldn't want the story to go on forever, Chloe needed a bit more closure than she got. I enjoyed the supporting characters immensely, and it would have been great to really tie them all together. The conflicts played out realistically, but I still felt like there was at least 20-25 pages left of story left to tell.
The Final Say: Love & Haight is a complicated and nuanced story of bravery and faith that will keep readers thinking long after they've closed the book....more
Say the word "mixtape" and my inner 90s child is immediately lost in raptures of joy, while teens tPosted on Seashell Reviews at Mermaid Vision Books!
Say the word "mixtape" and my inner 90s child is immediately lost in raptures of joy, while teens today might just answer you with "huh?" Likewise, Meagan Brothers's story isn't one that will connect with teens growing up in the age of iPods and Spotify, but it does resonate for us readers who fondly remember the days of CD releases and radio taping. The early 1990s comes to life in Brothers's writing style, and I adored both the setting and the way the story brought back memories of my early childhood. I also genuinely enjoyed Maria as a character--it was easy to root for her as she struggled to carve out her identity within her family and alonside her music. While the tone of the book itself can seem youthful at times, it does serve to bring one back to those "good old days" of listening to boomboxes and the surprise of hearing one's favourite song on the radio. Is there anything better?...more
Tell Me More:Much of my childhood was spent in the qYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Much of my childhood was spent in the quiet suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I lived a rather ordinary life during the day. But at night, my mother would tell me bedtime stories of a decidedly extraordinary nature--stories of terrifying creatures hiding in the deep forests of the Philippine islands, of witches and healers and dwarves that would crouch beside you and untie your shoelaces. She told me of a day when she found herself sitting near an aswang, the Philippine equivalent of a demonic vampire, and the way her uncle chased it off with a shotgun. These stories were weaved into my imagination and appreciation of Filipino culture, so to come across a novel like Shadow and Bone is absolutely marvelous.
The richness and terror so often lacking in YA fantasy is very much present in this novel, and they combine to create an unforgettable experience for any reader. From beginning to end, Leigh Bardugo's writing is solid, powerful and detailed enough to quence any reader's thirst for information. The descriptions are stunning and Ravka practically builds itself in the reader's mind. I had to pause at least two dozen times while reading just to savour Bardugo's prose.
Just as beautifully constructed were the characters that populated Ravka and the neighboring areas. From the nameless soldiers to the dynamic Grisha, each character was carefully written to have a purpose in the story. The various monsters were haunting and terrifying, giving me bone-chilling moments where I remembered my mom's bedtime stories. I was especially impressed (and okay, scared) by the volcra. Bardugo doesn't just play around with danger in this story; she makes the danger real for her readers, and she raises the stakes for her characters.
Alina Starkov's brilliance might not have been as strong and obvious without the foil of these supporting characters and creatures. And oh, does Alina shine--her character arc in this first installment is so satisfying to witness. I loved the reality of her insecurities and the strength of her spirit. She falls into the same category as Katniss Everdeen, in that I think she's a full and complete person without a love interest. That said, I am looking forward to where Bardugo takes Alina next.
The Final Say: It sparked my imagination and made me love characters I never expected to ever encounter. Shadow and Bone is a book you can't afford to miss.
Release Date:January 31, 2012 Publisher: Henry Holt Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 272 FormaYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 31, 2012 Publisher: Henry Holt Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 272 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Raincoast Books
Discovery: Jay Clark can thank the wonderful people at Raincoast Books for bringing this novel to my attention! As most of us YA readers know, female protagonists can take over the YA section, so it's always awesome to come across some boys.
+ Voice. Jay Baker may be dealing with some crazy drama llamas, but his identity is never in question. His wit is bitingly sharp, his sense of humour relentless--there's not much in this world that Jay can't handle. It's a rare fifteen-year-old who knows exactly who he is at that age, and I loved getting to know him. I'm especially intrigued by how pop-culture savvy he is! The writing style isn't as clunky as one might imagine with all those celebrity/TV/movie/music references. Jay (both of them) know exactly how to keep readers turning the pages: the paragraphs come fast and furious, and the story is cleverly related.
+ Cross-audience appeal. I'll be honest: when I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it. The tone felt a little too close to MG novels and there were moments when I started to get bored because Jay's problems were so far away from my own at his age. I also grew concerned that the rapid-fire pop culture mentions might turn off younger readers who won't know what Jay is talking about. That said, I think this is a perfect book for tweens who are transitioning from MG to YA. Jay's POV will be familiar to them, as will his concerns (finding a girlfriend, passing Algebra, dealing with his parents' estrangement). His voice isn't that of a ten-year-old, but of a boy who's starting to really grow up, and the results are fantastic.
The final say: Young teens will thoroughly enjoy this snarky romp of a story, and root for Jay as he strives to figure out what to love in this crazy world.