This book made me cry, multiple times, in the middle of a food court. Also, Lucille and I both feel the same way about dudes, and it was kinda scary sThis book made me cry, multiple times, in the middle of a food court. Also, Lucille and I both feel the same way about dudes, and it was kinda scary seeing all my thoughts laid out like that on the page from a fictional character....more
I'm going to need my next read-a-thon book to be lighter after this intense, powerful novel. A must-read about a little-known historical event, and thI'm going to need my next read-a-thon book to be lighter after this intense, powerful novel. A must-read about a little-known historical event, and the people that lived and died through it....more
Tell Me More:At first glance,Mad Miss Mimic might seem a little off-kilter, stuffed just a little too full of historical premisesMore of a 3.5 really.
Tell Me More: At first glance, Mad Miss Mimic might seem a little off-kilter, stuffed just a little too full of historical premises to stand firmly on its own. There's the drama of courtship, the dangers of the opium trade, and the struggles of not being able to use one's voice, literally. It all comes together in a novel that isn't quite as strong as it could have been, but still maintains a solid foundation and has a charming protagonist to carry the story.
Leonora Somerville--Leo, for short--is a genuinely lovely character. She knows herself and knows what the world is like, and while she experiences self-doubt like any other teenage girl, it's never powerful enough to really stop her from pursuing what she believes in. I loved that the novel gave her room to breathe and let her test her boundaries, and that ultimately she was doing what she wanted to do with her life. Her loneliness is never played off as a weakness, but as a natural result of the isolation she's been forced to live with, and the discouragement from people who should be her biggest champions.
It's not surprising then that when Leo seems to find an ally in Francis Thornfax, she wants to believe he's telling the truth about liking her for who she is. She's not gullible so much as she is hopeful, and Sarah Henstra ties that hope to Leo's bigger character arc. She doesn't need to defeat the people around her to succeed. She just needs to see herself as a worthy person on her own.
Where Mimic falls short is the romance and conflict. Unpredictable Tom Rampling is an obvious foil to Thornfax's more assured, confident hero, and his social standing keeps him from being a natural choice for Leo's affections, at least in the eyes of her guardians. There wasn't enough tension to make me doubt that Tom and Leo would end up together, or at least come to an understanding about their feelings for each other. I just wasn't surprised by how their relationship played out, and that kept me from enjoying how it was built up.
The romance may have also been affected by everything else happening in the book.
...Leo must find the links between the Black Glove's attacks, Tom's criminal past, the doctor's dangerous cure, and Thornfax's political ambitions.
There's a lot going on in Mad Miss Mimic, and not a whole lot of time to process everything. 272 pages feel too short to really give all of these plot points room to breathe and develop. There were several chapters that I had to reread to make sure I hadn't missed a clue or lost some key information in the dialogue. The historical details were lovely, but I didn't feel like I had time to savour them and let them recreate Leo's world in my head.
The Final Say: My wish for a slower pace aside, Mad Miss Mimic is a sound historical novel, and its protagonist a refreshing and realistic young woman. I would happily recommend it to readers beginning to explore historical fiction, and those looking for a book reminiscent of The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
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.
Tell Me More: A new Ally Carter novel is the best way to get me to slow down and take some time for readSO GOOD OMFG I NEED THE NEXT ONE IMMEDIATELY
Tell Me More: A new Ally Carter novel is the best way to get me to slow down and take some time for reading, without ever once worrying that the story won't live up to expectations. All Fall Down, the first book in the new Embassy Row series, is no different. The story Carter tells this time around feels more intimate though, with a smaller nucleus of action. That said, the ramifications of Grace's actions have farther reaching consequences because of the setting: a street on which several countries have situated their embassies is not a place where one can sneak into the house next door as part of a prank. A single wrong move could, as the kids themselves realize, start the next world war, and Grace has always believed herself to only be capable of the wrong moves.
At first glance, Grace is not like Gallagher Girl Cammie, secure in her mother and her friends and her school, or like Kat, confident in her abilities and her crew. Grace is unsure and scarred, her mother's death a weight and a responsibility that she can't shake. Even more intriguing is how the reader can't be sure of Grace either. She's an unreliable narrator, and I loved the way Ally Carter developed that uncertainty throughout the novel. The hints are never overdone or too few to notice--we know that there is something off about Grace, and the mystery itself did not seem predictable once revealed.
What is familiar is Carter's penchant for found families, a very welcome trope. Grace's relationship with her grandfather is distant at best, and seeing her open up to Noah and the other teens on Embassy Row is just as fulfilling as seeing her gain more confidence in herself. They help her to trust herself, and to face the truth about her mother's death. The lack of a central romance highlights the burgeoning friendships even more, though there are tiny hints scattered throughout the novel of possible future relationships.
The Final Say: All Fall Down heralds the start of a strong new series, with Ally Carter's deft hand guiding Grace's story. Readers will not only be satisfied, but yearn for the next installment immediately after closing the cover.
Tell Me More: At the core of every Sarah Dessen story is a girl standing at a crossroads. Sometimes she knows she’s there, and she’s running from theTell Me More: At the core of every Sarah Dessen story is a girl standing at a crossroads. Sometimes she knows she’s there, and she’s running from the choice. Sometimes she doesn’t see it past the fog of everything else that’s going on in her life. It’s easy to find yourself in her stories, and it’s why her books have become a cornerstone of YA literature. Saint Anything is Dessen’s newest offering to her readers, and while it is a strong, technically beautiful story, it never really captivated me or convinced me to invest in its characters’ crossroads.
Sydney is reminiscent of Colie from Keeping the Moon: constantly on guard, frustrated, and almost unbearably lonely. She also reminded me a lot of Natalie Goodman from the musical Next to Normal, a daughter left to piece herself together after her brother bulldozes through the family’s peaceful life. It was hard to see Sydney for who she was beyond these comparisons. Dessen does lay some of the foundation for her character in Sydney’s interactions with her old friends, but there were moments in which it was just as hard to see how they ever became friends. You get the sense that Sydney doesn’t actually know who she is yet, and I spent a lot of the book worrying that she might continue to let other people and their actions define her.
It’s when Sydney meets Layla Chatham and Mac at her new school that the story begins to pick up. Layla was charming, to be sure, but even after I finished reading, I was never completely sold on Mac. My familiarity and love for Dessen’s books might have worked against me here, as Wes (The Truth About Forever) and Dexter (This Lullaby) will forever be the standard against which I measure YA love interests. Mac just doesn’t hit the sa-woon meter for me, and I didn’t feel that Sydney really needed him in the end.
The Chathams were an interesting family, as most of these supporting characters tend to be, and I appreciated their candor with Sydney. There just wasn’t enough to pull me into their world. Part of that might be from Sydney’s own reticence, but it’s also partly because I felt like I had read this story before, and I did. For the first time in my Dessen reading history, these characters felt more like slotted-in tropes than real people.
Dessen also takes on a darker subplot with her brother’s friend Ames’ uncomfortable interest in Sydney, which I still have mixed feelings about. I’m very glad that there was no sexual violence, implied or otherwise—I wouldn’t have wanted it in any fashion. I would have just appreciated a bit of clearer writing because there were scenes in which I wasn’t sure what Ames really wanted, and his character flip-flopped so often that I could never put my finger on his motivations.
Over the last decade, Dessen’s novels have been some of the strongest contemporary novels I've had the pleasure of reading. They've been comforting, familiar stories, and The Truth About Forever absolutely ruined me for contemporary YA love interests. That positive history with Dessen's work is what made my Saint Anything reading experience such a strange one.
I could recognize the formula for what it was, and still want to walk that path with Sydney, but I also found myself looking for something more. The formula drew me into comparing this book with her previous work, and while I wasn’t left wanting, it did leave me with the undeniable sense of having moved past needing these particular stories.
I don’t believe that Saint Anything is juvenile in any sense of the word, but it’s not the kind of story I’m looking for anymore. That’s okay. This is my own crossroads, and neither side is good or bad. They’re just different. And if there’s one thing that Dessen has taught me in the last ten years, “different” is sometimes exactly what you need.
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.