Tell Me More: Sympathy for 1945 Germany may be a stretch for many people. History books and documentaries focus on the horrors committed by the Nazis,...moreTell Me More: Sympathy for 1945 Germany may be a stretch for many people. History books and documentaries focus on the horrors committed by the Nazis, and understandably so. But in Prisoner of Night and Fog, Anne Blankman asks readers to see the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany through the eyes of a young girl, and it's the kind of the story worth reading alongside history books.
Gretchen does not start as a sympathetic character. On my first read, I actually found her a difficult character to understand, because she didn't seem to care or be attached to anything. The second time around was easier, and much of the story also takes on new layers in a reread. She isn't worldly or street-smart, relying on what she's told to consider right versus wrong. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does later highlight how she begins to grow up. This isn't a book about Hitler, but his presence does weigh heavily on Gretchen's life, and it's his actions in the past that drive Gretchen's search for the truth about her father. What she does learn doesn't have to change her life, and indeed, she chooses to ignore the truth at first. But Gretchen is stronger than that, and while I initially found her back-and-forth frustrating, it makes sense for her character's eventual growth.
While the book is still written for a young audience, Blankman doesn't shy away from illustrating the horrors of the Nazi Party. Hitler's benevolent behaviour isn't quite enough to mask his ruthlessness, and even Gretchen is uncomfortable with him at times before she discovers the truth. The story asks both Gretchen and the reader to examine the idea of trust and loyalty to people and one's country, without overwhelming them with philosophical questions.
The Final Say: Anne Blankman's debut novel is a stark look at a girl growing up in the midst of shadows, and her choice to turn on the light to face them. Prisoner of Night and Fog will give readers an excellent and rarely seen perspective of the country and events that changed the world stage forever.
Release Date:April 24, 2012 Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins) Age Group: Youn...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: April 24, 2012 Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 320 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: "The Masque of the Red Death" was one of the first short stories I ever read, though it was probably too early for me to have consumed it, since I was seven years old. Edgar Allan Poe is my mother's favourite writer, and when I grew curious about his work, she happily allowed me to read it with her. Over the years, I've returned again and again to his stories to educate myself about the written word. Hence, a retelling of one of his stories is something I approach with caution and a smidgen of reluctance. I can't say that Masque of the Red Death does what it sets out to do, but neither can I dismiss it as a poor imitation.
The emotion that strikes first after reading this novel--having studied the story many times--is a sense of disappointment. Before you cross Masque off your shopping list, hear me out. The original short story is about a masquerade ball thrown by a prince who believes he has escaped the Red Death in his castle fortress. I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't read it, but I did expect to see, at the very least, the plans for this masquerade or a twist on it in play throughout the novel. I didn't find out until the last ten pages that this was the first book in a series, and many readers won't realize it until that point either. Do I feel a bit hoodwinked? Yes. Will that stop me from reading the next book and loving this one? No.
Greenwillow Books has a great record in my book when it comes to breathtaking prose and unique writing styles. Bethany Griffin does not disappoint, and if I've said it once, I'll say it again: Martha Mihalick's editing is something I admire greatly. While I was slightly confused by the start of the story, it became obvious as I read that Bethany was setting the stage for a razor-sharp narrative. She channels enough of Poe's writing style that it can satisfy longtime readers like myself, but she is a powerful writer on her own as well.
Araby, while not my favourite heroine, had a distinct and honest voice, even as she made some selfish decisions. What I find interesting about heroines is society's focus on what they do right, and not how they deal with their mistakes. For much of the novel, I wasn't sure what to think about Araby--she seemed almost frigid, closed off to anything but her grief. It's an understandable distance, however, and it was gratifying to find her maintaining her identity while discovering new parts of her soul. That journey is the reason why both love interests just aren't fascinating to me--if anything, I believe that they blur the path she's on. They need her more than she needs them, which reminds me a lot of Peeta/Katniss/Gale. I don't necessarily mind if Araby decides to be with Will or Elliot, but at their relationships stand now, I don't see either one working out in the end.
Maybe I walked backwards into my own tomb with the way I approached this novel and bricked myself up with my own expectations and investment. (You win a prize if you know what story I'm referencing. For real.) But despite my initial misgivings, Masque of the Red Death was a provoking and thoughtful read that has me waiting not-so-patiently for the second book in April 2013.
The Final Say: Pick up Masque of the Red Death for the cover and inspiration, stay for the words that will mark you forever.(less)
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.(less)
Release Date:February 21, 2012 Publisher: Harper Teen Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 432 For...moreYou 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.(less)
Oh God. I am not coherent enough to write out a review right now. I'm just going to go crawl into a sock...moreMy original post:
CRYING ALL THE TEARS FOREVER.
Oh God. I am not coherent enough to write out a review right now. I'm just going to go crawl into a sock drawer and sob for days.
A proper review:
Discovery: Early buzz on Goodreads and book blogs that I follow. Oliver’s first novel, Before I Fall, was an excellent read and it interested me enough to want to check out her follow-up books.
+ Gorgeous, intricate language. The novel deals with the subject of love in a very clinical manner, going so far as to medically label the “disease” amor deliria nervosa. It’s reminiscent of Lois Lowry’s The Giver in this way, though Lena is a far more introspective character than Jonas. She is whip-smart, but there is a deep sense of loneliness and distance in the way she sees the world around her.
+ Alex and Lena’s relationship. It’s obvious from the first moment that Alex and Lena meet that a relationship will develop, but the reader is never quite sure about who falls first. Alex’s introduction is intriguing and fits his mischievous nature really well. Their relationship is written in a way that suggest their feelings for one another–the reader is taken along on an unpredictable ride, filled with uncertainty, fear and a stark and unavoidable fascination.
+ Friendship. It’s easy to forget that Lena has an important relationship before Alex: her best friendship with Hana Tate. Oliver managed to touch the innermost fears of most girls–not looking pretty enough, not being talented enough, not being daring enough–and relate it to how they approach friendships with people they believe embody the traits they want to have. Lena is a brave character, but it’s only when she is with Hana that the true Lena shines.
+/- World-building. Dystopian novels depend on a solid world, and if an author is lazy or indifferent, even the best writing will fall apart. I did think that The Book of Shhh was named rather strangely, but I’m willing to give Oliver the benefit of the doubt and hope that it’s explained in the sequels. As for its contents, I was amazed by the detail and reinterpretation that she came up with, as it’s creative enough to pass for a real book. I’m also curious about the examinations and how exactly they were created.
- Pacing. While I was very quickly caught up in the book, I did think that there were slow chapters. Lena’s scenes with her family are jarring compared to the dreamy mood of the rest of the novel. Some chapters move extremely quickly, while others take their time.
+/- The ending. It was brilliant. Really. But I have to put it down as a negative point too, because after reading it, I had to put the book down and actually reconsider picking it up again. I read this book five days ago, and I still haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to read the sequel.
Falling in love is beautiful, but it is also painful. The ending of this book is much the same way. It’s difficult to describe that pain without spoiling the novel, but suffice it to say, the last pages of your copy may experience heavy torrents. It’s the kind of ending that makes you throw your book across the room, even as you want to hold on tight.
Recommendations: Not for the faint-hearted. I would recommend this book to everyone who has ever wondered about love. Just be prepared to cry.