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: Distance is a familiar motif to anyone who has left the country of their birth. But whatever distance leaves in shadow, it also brings nTell Me More: Distance is a familiar motif to anyone who has left the country of their birth. But whatever distance leaves in shadow, it also brings new perspectives to light. Kseniya Melnik writes of her birthplace, Magadan, with perspective and a fresh new gravity in these nine short stories.
It’s hard to write about a place that lives in memories. In Melnik’s hands, Magadan is a vibrant place with unique characteristics and characters. Each piece of the setting seems to complement its respective story, and the lilting, rhythmic dialogue is at once humourous and sharp. “Kuruchina” is especially powerful, serving as a dual commentary on the challenges of immigration and being a woman. The stark cultural differences are potent enough to drive the story, and it was easy for me to relate to Katya, as different as we are.
The characters are memorable, so much so that I’ll remember them on the train in to work and still smile or laugh. Among my favourites are Tanya of “Love, Italian Style, or in Line for Bananas” and Olya of “Strawberry Lipstick.” There’s a hardiness to the female characters in these stories, born of practicality and sensibility in the middle of political and economic unrest. Still, there are hints of their idealism and need to dream of something more. Melnik draws links between them through several stories: Olya’s daughter Marina is in “Closed Fractures” and her daughter is the center of “Summer Medicine,” which brings us back to Olya herself. The connections provide a sense of history and solidarity for these women, and their stories tend to be the strongest in the collection.
My favourite stories:
“Love, Italian Style, or in Line for Bananas” “The Witch” “Kuruchina” “Our Upstairs Neighbor”
The Final Say: Just reading one story is impossible in this collection from Kseniya Melnik–-Snow in May will draw you closer, like the first flakes in October draw us to the window to wonder....more
Tell Me More:Here is a story of unbearable pain and regret, told in musical prose and by a character whose sadness is hazy but still visible in everyTell Me More: Here is a story of unbearable pain and regret, told in musical prose and by a character whose sadness is hazy but still visible in every sentence. Ava Lavender and her tragic, luminous family are some of the most memorable characters I've ever encountered in fiction, and Leslye Walton tells their stories in short bursts, letting their strength carry the words forward.
Sorrows is not an easy book to read. The narrative follows a rough timeline, and Ava begins with the story of her great-great grandmother, with the reader trusting that this history will contribute to Ava's own tale. Other than that, it meanders, taking breaks every now and then to share a tidbit, visit an old friend, ponder the meaning of past events. Readers who want a clear-cut story with obvious conflicts and villains won't find that here, or at least not for a good long while.
In addition, Sorrows is a magic realism novel, with girls turning into canaries and ghosts silently watching their siblings live. Unlike a lot of speculative fiction, there's no obvious logic to the magic in Sorrows. Ava, like her aunts and uncles before her, deals with her inexplicable wings with the help of her family, and they keep her sane. Walton's writing style complements the tone of the story beautifully--she has a gift for picking the right word to make her sentences sing, and they will haunt you. I particularly admired how Walton handles Emilienne's story, as it stretches from her arrival in Manhatine(as her father calls it) to the warping of her family's quiet existence. Readers need an anchor, and while the story is told through Ava's eyes, it is Emilienne who grounds it in her tragedy and strength.
Female characters outnumber males in Sorrows, and while the story doesn't quite make a statement about feminism, it does make a statement about abuses committed in the name of love, highlighting the way women are used, discarded and forgotten by men. Emilienne and Viviane give their hearts to men, trusting in that love, and they are treated cruelly, rejected because of their eagerness to love. Ava is more cautious, and suffers for it anyway. There are reminders of the original "The Little Mermaid": both stories are about girls who try to go after their dreams and are punished for wanting more than what they have. Emilienne, Viviane and Ava face men who are used to getting what they want, and they all recognize that entitlement too late to save themselves in the moment that it hurts them. But they don't lose themselves in the end. More than determination, I think that Sorrows reminds its readers that having the will to survive can carry you through the worst moments of your life. And maybe it's too hard to muster up that will in your darkest times, and that is when you let someone else carry you for a while.
The Final Say: Leslye Walton is an astonishing new voice in YA fiction, much like her unforgettable Ava Lavender. Her Strange and Beautiful Sorrows will stay with you past the last page.
Tell Me More:McCormick Templeman's secondnovel is a story straight from the tradition of Angela Carter and other magic realists. But while it is chill
Tell Me More: McCormick Templeman's second novel is a story straight from the tradition of Angela Carter and other magic realists. But while it is chilling and suspenseful in parts, it doesn't quite manage to ground itself in an emotional core.
The narrative is the most interesting thing about The Glass Casket--it is unpredictable and dynamic, switching between points-of-view like a dragonfly on lily pads. The use of third-person points-of-view, both limited and omniscient, actually reminded me quite a bit of "A Company of Wolves." This comparison did not end there, as both the novel and Carter's short story share several similarities, though Glass Casket might have benefited from more pages.
As far as characterization, Templeman's cast is lackluster, and events seem to just happen to them with very little proactive action on their parts. The cover copy focuses on Rowan Rose, and yet she was one of the weaker characters, at least development-wise. There is far more weight placed on characters I thought were minor, and it did take me a while to adjust.
Thematically, The Glass Casket is quite ambitious, though it didn't manage to reach the heights it aspired for. In a village that interacts with the supernatural, there is very little that genuinely shocks or surprises the reader. Part of it might be how the characters never really seem to be all that shocked or surprised themselves, and the disconnect of it bleeds through. I would find myself forgetting what had happened in the previous chapter soon after starting a new one, and having to go back to reread became tedious.
The Final Say: Readers well versed in magic realism may not find much to consume in The Glass Casket, but there is definite potential for Templeman's future work, and I look forward to it.
Magic realism novels might seem strange and over-the-top, but there is always a "logic" to the magic, something that ties mysterious events and abilitMagic realism novels might seem strange and over-the-top, but there is always a "logic" to the magic, something that ties mysterious events and abilities to the thematic development in a story. In Chocolat, it's the expression of sexuality through taste and touch. In A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, it's the intersection of belief and humanity.
I did not find that thematic logic in this novel.
I’d be lying if I said I never had daydreams about paintings coming to life, and Starry Nights is exactly that: a light and fluffy daydream of a novel. How Clio exists is not fully explained, with Daisy Whitney relying on magic realism to some extent, and I am still unsure whether it worked successfully. The relationship between Julien and Clio was not as well developed as I would have hoped, but younger and new readers starting out in contemporary YA romance will definitely find much to enjoy in this novel. My taste might be more to Whitney’s previous novels, The Mockingbirds.
Tell Me More:A is someone for whom distance is key--life itself depends on remaining an observer, never getting too close and staying under the radar.Tell Me More: A is someone for whom distance is key--life itself depends on remaining an observer, never getting too close and staying under the radar. But while the concept behind A's life might be fascinating, I never once felt emotionally compelled by it or invested in the story. In some ways, the distance necessary to understand the changes A experiences also made it difficult for me to love the story. In fact, it was precisely this distance that gave me reasons to dislike it.
Objectively speaking, Every Day is a well-written novel. The writing is as impeccable as I've come to expect from David Levithan, and the themes he choose to highlight are thought-provoking as always. His use of language was particularly intense in a chapter where A wakes up as a drug addict. It was stark and raw, bleedingly so, and it reflects the experience of losing oneself as eloquently as anyone could probably put it.
Where the story failed to hook me was the romance between A & Rhiannon, which was really the only thing that ever motivated A during the entire novel. I felt like I was being told that A loved her more than I could actually feel it. Rhiannon's ordinariness may have drawn A to her, but it didn't draw me in. And as the book went on, I grew more and more uncomfortable with how A pursued her, recklessly endangering every host he entered after Justin (Rhiannon's boyfriend). I could probably understand A finding an opportunity to talk to her if the host that day attended the same school, or if A saw her on the street, but driving hours away to a party? Lying unnecessarily and messing with the lives of the people A enters? Certainly, A did not mean any harm. But that line comes very close to what most stalkers say, and I was disturbed by how it felt like I should be cheering A on.
If what Levithan meant to do was illustrate the tangled threads of obsession and infatuation and how they can chip away at a person's soul, then he succeeded. But as much as I can appreciate the technical beauty of the prose, A is not a protagonist that I felt comfortable getting to know, and the story left me feeling as though I'd been taken for a ride and left out in the desert to fend for myself, without any sort of real closure.
The Final Say:Every Day is a novel that will make you reconsider the people you pass every day on the street, the friends you know and the relationships you have in a new light, though it doesn't quite manage to say anything concrete about those new perspectives other than that you should have them.