Beautiful descriptions, but I finished the book with a general sense of discomfort and dissatisfaction. This retelling might reflect the weaknesses of...moreBeautiful descriptions, but I finished the book with a general sense of discomfort and dissatisfaction. This retelling might reflect the weaknesses of the original tale, but I'm not sure it goes as far as to turn those weaknesses into strengths on its own.
(And I wasn't impressed to find that it's the first book in a series either.)(less)
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....moreTell 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.
Tell Me More: Stories of the fae are often tied to Irish and Scottish roots, and take place in the city or rural areas. Not so with Sarah Zettel'sDust Girl, where the Dust Bowl dictates what it wants to do with the people that live in its sphere. Helpless as Callie is against the dust storms, it was satisfying to find that nothing could smother her spirit and her story.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Dust Girl when I began reading it. The premise felt shaky and vague, and to my knowledge, there has never been a story like this before. To top it all off, Callie wasn't the usual Caucasian protagonist of a fae story. Just enough focus was placed on her skin colour and heritage to allow readers to know her, but her race never became a stereotype. Zettel pinpoints the parts of Callie that need to be shown to readers, and lets them discover the rest on their own. That faith pays off, because Callie is such an interesting, layered character by herself. Zettel surrounds here with other fascinating creatures and people, and the dynamics are not only beautiful, but also fun to see.
Dust Girl is a book that lends itself to storytelling. Adding the unique cadence of 1930s America only serves to improve the flow of the story--the dialogue feels natural enough to read lines aloud, and the action is snappy and electric. I personally would love to hear the audiobook for this novel, because it's just that compelling. It's easy to feel the suspense Zettel writes into every event, and the development of the plot is organic, drawing from little clues spread throughout the book. The creative touches Zettel inserts into her fae mythology are refreshing enough to make me want to reread the book again and again, in addition to looking up the inspiration for her creatures. Then again, they're also terrifying enough to have me backing away very very slowly--a hallmark of a truly excellent and imaginative writer.
The Final Say: Sarah Zettel delivers an arresting story in Dust Girl, with characters that stay in one's mind long after the pages have been turned.
Tell Me More: No single story in sea mythology has fascinated me as deeply as that of the selkie. Ireland is rife with tales of seal women emerging from the waves and ensnaring the hearts of men for centuries, but make no mistake: there are almost never any happy endings. The selkie woman is an unpredictable creature, and it is only through deception that a man can keep her. If she finds her skin, she will return to the sea without another thought for the man or any children she might have. Margo Lanagan takes these legends and breathes life into them in the stunning Brides of Rollrock Island.
Each of the stories in this book is peculiar, and the average YA reader may not find it easy to follow the weaving writing styles that Lanagan employs. If you want to know more about the titular brides, you have to work for every observation, every tiny bubble of information scattered throughout the various conversations in each chapter. It will be frustrating, and I would not be surprised if readers gave up and just tried to read the last chapter to figure everything out. But if they stick with it? A tale unlike any other will reward them for their patience and trust in Lanagan's ability.
The novel opens with a a group of boys observing the "witch" Misskaella along the seashore. It's not clear if they really think she has supernatural powers or if they are simply repeating town gossip. Within the first few paragraphs, Lanagan sets up an "us-versus-them" mentality among the island's inhabitants, but the reader is never pressured into choosing sides. Indeed, the novel relies on the use of varying perspectives to flesh out the entire story and allow the reader to make their own conclusions.
As I was familiar with the selkie stories of the Orkney Islands before reading this book, I didn't have to do as much work to understand the hints Lanagan drops about Misskaella's true nature. She isn't the main focus of the story, but she does influence everything that happens, and I appreciated having such an unpredictable and intelligent female presence in the story.
It is the women who shine in Rollrock--they are far more dynamic and alive than the men. While on the surface, it seems as though the men of Rollrock are taking advantage of Misskaella and the selkies, the tables are turned very quickly. Every man grows to fear their wives' return to the sea. Their young sons are torn between love for their ethereal mothers and respect for their fathers' wishes. The Brides of Rollrock Island is a love letter to women in all forms, and it speaks to the myriad ways in which women are still overlooked in many parts of the world.
The Final Say: Margo Lanagan has written a fantastic, lush and utterly enchanting novel that deserves to be recognized alongside Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Jeanette Winterson's The Passion.
Release Date:February 14, 2012 Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House) Pa...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 14, 2012 Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House) Pages: 272 Format: Hardcover Source: E-ARC on NetGalley
Tell Me More: I don't know if you can tell, but I freely admit that I'm drawn to stories about art and the people that pursue it. Whether it's highly praised classical music or rough sketches of landscapes, I believe that art is a reflection of the person who chooses it, and the way that they see themselves.
Glass is fragile. Everyone knows it, and we all turn into cautious tiptoers when surrounded by glass. But Lucy is a glassworker, and a talented one at that. I loved that she values her work and doesn't just see it as an after-school chore. Her choice of artistic output is interesting to me because it reflects her own state of mind. She sees beauty in uncertainty (you never know what a piece of glass might become), and she is willing to go through fire to find it (as in her quest to find Shadow). She is unpredictable and smart, and she knows what she wants out of life. To me, she is the perfect compliment for Shadow's desire for something real to hold on to.
The night that Lucy spends searching for Shadow is vibrant, absolutely pulsing with laughter and life. Australian authors seem to have a knack for creating casts of characters that are so very real. If Jazz, Poet, Daisy and Dylan walked into my house right now and asked me to hang out with them, I wouldn't think twice. And oh, to spend a night wandering around Melbourne (or any city, really) with Ed. They are brilliant and colourful and just the right characters to populate a story of wonder, risks and love.
That's Not All:
> I'm hoping that maybe a paperback release will have illustrations of Shadow's art. It seems a shame to have such gorgeous descriptions and not be able to see the real thing.
The Final Say: Take a risk and find love with Cath Crowley's breathtaking Graffiti Moon, and a whole host of characters who will welcome you no matter what you dream of. (less)
Release Date:May 24, 2011 Publisher: Candlewick Press Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 449 For...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: May 24, 2011 Publisher: Candlewick Press Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 449 Format: Paperback Source: Finished copy received from Random House Canada
Tell Me More: I'm reluctant to read stories about angels because I don't particularly enjoy the way a lot of authors interpret the mythology. Some trusted blogger friends insisted I'd enjoy this series, and I decided to give it a go.
One reason why I approach angel stories with a modicum of caution is because I'm a practicing Catholic. The way I see angels is different from the way non-practicing people do, and while I don't mind alternative perspectives, it can get awkward. That's why I found L.A. Weatherly's take to be a chilling presentation of human nature and the presence of religion in our daily lives. The cover copy, while successful at hooking readers who want forbidden romances, doesn't capture the full scope of what Alex and Willow are facing.
The core of the story is belief, and the things we are willing to do in order to stay true to those beliefs. Willow believes she isn't special. Alex believes that he has to kill all angels. And everyone around them is in danger of literally believing themselves to death. Weatherly doesn't just focus on the budding relationship between Alex and Willow. She alternates their scenes with chapters looking in on the angels themselves, and the corruption lying beneath their peaceful gazes. The angels are strikingly similar to humans--they are selfish and ambitious. And like humans, they are also caught up in their own beliefs. They are willing to sacrifice the people they were meant to care for in order to survive, and worse off, they are willing to use those peoples' beliefs to kill them.
Make no mistake, I don't believe that Weatherly was trying to say all religions are evil. I do appreciate the dialogue that she opens up. The first mention of the Church of Angels gave me chills. Blind faith doesn't do anyone good, and that's not only a big issue in the story, but an important one in real life. Angel Burn has the capability to shock readers who are devout believers in their religions, especially if they actually don't know much about said religion.
While the themes of Angel Burn are startlingly complex, I did have some issues with some of the characters' early actions. I don't think enough attention was paid to Willow's home life, and so it becomes easy to forget about her mother and aunt. I also had some logical world-building questions that, thankfully, were answered in the second book. Lastly, the writing structure left me a bit confused: in one chapter, Weatherly gives us Alex's POV and then Willow's a few paragraphs later, without any noticeable pattern. However, I was interested enough in the story to at least put these things to the side while reading.
That's Not All:
> Love and the role it plays in keeping one true to a belief. I'll definitely be discussing this in depth in my review of Angel Fire.
The Final Say: Angel Burn surprised me with an explosive story and haunting questions about loyalty and faith. If you're looking to try something out of your comfort zone, L.A. Weatherly's story might just be what you're looking for.(less)
Release Date:January 24, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Random House) Pages: 256 Format...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 24, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Random House) Pages: 256 Format: Paperback Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: In recent years, The Taming of the Shrew has become one of Shakespeare's highly contested plays. Readers are split over whether Petruchio was horribly sexist or if Katherine was bullied into submission. Of course, it's easy for those of us who grew up with 10 Things I Hate About You to believe that love has the power to change one's attitude, but what happens when we can't tell the difference between love and abuse?
Plot-wise, I was extremely impressed with The Taming. It introduces the idea of infatuation so subtly that you can get through half of the book without realizing that Evan has suddenly become a creepy presence. In fact, he's quite easy to fall in love with as a character. He is charming and smart and realistically, he'd be at the top of the social ladder. His charisma is so strong that even the reader's head is turned, and who could blame them? Was Katie wrong to fall for him? Just as the reader starts to realize that something is terribly wrong about Evan, he turns into someone we don't recognize, someone who might actually be a victim himself.
It's that kind of topsy-turvy perspective that many victims of abuse develop toward their partners, and it is portrayed so starkly in this novel. Love needs trust to grow, and Evan doesn't even trust himself. I have heard negative feedback about that aspect of his personality, and I don't blame readers for being angry with Evan. But I do think that to simply dismiss him as a messed-up boy is wrong too. He is, whether we like it or not, mentally ill, and deserves our compassion, if not our respect. The ending was spot-on in that regard.
However, I do think that Toten & Walters could have done a little more with Katie. Her transformation from shy wallflower to instant center of attention was too fast for my taste, and I would have liked to see her grow into that confidence. As Katharine is one of my favourite Shakespeare heroines, I wanted to see more of that unconquerable spirit in Katie. Because, yes, I am firmly in Camp True-Love-Can-Overcome-Obstacles when it comes to this story. To me, Katharine and Petruchio are a great example of realistic love: they fight, they argue, they even hate each other sometimes, but in the end, they would sacrifice their former reputations for the joy of being able to love one another. That's something that Katie and Evan will (I think) have learned to value after meeting each other.
That's Not All:
> SERIOUS geekery over reciting Taming of the Shrew lines as I read the book. > Hilarious supporting characters!
The Final Say: Teresa Toten & Eric Walters take on the tough subject of relationship abuse through the eyes of Shakespeare, and it truly is a poignant and powerful combination.(less)