If I had three wishes from a genie, I still don't think I'd be able to wish for Laini Taylor's writing ability. This is now my favourite series of allIf I had three wishes from a genie, I still don't think I'd be able to wish for Laini Taylor's writing ability. This is now my favourite series of all time. I need to reread it immediately. I probably won't have time. BUT I WILL MAKE TIME.
Tell Me More: If I had three wishes from a genie, I still don't think I'd be able to wish for Laini Taylor's writing ability. When I first read Daughter of Smoke and Bone three years ago, I was prepared to be disappointed. The sheer scale of this story was overwhelming to realize, and nothing was predictable. Fast-forward to Days of Blood and Starlight a year later, and not only had Taylor expanded Karou's worlds, but she had also laid out some truly excruciating choices for her characters. Dreams of Gods and Monsters brings it all to a close, and that close is as horrifying as it is exquisite, as painful as it is filled with hope.
As things stand at the end of Blood and Starlight, Karou and Akiva both make the same choice, just articulated and executed differently. Karou chooses to hold onto a hope for her people, helping them in the only way she knows. Akiva chooses hope in the form of quiet revolution. Taylor doesn't pit them against each other for the reader to choose the better character, but she does let their actions speak for themselves, because neither are perfect choices. The fire that drove Madrigal and Akiva all those years ago is still there, and it continues to drive the story forward, even when the characters don't realize it. Their love isn't perfect, and it takes so much of who they are, but they are and have always been stronger together.
Like most final books in a trilogy, Gods and Monsters contains the most expansive world yet, and the story is spread throughout several settings and points-of-view. While most of the book is still told through Karou and Akiva's eyes, Taylor also introduces several new characters. Eliza is my favourite among them, her backstory intriguing and unique enough to rival the seraphim for my interest. Through her, the reader sees the chimaera-seraphim struggle the way humans would, with the added dimension of religion versus science. It all boils down to belief and the awe-inspiring, terrible things done in the name of belief, whether that belief is in power or religion or hope.
In this series, Taylor gives readers characters to believe in. They might be in shapes not easily imagined or seen, but they represent the potential for their respective worlds. Karou follows her heart, even in the face of terror, even when her life is threatened. Akiva doesn't accept defeat, but charges forward to take action, even when it seems hopeless. They're inspiring not because they are powerful, but because they recognize their limitations and press forward anyway. Parallels could be drawn between them and the Faerers, who did not recognize limitations and things better left unseen. Zuzana and Mik may not be fearsome creatures like the chimaera or seraphim, but they are resourceful and clever and honourable. Hazael and Liraz make some truly difficult choices, but their belief in each other and Akiva empowers them through those choices.
The Final Say: Dreams of Gods and Monsters is the kind of story readers dream about, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of tale. The emotion and wonder of Karou and Akiva's worlds are laid out in gorgeously rendered prose that will live in your dreams long after you close the covers. Laini Taylor has made me an admirer for life.
Tell Me More:The quality that has always drawn me into any sort of fantastical, supernYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Tell Me More: The quality that has always drawn me into any sort of fantastical, supernatural story is the tenuous balance between life and death. Creatures such as vampires, werewolves, mermaids--they are Other, and yet their existence and the human belief in them reflect on humanity itself. They represent, among other things, what we like to think of as our baser instincts and their coiled violence is both the most appealing and revolting thing about them. In Monstrous Beauty, Elizabeth Fama draws on the connection between human nature and the otherworldly creatures that fascinate us to write a story of grief and hope in the midst of death.
Fama's prose may not be the familiar, easy first-person narrative that YA readers are used to, but it is the kind of writing that rewards patience and subsequent rereadings. In the last six months, I have reread Monstrous Beauty twice and each time, I find myself surprised by the depth of the sentences. The best stories have an unmistakable melody about them, one that flows naturally between the words, and this story absolutely achieves that. The third-person POV also provides distance, which helps to keep the reader from being swayed one way or the other between the characters. Alternating chapters keep the reader on their toes, and the pacing worked with the mood of the story to keep it interesting. Objectivity is important, because the story never goes where you think it will, and it never loses that element of surprise.
Likewise, the characters aren't flashy, but they are rich in nuances. I never knew if I was making a good decision to side with Syrenka, appropriately enough--after all, she is a dangerous mermaid. You will feel afraid of her, and I loved that I couldn't predict what she would do next. I never knew if Ezra was truly who he said he was, and that intrigued me far more than if he had been the usual charming YA hero. The only character I thought might have been "safe" was Hester, and even then, it was only because she and I were both trying to find answers to our questions. The relationships never dive into insta-love territory, which was a welcome change. Monstrous Beauty makes you think while you read, which may not make it a popular book, but certainly an excellent one.
Part of that excellence stems from the themes. This is not a paranormal story so much as a tale based solidly in history and family. Hester's job in a historical reenactment village ties her to both the community and her own family history. She isn't a lost soul looking for where she belongs, and there is a whole host of people that help ground her in the town. The ambiance is brilliantly set with little insights into the history and character of Hester's home, and it shifts the focus from mermaids to humanity. There is a warmth to the story that comforts the reader during the horrifying revelations that later occur, and I loved that Fama was willing to take a chance writing this kind of story.
Love-as-sacrifice also comes into play, and while I won't be talking about this particular theme as much for fear of spoiling it, suffice to say that the way Hester grows into that idea is absolutely stunning. Because there is a real growth, a change that comes over the characters as they move through the story, and I loved being able to reread the book and pinpoint where that growth began. The foreshadowing is present, but never overt, and it gives readers a puzzle to unlock. As the reader is led towards the shocking climax, Fama never lets the story threads fall to pieces, and holding such a tightly woven plot together is a challenge. Hester's fear of falling in love never feels contrived to fit the story, and the reasons behind that fear are revealed in a masterfully written denouement which may bring tears to readers' eyes.
The Final Say: Elizabeth Fama achieves an outstanding feat in Monstrous Beauty, with characters that never feel worn in and a plot that will surprise and startle even the most worldly readers.
Tell Me More:In the year or so since I've been bloggYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: In the year or so since I've been blogging, I've read and reviewed more novels about mermaids than I've read in my entire life. They've always fascinated me, but I've only been able to really savour the richness of their mythology in the last few months. Ethereal and mysterious as they are, it can be difficult to push through the haze and find a story worth telling. Sarah Porter did it once with Lost Voices, and she succeeds again, brilliantly, with Waking Storms.
For quite a while, I caught myself referring to this book as Waking Voices, which was a great connection that my brain drew on its own. Luce is certainly waking up to the loneliness of her existence, and she begins to own her voice and her actions. Despite losing the chance to grow up physically, she learns to grow emotionally--she takes the risk of loving someone besides herself, and she learns to deal with the consequences of her actions in the previous book.
Curiously enough, many readers are bothered by how quickly the relationship between Luce and Dorian develops, but I believe this is one instance where the "insta-love" can be pardoned, at least for this book. It's important to remember that Luce is 14 years old, and will never have the chance to grow up. She certainly makes leaps and strides in emotional growth, but at heart, she is still a child. She encounters emotions and situations that even adults would be hesitant to experience, and she does her best with what she knows. Those of us past adolescence know how heightened everything becomes, from the slightest insult to the greatest joys. I never excused Luce for her actions, but I can very much understand where they come from, and I appreciated Sarah Porter's dedication to letting Luce's characterization expand even as it remains realistic.
... I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves Combing the white hair of the waves blown back When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
Likewise, the plot is one that unfolds slowly and steadily. Luce's decision to split from her tribe of mermaids was a brave one, and her journey is just as compelling. Early in the story, a beautiful poem by T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is mentioned, and unconscious or not, the story runs parallel to the poem. The last line is particularly chilling to consider in reference to Waking Storms: Luce is surrounded at all sides by human beings who are cruel, reckless and selfish. The very race with whom she wishes to co-exist wants to destroy her. Her tribe has morphed into something she cannot fathom. Sarah Porter's prose is gut-wrenchingly beautiful, even when it is heavy with sadness.
There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plate; Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, Before the taking of a toast and tea.
Time and the loss of it is a theme that lies quite heavily on the story. The mermaids' time seems to be ending, and Luce and Dorian's relationship is slave to lost time as well. There are mistakes and risks in looking back at the past, and Luce and the mermaids are trapped by their instinct to seek revenge for those experiences. It's a time for change for each and every character in this book, and that is a truly powerful and creative dynamic to add to the story.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
Luce is the eye of the storm in this trilogy, despite her wish to live a quiet and peaceful life. Like J. Alfred Prufrock, Luce is searching for something she can't quite name, because of fear and anger and loss. After reading Waking Storms, it's very obvious that she will have to make some awful choices to get her wish, and she will have to face the things she can't forgive herself for doing. The Luce that readers will find at the end of this installment is vastly different from the damaged young girl inLost Voices. She grows into a girl who will be worthy of the battles she has to fight in the next book, whether it's against her tribe, Dorian or herself. Her inner strength will carry her through, despite the temptation to take the easy road. I look forward to seeing her grow into a formidable and truly beautiful person.
The Final Say: While Lost Voices is captivating and enthralling, Waking Storms is powerful in the raw pain and uncertainty it displays. Sarah Porter raises the stakes, not only for Luce, but for every single character, with writing that is more melodic than a song.
Tell Me More: There are some books that becomes so precious to me that I can barely string two words together about how much I love them. I keep them hidden in my mind and soul, turning them over and over and always finding something new. I grow afraid of telling other people about them because they may not understand and it would be physically painful to watch them lose interest in the story. Purity is only the second book of the year to do that to me, with The Fault in Our Stars as its only rival for Angel's Favourite Book of 2012. I realize that may seem like an impossible comparison, but both of these stories connected to me in ways I'm still discovering every day. They have also challenged me to find the words I need to express those discoveries, and the effects they've had on my life.
I am religious. I believe in God, in Jesus, in Mary, in the spirit of the church that I belong to. But I'm also 23 years old and I've never lost someone dear to me, nor have I ever had to make the Promises Shelby makes to her mother. Despite the myriad differences between Shelby and I, it isn't difficult for me to understand the crisis she undergoes in the novel, and the choices she makes because of it. I know things eventually get better, but Shelby doesn't, at least not yet. Jackson Pearces has created a painfully real character in Shelby, and the story is lit up by her powerful spirit.
In analyzing Shelby and her journey, I found myself turning back to my notes on Gabriel Marcel from senior year's Philosophy of Religion class. Much of the novel is spent on Shelby's personal challenge--how can she keep her Promises without having to make a vow of purity?--but there are poignant and beautifully written moments where she curls in on herself and admits her uncertainty about everything.
How is it possible that God understands what's best for me, what I should or shouldn't do, if he isn't human? If he hasn't loved someone, hasn't lost someone, hasn't wanted someone?
How indeed. Is it fair for God to ask us to follow Him when He doesn't have to deal with the double standards that women are held to? Is it fair for God to say what's right and what's wrong and what's fair when He isn't the one watching mothers die? Gabriel Marcel studied these questions and ultimately dismissed them. To Marcel, an understanding of God and the things He does or does not do comes from our experiences with other people. Shelby's questions are to be expected from a girl who's lost something very dear, and it's the people around her that comprise her faith, not an invisible (at least to her) God.
Beyond anything else, I want to commend Jackson Pearce for taking on those inner conflicts and being fair and honest in her writing. As I read Purity, I had to turn off my instinctual disagreement when she expressed her doubts in God, because it's not something I have a right to feel uncomfortable with. I may have a strong faith, and I may know my own mind, but Shelby is still working her way to that kind of certainty. She is selfish, she is reckless, she doesn't make the best choices and she isn't always honest about it either. But I dare anyone to say that she's a bad person just because she struggles with the idea of God and purity.
It was extremely satisfying to see the topic of sex and virtue be held up to scrutiny, especially in light of the laws being passed in the United States. Girls need to know that there are people they can talk to and places they can go to consider their choices, whether it's a church or counseling offices or just their own homes. Like Shelby, so much of what girls endure daily isn't upfront, but under the surface, making them doubt themselves. Personally, I've always questioned the right of the church to dictate what I can do with my body, because they've never actually asked how women feel about those rules. Purity is a great way to start that dialogue with the girls in your life and let them know that they have agency and power over their body.
Lastly, I was pleased with the way love was brought gently, softly into the story. Shelby's two best friends may be the foil to her father's distance, but I never once doubted that she was surrounded by people who loved her. Like many of us, Shelby struggles with that belief--it was heartbreaking watching her doubt herself. With chapters that detail exactly how Shelby comes to see her own worth and the importance of loving those who have been there for her every broken step of the way, Purity shines.
The Final Say: I couldn't have asked for a stronger character or a more beautiful story. Purity is a book I will put away on a beloved shelf to give to my future daughter....more
Tell Me More: If you're at all familiar with this blog, then you know that my reactions to paranormal novels can go one of two ways: either I find many themes to criticize, or I love it unconditionally. Mermaids, not surprisingly, tend to be the combo breakers. My own fascination for the sea and its mysteries tends to colour my opinions in ways I don't always see. Of Poseidon, while remaining a novel I enjoyed, does have some areas worth poking a finger into and seeing what comes out.
The scope of the novel is rather ambitious for a debut author, and I must commend Anna Banks for daring to rewrite mythology and fantasy to lay the foundations for her story. There aren't many holes in the plot, and what holes exist seem to be questions that will be answered in the succeeding novels. Speaking of succeeding novels, I had no idea this was supposed to be a series when I read it, and the ending did catch me by surprise. I had fully set myself up for a standalone novel, and I will admit to moments of frustration near the end when it didn't look like things were going to be wrapped up. If I had known there would be a second and third book, I might have been a little more forgiving toward some characters and plotlines.
That said, what Banks offers in this first installment is more solid than many debut novels. There's no dancing around the big reveal of Emma's ancestry, and though the way it plays out is a bit predictable for someone who has read so many paranormal novels, it is still fun to watch unfold. The entire story is extremely enjoyable and its lighthearted nature makes it an easy read as well. Banks is particularly gifted with zippy dialogue, which won't come as a surprise to anyone who follows her on social media. I get the sense that there is a lot of Anna in Of Poseidon, from the laugh-out-loud humour to the sentiments and frustrations that Emma expresses. That extra nudge of author personality adds to the spirit of the novel in many ways. Despite the paranormal/fantastical nature of the story, it has a human heart and a very human joy, one that will please readers of all ages.
The Final Say: Surprising me with a knock-out mermaid story, Of Poseidon carries itself with grace and humour. Anna Banks is an author to watch and laugh with, as she merrily swims along....more
Discovery: The Nerdfighter community. Months before Anna was published, I’d heard lots of early buzz from reviewers and authors I admire. Word on theDiscovery: The Nerdfighter community. Months before Anna was published, I’d heard lots of early buzz from reviewers and authors I admire. Word on the street was Stephanie Perkins had achieved the impossible: a fun, fresh debut novel, written during that hellish time known as NaNoWriMo. It took me a few months to find a copy (I was still in the Philippines at the time), but I managed and began reading it immediately.
+ Strong, confident writing. This may be Perkins’s first novel, but her writing is tight and fast-paced enough to keep even finicky readers going.
+ Funny and easygoing characters. A novel like this could have opened the doors to whiny and bitter characters, but Perkins surprises readers with Anna and the gang. The banter is believable and flows between them with barely any effort. Of course Etienne is a plus for the young female group, but he never feels like a cookie-cutter Prince Charming. Anna is realistically portrayed and a delight to hear from.
+ Excellent use of setting. Novels about Paris can easily sink into cliche, but Anna and the French Kiss uses the setting so perfectly that it is impossible to imagine the same story in any other setting BUT SOAP and the streets that Anna wanders.
- Pacing. As a first novel, it is an admirable send-off, but Perkins does run into some slow chapters, mostly set in the boarding school. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the slower look allows the reader to learn more about the characters’ backstory, but after a few scenes, it could feel a little long.
Recommendations: Teenage girls will adore the comical and witty romance between Anna and Etienne, but this novel’s readership should not be limited to the YA audience. Hand your favourite person a copy and watch the sparks fly.
Release Date:February 21, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult PageYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 21, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 400 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Penguin Canada
Tell Me More: Dying of a literally broken heart? It's the stuff Lifetime movies are made up of, and while I would normally avoid similar plots like it's my job, I had a hunch that TCHOYAM was going to be the exception to my rule. Jess Rothenberg has written one of the strongest and most heartfelt contemporary YA novels I've been privileged to read in my entire life.
One question I always ask when it comes to books about the afterlife: why should I care about this character, post mortem? If their lives have already ended, what is there left for me to read about? Seeing the family deal with their loss isn't enough--there has to be a truly compelling reason to convince me that this painful reflection on a life taken too soon is worth it. Brie Eagan is worth it all.
I haven't connected with a character so completely since Anna and the French Kiss. Brie is funny and clever, but she can also be selfish and reckless--in other words, a real teenager. Her inability to accept her death at the hands of her boyfriend (though indirectly) is understandable, and her insistence on finding the truth is admirable. I've seen reviews where people complain about how whiny she is, and all I have to say is she died when she was 16. Expecting adult, mature behaviour isn't fair, and I believe that she is a truly dynamic character who continues to have wonderful potential to grow even after her death.
Another aspect of the story that made me a bit anxious was the hint of a love triangle involving Brie, Jacob and Patrick. My own feelings about love triangles are enough to fill a whole other blog post, but thankfully, Rothenberg steered her characters in the right direction. While the reason behind Jacob's defection is a little predictable, it didn't take away from Brie's heartbreak and served to flesh out Jacob's character as well. In fact, the vibrancy of the characters is this book's greatest strength. And Patrick, oh my dear sweet Patrick Darling. Let's put it this way: given the choice between Augustus Waters of The Fault in Our Stars and Patrick? I would refuse to choose and keep them both with me forever.
Writing-wise, Rothenberg has captured the teenage voice to a T. Her commitment to telling Brie's story the right way is obvious from the first page, and I couldn't think of anything that needed to be edited down for clarity or to improve the pace of the novel. Her editorial skills must have been a blessing while writing this book. I never felt that the story could go any other way, and having that kind of faith in an author (a debut one at that!) is wonderful. I look forward to Ms. Rothenberg's future books with the same enthusiasm I give to John Green, Maureen Johnson and Stephanie Perkins. She deserves it.
That's Not All:
> That plot twist about 3/4 into the book? I burst into tears and would not be comforted. Granted, I am a crier, but I was so emotionally attached to the characters that I couldn't help myself. > I have gained a newfound respect for cheese, despite the fact that I don't eat it. > Brie's little brother Jack and dog Hamloaf are now two of my top ten supporting characters in YA.
The Final Say: This is the start of a long and loving life with The Catastrophic History of You and Me. Thank you, Jess Rothenberg, for giving me a contemporary novel that will never break mine or other readers' hearts.
Don't forget to check out my interviewwith Jess, in which we discuss theme songs, writing vs. editing and that amazing title.
Discovery: I first saw this book on Goodreads, and that sighting was quickly followed by mentions on Publisher’s Weekly and book blogs.
+ Voice. The stDiscovery: I first saw this book on Goodreads, and that sighting was quickly followed by mentions on Publisher’s Weekly and book blogs.
+ Voice. The story is told through alternating chapters, focusing on Lochan, then Maya. Despite the differences in age and temperament, Lochan and Maya’s voices are complementary. Lochan’s fears and anxieties are a well-placed foil for Maya’s calm, ethereal nature and together they unravel a devastating story of love. I was also enchanted by Tiffin and Willa, and Kit’s story is just as harrowing to read about as Lochan’s.
+ Themes. I’m sure there are readers who will pick this book up simply for the controversial subject matter. Incest is still one of the great taboos in a society that has used sex to advertise everything from cars to musical instruments. When the topic is hinted at, there is an automatic wince, a refusal to hear more, a need to protect oneself from the knowledge of it. Forbidden doesn’t shy away from that reaction. Both Lochan and Maya are aware of the consequences of what they are doing, almost as much as they know they need each other. The question posed to readers is this: Was it really worth it in the end?
Too much of a good thing is always bad, including love. Was it really love or simply a “sick” need for affection? The power in this novel comes from the uncertainty it stirs up in its readers. We feel deeply for Lochan and Maya and we want to see them happy. After everything that happens in this book, who wouldn’t? But how far would we be willing to go to afford them that happiness? Is it really for us to decide? Can that kind of love exist between two people who never asked to be born into the same family? Forbidden challenges its readers to hear the voices of two children who are caught in circumstances they cannot control, who are making decisions we may not understand or approve of, and that is all. It’s enough.
Recommendations: Some of you may have noticed that I didn’t include any negative points. I rarely do this, but I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this novel. It was emotionally scarring, in the best way, and I will definitely buy a copy of my own to read and reread. While I would recommend this novel to everyone I know, the fact remains that it contains mature scenes and young teens should read this with a parent’s guidance.
Discovery: I’ve been trying to avoid picking up a series lately, but White Cat was too good not to continue.
+ The return of Cassel Sharpe and his sharDiscovery: I’ve been trying to avoid picking up a series lately, but White Cat was too good not to continue.
+ The return of Cassel Sharpe and his sharp wit. Cassel might be a damaged person after the events and discoveries of White Cat, but he’s still always one step ahead of the game. His determination to find out the truth and unwavering loyalty to his friends is something that Red Glove highlights, leading to a brilliant ending. Cassel is no white knight–he is willing to play dirty just as much as his brothers have, but he never quite loses his soul.
+ Mama Sharpe. She is quite possibly the most intriguing character in the series. I would love to know more about her, but it’s the kind of curiousity that would die once that happens. She’s feisty, highly intelligent and no matter what Cassel might think, she loves her sons.
+ Daneca Wasserman (and Sam). I know that the audience is meant to root for Cassel and Lila, but I find myself more invested in Daneca and Sam. They both have to face a new dimension of their relationship in this book. While I don’t really approve of how one of them deals with it, I do commend Holly Black for not shying away from those challenges.
+ World-building. I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again: the world that Black has adapted is beautifully gritty and fascinating. Outside of the boarding school, Cassel runs into demonstrations, Feds and socially awkward situations that he manages to twist to serve his own ends. Readers may not always agree with his choices, but the ride is bumpy and illuminating all the same.
- Philip Sharpe. I’m putting him down as a negative, because I think the audience deserves more information. I can’t say much since it would spoil the book. Basically, I just wish Black had given us a bit more to ride on, considering the dynamic of his story arc.
Recommendations: This is a sequel that manages to be better than its predecessor. Returning readers will be blown away by the twists skillfully handled by Black, and new visitors to Cassel’s world will not be disappointed.
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....more
It took me a while to finish this book because I had to keep stopping to breathe. I cried a few times, closed my eyes in sheer heartache and when theIt took me a while to finish this book because I had to keep stopping to breathe. I cried a few times, closed my eyes in sheer heartache and when the book was over, I had to curl up next to my pillows and just try to accept it. Definitely one of the top ten books of 2011....more
I think this book dug out a piece of my soul, it was that life-changing.
Discovery: One of my best friends, Allie, recMy original review:
I think this book dug out a piece of my soul, it was that life-changing.
Discovery: One of my best friends, Allie, recommended this book. She insisted that I read it because it was too powerful for her to talk about coherently. When someone comes to me with that kind of a reaction to a novel, I go after it immediately.
+ Uncertainty. Most novels give their readers a buoy to hang on to while the story unfolds. It can be a character, a place, an even or even just a single belief, but it keeps the reader tied to a semblance of truth. Stolen breaks this mold almost immediately. As a letter to a kidnapper, it’s emotional and affectionate, two things that will surprise and even disgust readers. I was never quite sure that Ty fit the evil mold society casts on criminals, nor could I be certain that Gemma wasn’t falling in love with him. In this story, only Gemma and Ty hold all the cards. Christopher is a masterful narrator, dancing between the shades of gray that make up this novel.
+ Breathtaking descriptions. I have a lot of friends in Australia, but most of them live in the urban areas so I’ve never really heard about the beauty of the outback. Christopher does an excellent job of making the scenery come alive around Gemma & Ty. The desert, much like Ty, is a difficult point of interest at first, but gradually, Gemma and the reader begin to see the complex beauty at its heart. Whether or not the reader thinks Ty is bad news, it’s not at all challenging to fall in love with the Australian desert.
+ Ty. Now before anyone gets on me with the whole “you-just-like-him-because-he’s-mysterious~~” tack, wait a minute. I’m including Ty as a positive because when I finished the book, I couldn’t remember what he looked like. I couldn’t even remember if I was even told the colour of his hair. The characterization was so flawlessly executed that it didn’t matter. Ty is a living, breathing character, with all the flaws and complexities of any human being, which makes the central conflict of the novel so fascinating.
- The fact that I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this novel.
- The ending. Because it ended.
Recommendations: This is not a trigger-free book–in fact, I would go so far as to say that it should be handled very carefully. Stolen requires a certain level of maturity and critical thinking to be appreciated. The older end of the YA spectrum audience can only be made richer by this novel.
SO MANY FEELINGS. From start to finish, I thought this was an absolutely flawless book and definitely Ryan's best to date. Annah, Catcher, Elias and ASO MANY FEELINGS. From start to finish, I thought this was an absolutely flawless book and definitely Ryan's best to date. Annah, Catcher, Elias and Abigail/Gabry were characterized so well that I was breathless for more than half the novel. It's been a really long time since I've felt so strongly for the characters in a book and it's so wonderful to feel that way again.
The conflicts are literally painful to read about, they're so true and honest and dark. Ryan has a way of presenting human nature in its deepest agony without the loss of hope. It takes a rare talent to do such a wide spectrum of characters and situations justice, and I'm so glad I picked up this last book....more
Discovery: I’ve had the pleasure of reading Zombies vs. Unicorns, Holly Black’s latest short story collection with Justine Larbalestier, and the darkeDiscovery: I’ve had the pleasure of reading Zombies vs. Unicorns, Holly Black’s latest short story collection with Justine Larbalestier, and the darker pieces in this anthology appealed to me more.
+ Unpredictable plots. Short stories are by their very definition, fleeting. Where novels command a certain commitment of at least a few hours of reading, short stories can be devoured within minutes. That said, the writer needs to command a reader’s attention for however long it takes to read the story. Holly Black has a clear talent for this. I read the first story, “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” in five minutes and had to put the book down to run an errand. I ended up carrying the book along with me the whole day, stealing whatever time I could to get through the succeeding stories because I just needed more. The macabre subject matter may turn some readers off but I gloried in the wisps of darkness that pulled me deeper into each story.
+ Mythology. Before I get too serious, I just want to thank Holly Black for choosing to write about Filipino myths in “The Night Market.” I had a talk with my mom the other day about how difficult it can be to write in the numerous legends and magical stories in the Filipino culture, because to Western sensibilities, it can seem almost circus-like in its presentation. The creatures and monsters that are often mentioned can seem silly and ridiculous, when compared to vampires, werewolves and ghosts.
When I started reading “The Night Market,” I was amazed by the quality of detail that Black included. Many beginning writers either include too much information or not enough when introducing a different culture, both of which turn readers off very quickly. Black pulled off a story that was informative, accurate and just plain creepy without alienating anyone. This holds true for all of the stories in Poison Eaters.
+ Uneven stories. While each and every story in this collection was well-written, I do think that some are weaker than others. “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” comes to mind, as does “Virgin,” both stories about more mainstream myths. Black excels at coaxing out the hidden sides of unfamiliar beliefs and stories. The strongest pieces are the ones that shock you before you know you’re shocked, such as “The Dog King” and “A Reversal of Fortune.”
Recommendations: A truly brilliant collection of stories that you’ll dream about for many nights to come, The Poison Eaters will creep into your soul. No reader will ever be the same again.
Release Date: January 3, 2012 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 387 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Discovery: I've been friends with Marissa for the last few years, thanks to the Sailormoon fandom. When she first started talking about writing a futuristic fairytale for NaNo, I was amazed by her dedication to the story (three books in one month!). Fast forward three years and Cinder is now on shelves (at least here in Ontario). It's more than a little heartwarming.
+ World-building. This is actually going to be a two-part discussion (see Questions), so let's dive into the positives first. Cinder and her "family" live in New Beijing in the Eastern Commonwealth. Meyer peppers the story with amazing detail and subtle changes in mood. It's not difficult to imagine living in this era, when we all imagine technology will be at its best and everyone is content. Not so for the residents of the Earth Kingdoms, who have to deal with a terrifying scourge called letumosis. Needless to say, the descriptions alone were enough to make my skin crawl. It is a brave and unique decision to have a disease looming over the fates of the characters--Meyer never makes the reader feel secure or that their favourite characters will be safe.
+/- Characters. As the book has come to be known as "Cinderella as a cyborg!," it's pretty obvious to casual perusers that they'll find the evil stepmother, stepsisters and Prince Charming himself in the story. Plus, who could forget the iconic glass slipper and the meek girl going after her dreams? But there's the rub: I don't particularly feel for Cinder herself. I'm interested in her story so far as it fits into the bigger picture of the Lunar Chronicles. Strangely enough, reading this book reminded me of my reintroduction to Sailormoon. I don't really mind Usagi/Serena/Sailormoon, and I'm glad she's there, but her personality doesn't make me desperate to know her. Likewise, Cinder is strong and smart and sometimes a little inconsistent, but while she has some awesome traits, I don't relate to her. I do love her place in the story and I am eager to see what she does next, so I suppose my full judgment will have to wait until at least Scarlet in 2013. (Full disclosure: I am not a big fan of Cinderella-the-Disney-Princess at all.)
That said, how I love the supporting characters! I was immediately intrigued by Prince Kai (my closest friends can probably guess why) and while I was afraid that he might be a little stereotypical, I loved that he was also highly intelligent and valued integrity. I definitely want to know more about Adri and Pearl--their bitterness is palpable in every scene they're in. Queen Levana is the one to watch, it seems, and I cannot wait to see more of her in the next three books. These characters become even more fascinating to watch when they're together. Is it bad that I'm hoping for a Levana/Adri sparring match later in the series?
- Questions. I spent the first few days after reading Cinder completely enthralled. I liked the story, I liked the characters and I liked the themes. (And that cliffhanger was upsetting!) But in the month-and-a-half that followed, I've reread it and have come up with some questions that I feel have to be addressed in the next three books.
The story is a tad predictable, but that can be easily overlooked because of its readability and great writing. However, I don't think some of the story was set up as well as it could have been, especially when it comes to the Lunars. It's understandable that the reader won't get all the answers in the first book, but I don't think it would have hurt to get a few throwaway sentences about how the discovery of the Lunar Race came about. Their power seems so absolute and their presence so strong in people's lives that it makes me wonder how they could have gone unnoticed for so long. The Doctor Who fan in me likened them to the Silence of series 6, which were absolutely terrifying at first meeting, but grew less so with so few logical explanations behind their existence. Their discrimination against other races is also something I want to see explored further--there is almost always a reason for this, and if there isn't, it needs to be more obvious.
I also want to know more about how Cinder can actually exist. I've heard comparisons between this and The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which is one of my all-time favourite novels. Granted, Jenna Fox was a one-off with just a companion novel and Cinder is part of a four-book series. But I trust Meyer's iron grip on the story, especially since she's mentioned that a 60-page document with character profiles and timelines helped her to craft the series. Many of the things I wonder about are little nitpicky inquiries, and I'm hoping that Scarlet will answer some of them for me.
The final say: Dancing in glass slippers isn't the only challenge for Marissa Meyer's Cinder, and readers are sure to be enchanted by the plucky heroine and her dangerous new world. If you love fairytales, don't forget to add this one to your list!
Oh God. I am not coherent enough to write out a review right now. I'm just going to go crawl into a sockMy 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.
Delicate and heartbreaking. Pick this one up as soon as you get the chance.
Discovery: I heard about the film adaptatiMy original review:
Delicate and heartbreaking. Pick this one up as soon as you get the chance.
Discovery: I heard about the film adaptation first, but I decided to read the book before watching it.
+ Voice. This is the first Ishiguro book I’ve read, but I’ve heard a lot about the unique voices he gives his characters. I wasn’t disappointed by Kathy H. in the least. The novel balances dramatic events with the clinical nature of science-fiction through the point-of-view of a young woman. It’s a jarring adjustment at first–the book is a memoir of sorts, interspersed with Kathy’s recounting of certain important events. Her voice is melancholy, yet it is infused with an indomitable strength. Kathy is never hasty with her revelations and secrets. The reader gets the sense that she has reflected on her story for a long period of time before choosing to relay it, and subsequently, the things she reveals bear more weight.
+ Themes. Not a lot of people will know this about me, but I’m a hospital girl. After I turned two, not a year went by that I wasn’t in the hospital for one illness or another. My longest stint was during 4th grade: I had an unknown gastrointestinal problem that kept me from eating anything for 10 days straight. I survived on IVs alone. Hospitals and the people in them are forever tied to my life. What does this have to do with Never Let Me Go?
Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are all trapped in a system that will use them to benefit other people. They have no futures and no hope for change. Hailsham Academy encourages them to pursue creativity and their own passions. How does one deal with untapped potential when faced with an inevitable end? There was a time when I lay in a hospital bed, weak and sore from leaning over the side of my bed getting sick. I never ever thought I’d be sitting here now with a bachelor’s degree and my whole life ahead of me. But what if I really didn’t have that? Would anything I do matter in the end? Kathy struggles with this as bits and pieces of the truth about her life are revealed. Is love worth fighting for? Can friendships be meaningful? I’m simplifying the inner conflicts right now, but these are all questions that we all recognize. Ishiguro is an able director of these themes.
- Pacing. As someone who studied mostly literary fiction in university, the writing styles used in novels like this don’t come as much of a surprise. Nevertheless, it’s always been my pet peeve with lit-fic. There were many instances where the novel slowed down to almost tortoise-like speed, meandering from one thought to another. I actually had trouble getting through the first 50 pages, because I’d read 15 before bed, wake up in the morning, go to class, come home and have completely forgotten about what happened in the previous pages. It was difficult to get into for a while, but I liked Kathy enough to push through the molasses of the book.
Recommendations: Never Let Me Go is a rewarding experience for readers who are patient and willing to follow along on a 30-year-journey.
Ugh my heart hurts so much. I am not coherent enough to write a proper review right now, but I LOVED IT.My original post:
I can't believe it's over.
Ugh my heart hurts so much. I am not coherent enough to write a proper review right now, but I LOVED IT. Thank you, Melissa, for such a wonderful, thought-provoking series.
A proper review:
Discovery: I’ve been patiently waiting for this novel, the final book in the Wicked Lovely/Tattoo Faeries (depending on who you ask) series, for years. I first read Wicked Lovely in November 2007 and it remains one of the best birthday presents I ever bought myself.
+ Ensemble/world. One of the things I love most about this series is the vibrant cast of characters. Only Fragile Eternity (Book 3) served as a real sequel–Ink Exchange and Radiant Shadows opened different curtains on the WL stage. Darkest Mercy brings all the fey and humans together for one final satisfying stand. I really enjoyed the character development, especially in Niall, Irial, Donia and Keenan.
On a related note, I will be forever in awe of the world that Melissa Marr created. It’s creepy and passionate and so very alive that I’m scared the translation from text to screen (Wicked Lovely is going to be a movie!) will either take it too far or not far enough. The fey and their courts are perfectly nuanced in their presentation and it’s not hard to imagine this other world surrounding us.
+ Seth. It’s no secret that for the last four years, the teenager in me has harboured a tendre for Seth Morgan. This is a point for Melissa Marr’s characterization because I’ve never really found tattooed and pierced guys attractive. His attitude and actions speak far more than his appearance, though, and of all the characters in the series, he undergoes the most startling transformation.
I suppose what I like most about Seth is his determination. Wicked Lovely introduced him as Aislinn’s friend-who-wants-something-more, but didn’t stop there and that’s the best thing about it. The five books have seen him grow and experience pain and make decisions that speak of his maturity and acceptance of the faerie world around him. More than anything, his devotion to Aislinn isn’t blind: he pursues her and her world actively, making sure that when it all ends and whether either or both of them die, they see each other as equals.
+ Conclusion. I will argue with anyone on this, because I feel like it was the one of the most satisfying series endings I’ve ever read. I can’t say much without spoiling anyone, but I loved the simplicity and integrity of it. One of the themes in WL is the importance of compromise. These days, so much of the world is coloured gray and it isn’t easy to live a black-and-white existence. Marr’s faeries reflect our own on-the-fence choices and in the course of the series, they are each faced with decisions they don’t want to make. How they deal with it brings about conclusions none of them can foresee and the sheer bravery they display in return is commendable.
- Action scenes. In the course of reading this novel, I couldn’t help but compare it to Radiant Shadows, the previous book which I’ve read maybe 20 times. At times, it felt as though I was watching the action scenes happen through a blurry glass window. They didn’t feel real enough and I found myself wishing it would end so I would know who survived. In Radiant Shadows, I could barely keep myself from whimpering as my favourite characters took hits.
Recommendations: A stellar conclusion to a gorgeous series, this chapter will satisfy young adult readers, and provide lots of discussion, especially for faerie lovers.
Some truly excellent stories mixed in with mediocre ones. I may have started out as Team Unicorn, but the literary merit of some of these stories infeSome truly excellent stories mixed in with mediocre ones. I may have started out as Team Unicorn, but the literary merit of some of these stories infected me. Team Zombie!...more