Tell Me More:One of my favourite book-related memories is being handed a copy of the fi...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Tell Me More: One of my favourite book-related memories is being handed a copy of the first Animorphs novel, The Invasion, and getting lost in my first taste of science fiction. Granted, I'm on the fence about the existence of aliens, but the reading experience that Animorphs gave me influenced my imagination in ways I am still discovering today. When I heard that Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant were writing another novel, and that it would be science fiction as well, I jumped at the chance to read their new offering. My excitement was justified: Eve & Adam is not only smart and compelling, but one of the most enjoyable books I've read all year.
Despite my own approach to it, I must warn you: this is not a book you should read with expectations. It's a strange story, with layers that seem transparent at first, but have secret compartments and trapdoors to catch the unwary reader. It is a story that makes it easy for readers to assume things about the characters and their actions, before surprising and shocking them. The pacing that Grant and Applegate employ will feel familiar to Animorphs readers, especially during action scenes. Both authors have a gift for making the reader feel as though they are watching a film, with seemingly small details coming out of nowhere to be the key to several puzzles.
And what puzzles there are--Eve & Adam moves briskly for a science fiction story, and yet it manages to take on complicated issues such as genetic modification and the limits of scientists (or lack of) without talking down to the reader or preaching. I especially appreciated the grittiness of the setting making it clear that this is the kind of world we could be living in now. The decisions that Eve, Solo and Aislin face in this story are ones that our generation might be facing in a few years, and it certainly makes one take a step back and consider the possibilities. I'm very eagerly looking forward to the second novel!
The Final Say: Mix The Adoration of Jenna Fox with some turbulent emotion and reckless decisions and you've got Eve & Adam. The breakneck pace and highly intriguing plot will satisfy readers of all ages, and certainly start up some interesting discussions on what it means to be a "perfect" person.
Release Date: February 5, 2013 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 464 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC won from Indigo...moreRelease Date: February 5, 2013 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 464 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC won from Indigo Teen Blog
Tell Me More: My approach to Scarlet was very different from how I usually approach sophomore novels, especially ones in series. Second installments are most often written after the first book has already been revised and edited, but if you're familiar with Marissa Meyer's publication story, you already know that she wrote Cinder, Scarlet and Cress in a month, which is a feat in and of itself. Naturally, it was interesting to learn just how the story evolved through both the rapid writing and publication process, and she does not disappoint. Scarlet is an even stronger novel than Cinder, and I think it's safe to say that any expectations you might have for it will definitely be met.
The challenge posed by Scarlet and the succeeding books in the series is to make the reader care about a whole host of characters, not just Cinder. Our favourite half-cyborg heroine is nowhere to be found in the first few chapters--instead, readers meet Scarlet Benoit, a girl who cares deeply for her grandmother, enough to pick a fight when locals suggest she's run away or killed herself. Scarlet's faith in her grandmother and the unwavering instinct that something is wrong lead her to an encounter with a mysterious street fighter who fulfills the "tall, dark and mysterious" trope frequently used in YA fiction. That said, Wolf is no typical anti-hero. He is genuinely compelling to read about because one can never be sure what he's going to do (or not do) next. Scarlet is a kindred soul, and together they are able to carry the weight of this story on their shoulders.
And what a weighty story it is: not only does Scarlet embark on a journey to track down her lost grandmother, Cinder's commandeering of a spaceship with fellow prisoner Captain Thorne fills the other half of the novel. The banter between these two characters was fantastic to say the least, witty and poignant all at the same time. Marissa's ability to write quick zingers into the dialogue is something that I greatly appreciated in such a serious novel, and the moments that made me laugh weren't few and far between. The humour in this story is perfectly balanced with the heartbreak--in fact, they only add to each other's intensity.
Scarlet and Cinder's shared uncertainty develops into a confidence that both ladies use to their advantage and which will win readers over before they even get halfway through the novel. The men might be interesting (and super cute), but there's no doubt that this is a series written about and for young women who won't be shut away or dismissed. They learn what their limits are and then they break through them, making decisions and fighting for their lives on their own terms. This book became something I wish I'd had the privilege to read as a teenager.
The Final Say: Rarely do I feel as comfortable, content with and excited for a series as I have with The Lunar Chronicles. With another pack of memorable characters led by the fierce Scarlet Benoit, Marissa Meyer proves once again that the universe is the limit when it comes to superb YA fiction.
Find out more about Ms. Meyer in my interview with her. Fun facts about Scarlet can also be found in my blog tour stop, and in my recap of Marissa's event here in Toronto!(less)
Release Date:March 27, 2012 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Age Group: Young Adult Pages:...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: March 27, 2012 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 234 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Perspective is a volatile and explosive part of being human. A slight change in the way an event is seen can mean the difference between life and death. History is written by the winners, and lamented by the defeated. But possibly the scariest thing about perspective is not knowing if you can trust your own.
Brian James pens the story of an artistic, ethereal girl named Sabrina and her struggles with seeing the world in the "right" way. As hard as it must already be to receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Sabrina is also a teenager, on the fence between childhood and adulthood. Learning how to believe in yourself is challenging enough without the added pressures of feeling like two or three different people. What is there left for you to believe in, anyway?
James' writing is simply electric, pulsing with all the potential readers will find in Sabrina. Relating to her disillusionment and insecurities comes easily--we have all been in her shoes once or twice. The descriptions of what Sabrina sees on a daily basis are particularly captivating, and make her later decisions that much more poignant. Her relationship with her family also interested me, and I wish there had been more of it to fully flesh out the history behind her diagnosis.
Despite the brilliant characterization, the love story falls flat, and as I read, I wished it had just been relegated to a tiny subplot. I understood why James may have decided to have Alec play such a big role in Sabrina's development, but there were times when it felt contrived. Much of the reason why has to do with the ending, which I don't want to spoil for people who are considering picking this book up. It wasn't an awful ending, but I do think that a bit more length and development would have given it more justification.
I am hesitant to say I enjoyed this book, because I don't think that's the right word for it. Rather, I was left in awe of what beautiful, committed writing can do to heighten an already emotional and unique story.
The Final Say: Life is But a Dream is a story for those who are coming to trust in themselves more than the world, and for those who want to find the strength to do it.(less)
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.(less)
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!