You know what, I liked it. I liked it even though I couldn't suspend my disbelief re: the bird people. Just...bird people? It was a stretch. I was chaYou know what, I liked it. I liked it even though I couldn't suspend my disbelief re: the bird people. Just...bird people? It was a stretch. I was charmed by Aza despite myself, though she does get annoying in the latter half of the novel. ...more
Tell Me More: Sympathy for 1945 Germany may be a stretch for many people. History books and documentaries focus on the horrors committed by the Nazis,Tell Me More: Sympathy for 1945 Germany may be a stretch for many people. History books and documentaries focus on the horrors committed by the Nazis, and understandably so. But in Prisoner of Night and Fog, Anne Blankman asks readers to see the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany through the eyes of a young girl, and it's the kind of the story worth reading alongside history books.
Gretchen does not start as a sympathetic character. On my first read, I actually found her a difficult character to understand, because she didn't seem to care or be attached to anything. The second time around was easier, and much of the story also takes on new layers in a reread. She isn't worldly or street-smart, relying on what she's told to consider right versus wrong. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does later highlight how she begins to grow up. This isn't a book about Hitler, but his presence does weigh heavily on Gretchen's life, and it's his actions in the past that drive Gretchen's search for the truth about her father. What she does learn doesn't have to change her life, and indeed, she chooses to ignore the truth at first. But Gretchen is stronger than that, and while I initially found her back-and-forth frustrating, it makes sense for her character's eventual growth.
While the book is still written for a young audience, Blankman doesn't shy away from illustrating the horrors of the Nazi Party. Hitler's benevolent behaviour isn't quite enough to mask his ruthlessness, and even Gretchen is uncomfortable with him at times before she discovers the truth. The story asks both Gretchen and the reader to examine the idea of trust and loyalty to people and one's country, without overwhelming them with philosophical questions.
The Final Say: Anne Blankman's debut novel is a stark look at a girl growing up in the midst of shadows, and her choice to turn on the light to face them. Prisoner of Night and Fog will give readers an excellent and rarely seen perspective of the country and events that changed the world stage forever.
Release Date:April 24, 2012 Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins) Age Group: YounYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: April 24, 2012 Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 320 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: "The Masque of the Red Death" was one of the first short stories I ever read, though it was probably too early for me to have consumed it, since I was seven years old. Edgar Allan Poe is my mother's favourite writer, and when I grew curious about his work, she happily allowed me to read it with her. Over the years, I've returned again and again to his stories to educate myself about the written word. Hence, a retelling of one of his stories is something I approach with caution and a smidgen of reluctance. I can't say that Masque of the Red Death does what it sets out to do, but neither can I dismiss it as a poor imitation.
The emotion that strikes first after reading this novel--having studied the story many times--is a sense of disappointment. Before you cross Masque off your shopping list, hear me out. The original short story is about a masquerade ball thrown by a prince who believes he has escaped the Red Death in his castle fortress. I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't read it, but I did expect to see, at the very least, the plans for this masquerade or a twist on it in play throughout the novel. I didn't find out until the last ten pages that this was the first book in a series, and many readers won't realize it until that point either. Do I feel a bit hoodwinked? Yes. Will that stop me from reading the next book and loving this one? No.
Greenwillow Books has a great record in my book when it comes to breathtaking prose and unique writing styles. Bethany Griffin does not disappoint, and if I've said it once, I'll say it again: Martha Mihalick's editing is something I admire greatly. While I was slightly confused by the start of the story, it became obvious as I read that Bethany was setting the stage for a razor-sharp narrative. She channels enough of Poe's writing style that it can satisfy longtime readers like myself, but she is a powerful writer on her own as well.
Araby, while not my favourite heroine, had a distinct and honest voice, even as she made some selfish decisions. What I find interesting about heroines is society's focus on what they do right, and not how they deal with their mistakes. For much of the novel, I wasn't sure what to think about Araby--she seemed almost frigid, closed off to anything but her grief. It's an understandable distance, however, and it was gratifying to find her maintaining her identity while discovering new parts of her soul. That journey is the reason why both love interests just aren't fascinating to me--if anything, I believe that they blur the path she's on. They need her more than she needs them, which reminds me a lot of Peeta/Katniss/Gale. I don't necessarily mind if Araby decides to be with Will or Elliot, but at their relationships stand now, I don't see either one working out in the end.
Maybe I walked backwards into my own tomb with the way I approached this novel and bricked myself up with my own expectations and investment. (You win a prize if you know what story I'm referencing. For real.) But despite my initial misgivings, Masque of the Red Death was a provoking and thoughtful read that has me waiting not-so-patiently for the second book in April 2013.
The Final Say: Pick up Masque of the Red Death for the cover and inspiration, stay for the words that will mark you forever....more