A superb sequel that only raises the bar for all of Lyga's future books, not just the next Jasper Dent installment (because there is one, right? THERE...moreA superb sequel that only raises the bar for all of Lyga's future books, not just the next Jasper Dent installment (because there is one, right? THERE HAS TO BE.)(less)
Not cool, Johan Harstad. I'm going to have such a hard time sleeping for the next week at least, and what makes it worse is that there's a Doctor Who...moreNot cool, Johan Harstad. I'm going to have such a hard time sleeping for the next week at least, and what makes it worse is that there's a Doctor Who episode that has a very similar plot and JUST NO NO NO NO I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS.
I knew there was a reason why my brain refused to let me focus on this book. It's because it knew I'd end up a terrified mess.(less)
Jennifer Brown's books have always been hit-or-miss with me: I adoredHate List, but wasn't as impre...morePosted on Seashell Reviews at Mermaid Vision Books!
Jennifer Brown's books have always been hit-or-miss with me: I adored Hate List, but wasn't as impressed by Bitter End. Perfect Escape lands smack-dab in the neutral zone. Kendra's impromptu road trip with her older brother Grayson is certainly interesting, but I couldn't quite connect with Kendra herself. The sibling dynamic between Kendra and Grayson is the strongest part of the novel, and even when I was displeased with the way the plot was unraveling, I was still very interested in how they would manage to work things out. Perfect Escape is just right for the summer--a novel that is simultaneously complex and light enough to bring to the beach.(less)
Discovery: I came across this book in the Hachette fall catalogue and the premise struck a chord in me.
+ Themes. Before you add this book to your TBR...moreDiscovery: I came across this book in the Hachette fall catalogue and the premise struck a chord in me.
+ Themes. Before you add this book to your TBR pile, be warned that it is much more serious than the premise makes it sound. I know that doesn’t sound likely, but I found myself close to tears more than once while reading it. There is no way that this book can be mistaken for a light read.
Desperation, helplessness, dishonesty: all of these mix into Ames’ story to create a storm of bad decisions and hatred. There were many instances where I was tempted to put the book down because the emotions were simply too much for me to take. While that might sound like a bad thing, I would be the first to recommend this book for the sheer power of Ames’ experiences. Giles doesn’t shy away from the truth of Ames’ family troubles and many teens will relate to the changes that Ames is dealt. I especially loved the ending because honestly? There’s no way a happy ending can be contrived for this story and Giles didn’t try to write one. She was true to the story and that courage alone is worth reading this book for.
+ Voice. Ames is a teenager who has lived her entire life without a single care. When her father is fired, the floor buckles and crumbles beneath her and her family comes close to doing the same. She is stubborn and strong and the saddest part is that she can’t see that strength through her disappointment. Make no mistake, Ames is a character that will stay with every reader after they finish the book because she is who we are afraid to be. She feels too much, she knows too much, she is afraid to let it all in. Every word that comes out of her mouth is two-sided and pained. I may not like her, but she represents that darker side in every person who we have to learn to respect and work with. She’s human, and I admire her for it.
Recommendations: While this isn’t a book for younger readers, I do think it’s something that older readers will understand and learn from, especially in the troubled times we live in today. Gail Giles is to be commended for her honesty and bravery in writing this book.
I have many dear memories of favourite middle-grade novels, like The Giverand Bridge to Terabithia....morePosted on Seashell Reviews at Mermaid Vision Books!
I have many dear memories of favourite middle-grade novels, like The Giver and Bridge to Terabithia. They served to ignite my imagination and tell me truths adults may have been reluctant to share with an 8- or-9-year-old. The Storm Makers is a novel worthy of joining those much-loved books. The POV and narration were stellar, lively enough to keep young readers' attention but insightful enough to please older readers as well. In fact, there was an amazing depth to the story, to the point where it stopped reading like a MG novel and the adventure just took over. Jennifer E. Smith's focus on the friendship between Simon and Ruby is the cornerstone of this remarkable novel, which will gain new fans with every reread.(less)
Release Date: June 4, 2012 Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Book Group) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 304 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Last week, I attended the One Direction concert at the Molson Canadian Amphitheater. As one might expect, the venue and surrounding areas were packed with teenage girls at their most excitable, crowing and shrieking over every little reminder of the boy band they were about to see. (My eardrums haven't quite forgiven me for subjecting them to the high-pitched decibels.) As an infrequent concertgoer, I took the time I spent waiting as an opportunity to observe an age group with whom I rarely interact these days, and concluded that I might be too old to really sympathize with their concerns and foibles. A Midsummer's Nightmare was a lot like that concert--I believe in the importance of its message, and it is certainly necessary to address its issues with teens, but it wasn't a book that had anything new to say to me personally.
The plot is old-hat, and frankly very cliché. Whitley's summer of freedom with her father is turned upside down when he introduces her to a fiancée and future stepchildren. It's a common plot device in YA literature--The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants comes to mind--and not one that has a lot of wiggle room in terms of creativity. Kody Keplinger answers with a controversial twist, where Whitley's future stepbrother Nathan also served as her graduation one-night stand. That was about the only part of the story that interested me in the first half, but it doesn't quite reach a satisfying conclusion.
Whitley is what I could call a Keplinger standard: she swears a lot, is extremely cynical and can't be bothered to care about anyone but herself. I'll put it right out there--I did not like Whitley. There was a touch of Special Snowflake Syndrome that made me roll my eyes at her more than once--she ONLY listens to 90s music? She thinks having friends is overrated? I did not enjoy Keplinger's previous protagonists either (especially Bianca of The D.U.F.F.), but fortunately, she comes the closest to a real character arc with Whitley. A lot of the problems that are brought up in the novel are ones that could be easily solved with a tiny bit of honesty, and it was frustrating to see many of the characters hiding from it and complaining at the same time. Whitley's mental and emotional self-flagellation can grow old very quickly. Again, there is a real possibility that my frustration with this novel and character comes from having grown up. The six years between myself and Whitley have taught me how to deal with relationships and the importance of honesty, both of which she learns in the course of the novel. I appreciated Keplinger's commitment to giving Whitley a chance to grow and figure things out for herself.
Despite my initial distaste and later detachment from Whitley, she remains the most interesting character in the novel. Her father and mother are shockingly cardboard, which does them a disservice. Nathan is exactly what one might expect from his character, and Bailey is unsurprising as well. The standout might be Trace, Whitley's brother, whose tiny moments with his sister help to make her more real. There is a tangible connection between the two of them, and while I understand the necessity of his distance, it is a little disappointing to only have a handful of conversations between them.
Lastly, the romance in this novel felt forced. As much as there is no law preventing it, I was still very uncomfortable with the way Whitley and Nathan's relationship progressed. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a bad decision for Keplinger to make, but it just wasn't something I enjoyed reading about. I didn't see their relationship as a necessary next step, and their scenes weren't compelling enough for me to want them together, despite everything that happens.
The Final Say: Kody Keplinger's newest reluctant heroine might be pessimistic and wry, but A Midsummer's Nightmare offers teens a chance to learn from her experiences and be brave enough to make their own hard decisions.(less)
Release Date:April 3, 2012 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Yo...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: April 3, 2012 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 368 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: When discussing books in literature classes or book clubs, it's often a given that the words "human experience" will be brought up once or--let's be realistic--a dozen times at least. The people who insist that stories are just reflections of human experience are correct. We read stories to see how other people react to situations we can only imagine, but which have a basis in our own reality. It's fun to imagine oneself in the middle of the barricades in Les Miserables, but given the chance to actually do it, not many people would volunteer. But what happens when a reader is asked to imagine an absence of human experience, a lack of that unnameable quality that separates us from animals?
Murder is a fascinating subject for many people, I imagine, because it sits in that realm of possibility which we have been conditioned never to touch. Sentences like "I'm going to kill him" have entered the common lexicon because we consider it a joke, just a cathartic turn of phrase. To Jazz, death has always, always been something tangible. Lyga's previous work seems like the tip of the iceberg now, after reading I Hunt Killers--he burrows deep into the psyche of not just one, but two sociopaths and draws out the shadows for readers' judgment. Where Lobo's Nod is concerned with the uncanny similarities between Jazz and his imprisoned father, Lyga insists that his readers take no piece of information for granted and gives all his characters credit for their actions. That kind of approach is so important to a story like this, because it could easily devolve into just another crime thriller on the shelf.
Jazz is forced to come to terms with the idea that his father may have forced the experience of murder onto him as a child, and the thought of the possible victim is just one of the lashings he has to take in the course of the story. In many ways, I Hunt Killers is a story of uncertainty and our reactions to that confusion. Some people have midlife crises. Billy Dent, Jazz's father and an infamous murderer, speaks of "not knowing" if people are truly alive until he's killed them, that the blood flowing onto his hands and the sigh of their last breath are the proof of their life. When faced with a serial killer who is copying his father's crimes, Jazz himself crashes into a mountain of doubt and distrust in his own ability to see people as living, unique beings. It is a realistic and painful journey to witness from page one to 368, and one that needed a writer brave enough to slash away at bad metaphors and easy cliches. Barry Lyga was the perfect writer for this story, because he made it more than just a story about murder. He reminds his readers that humanity is something we choose first, and not something that chooses us, no matter whom we were born to or how we grew up.
The Final Say: A story this tough will find a true home with readers who need something to hold on to, and readers who know how important it is to never take our lives for granted.(less)
Initial thoughts: 2 for 2 with your 2012 books, Jackson Pearce. You are quickly becoming one of my favourite authors AAAAAAAAND I think I would read an...moreInitial thoughts: 2 for 2 with your 2012 books, Jackson Pearce. You are quickly becoming one of my favourite authors AAAAAAAAND I think I would read anything you wrote, including but not limited to a reinterpretation of the phone book.
Release Date: September 4, 2012 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 304 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Human beings are funny things. Hand us a mystery, we'll not only preoccupy ourselves with solving it, but as frustration builds, we'll also come up with myriad explanations for all the things we cannot understand. The vastness of the ocean is one particular mystery that has enthralled people for centuries, and even as we make our marks on planets in the galaxy, knowing what lurks in the depths of the sea is still a challenge. Likewise, the human mind never quite lets us in all the time, and it can even turn on us as quickly as a storm can develop in open sea. Jackson Pearce's new novel Fathomless is a brilliant study of identity and memory through characters that are tied to the water in ways they can't comprehend.
Upon beginning this story, I was struck with the poignancy of the title Pearce chose. The word is lyrical, reminiscent of sea shanties and old tales, and yet it always seemed to hide something more. Celia and Lo's story is much the same: both girls are aware of their lives, and they can locate themselves through what they do, but there is something deeper that neither of them feel comfortable poking at. Neither of them are comfortable with their identities. Celia is tired of being a triplet, simply "Anne and Jane's sister," and Lo struggles with the memory of a name, Naida, and what it means for her own identity as Lo. It's a confusing and discomfiting experience for both girls, as adolescence always is. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Pearce used a third-person POV in the prologue--which introduces Lo--because it sets up the distance between Lo and the human race, of which she is no longer a part. While the rest of the story alternates between Celia and Lo's point-of-views, the prose remains beautifully written.
One of the most interesting themes of the novel is centered around how memory gives us our identity. Celia has the ability to see anyone's past, but her own father loses his memories because of Alzheimer's. She can't help him get those memories back, and so his identity as her father is lost as well. Lo's memories as Naida quickly force her to choose who she will be, because they cannot both exist in the same body. Celia would do anything to help her father remember, but she can't--Naida pushes Lo to kill a boy to get Naida's soul back. Memories set up a powerful dynamic between the girls and make them decide once and for all what they are willing to do to be who they want to be. Can you grow without knowing what came before? Can you be different without knowing how you've changed? Is giving up the past for a new future the right thing to do?
As easy as it would be to focus on the paranormal aspects of this novel, I think that would do it an injustice. Disney's version of The Little Mermaid is sanitized for children, and Pearce's choice to base the story more on Hans Christian Andersen's tale was a wise one. It asks the same questions without diluting the consequences of the mermaid's choice, and it ties into Fathomless' themes of transformation and identity. Like the titular mermaid, Lo wants to know more than what she is expected to believe. She goes in search of knowledge, of memory, and she makes choices that aren't always wise. But I absolutely loved the development of her character, and I think it works better than Celia's own journey, which was more connected to the love story. The relationship between Jude and Celia was the weakest part of the story, in my opinion, and I think it would have benefited with a bit more time spent on that development. I do believe that the core of Fathomless was the connection between Celia and Lo, and it succeeds with aplomb.
The Final Say: Jackson Pearce brings some tough questions to her third fairytale retelling, and the result is a nuanced, passionate story of the choices we make and the connections we forge in our need for identity. Fathomless is one of her strongest novels to date. (less)
Tell Me More: At the heart of every major scientific discovery is the existence and absence of life. Having power over creation and destruction is something that all human beings contemplate at least once in their lives, and Cat Patrick's take on that ethical dilemma makes for an interesting piece of literature. However, I hold a few reservations about the execution.
Daisy's name is the least of all the contradictions that make up this unique character--it conjures up images of a dainty, shy girl in the place of what she really is. The first 50 pages struck me as a little strange, and I quickly realized that the reason for it was a lack of detail about Daisy. She felt like a construct to me, a sketch of a character that hasn't been inked in and coloured, up until the chapters where she starts to question the Revive program. She comes alive then, and her determination pushes the story along with a much faster pace. The urgency that I was looking for in such a high-tech story simply wasn't present throughout the whole novel, and I think it could have been a much stronger story with it.
That said, Revived's plot is a lively piece of Patrick's imagination come to life. It forces the reader to face its questions, and it won't take no for an answer. For much of the novel, I was torn as to whether this would be a book that younger teens could handle, despite the facility of its language. It's certainly a novel that needs to be read, but I would recommend that parents and teachers take the time to explain the ethical decisions Daisy makes. Patrick doesn't shy away from giving Daisy a chance to think and reflect on the consequences of her actions and the actions of the entire Revive team. She poses questions that are difficult for both Daisy and the reader to consider, and she is fair to both.
The Final Say: I would give anything for more thought-provoking novels like Revive, and I think our society would be better off for it. Give Cat Patrick's sophomore novel to your kids when it's time to talk about life and death. You won't regret it.
Release Date:December 5, 2011 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group:...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: December 5, 2011 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 336 Format: Hardcover Source: Personal copy
Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent's divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, "Old Lucy" still exists, and he's determined to find her... even if it means pissing her off.
Garden State meets Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist in this funny and poignant illustrated novel about opposites who fall in love.
Discovery: While browsing Goodreads lists one lazy afternoon, I came across this gorgeous cover. If you know me, you know that winter is my favourite season--despite the dangers of frostbite--and I loved that the summary sounded like a quirky, David-Levithan-esque novel.
+ Illustrations. Let's be honest, sometimes it can get exhausting to look at pages and pages of straight text. I probably read upwards of 1000+ pages a week and when I'm curled up next to my pillows, I sometimes need something special to want to keep reading. Wintertown was one of those books that I just breezed through, because the illustrations were amazing. In fact, I can't imagine this story without illustrations--they complement Emond's writing so well and tell their own story. I loved that they weren't super polished and even that the lines seemed to pulse with uncertainty. Evan has a talent to be sure, but he hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet. I loved the potential that I could see in every hand-drawn page.
+ Plot. Slice-of-life stories are some of my favourite pieces to read. Studying creative writing gave me a taste for unvarnished, simple stories about complicated people. And man, were Lucy and Evan complicated. Stephen Emond has a knack for writing coming-of-age tales that get to the heart of all that insecurity and uncertainty. It takes courage to really grow up, and watching Lucy and Evan try to figure things out was both heartwarming and scary. I remember what it was like to be unsure of my own future, and that perspective made reading this book a truly exceptional experience.
+ Romance. This book pushed all my buttons, it really did! When I started reading, I was actually comparing Wintertown to Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (hence the David Levithan mention above). It didn't take long for me to be utterly enchanted by the quiet charm of this story. Where D&L is boisterous and feisty, Wintertown is careful and shy, much like their protagonists. I loved that the romance had so much to do with the setting as well--when it snows, the world looks like a completely different place, and anything can happen. There are so many possibilities surrounding Lucy and Evan, and watching them realize those new dreams was wonderful.
The final say: With vibrant and quirky characters, Wintertown will charm every reader. Stephen Emond writes a story alive with hope and reminds us that our best dreams aren't always the ones we set out to have.
Release Date:February 8, 2012 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Age Group: Young Adult P...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 8, 2012 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 448 Format: Hardcover Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: The sudden influx of dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels over the past year has made contemplating the future rather terrifying. Most plots center on the things we take for granted and lose--freedom, safety, emotion. The main characters in many of these books often live comfortable lives, before coming face to face with something outside their experience. It's that catalyst that begins an "epic saga" that will change the world forever. As much as I thought the characters needed a bit more vibrancy, Pure does answer to the call of the dystopian epic in a massive way, by pointing the finger at our governments' actions today.
Pure suffers from what I personally like to call the Tolkien Syndrome: an overwhelming amount of description and detail in otherwise lackluster scenes. Note that I didn't say the writing was horrible, nor were the descriptions poor. Tolkien was a wonderful writer, but he also had a tendency of describing blades of grass on a mountain individually for paragraphs on end. Baggott's strength lies in this love of detail, and her world comes alive because of it. Unfortunately, because there is so much that she chooses to describe about Pressia's world, the pacing of the novel takes a huge hit. Getting through the novel took me longer than I thought it would, simply because I had to keep stopping when I got bored with the slow-to-nonexistent movement. Plodding through the story takes more patience than what most YA readers may be used to giving, so it only makes sense for me to recommend this as an adult novel.
As for the plot itself, readers won't see much action until about halfway through the novel, a point which some of my fellow readers confess they never reached before giving up. Once it begins, however, Pure takes off running. The theme of the story I found most interesting was the consideration of nuclear warfare and its consequences. As children born in the late 1900s, we are all very familiar with the fallout of World War II, and if last week's North Korean nuclear launch is any indication, there is a healthy fear among the world's populations of what could happen in a nuclear war. Power and control have become overwhelming forces in society, and each day brings a new limit to push. I was highly impressed with the message Baggott chooses to tie into her story, and her writing is a chilling testament to her talent. Here's hoping the following books are also infused with that same strength and honesty.
The Final Say: Though it may require more of a commitment than other novels, Pure is a worthwhile read which will leave you looking at our society through a clearer lens.(less)