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:2013 brings another trilogy to its long-awaited conclusion inClockwork Princess,and like many YA readers, I was eager to know exactly how...moreTell Me More: 2013 brings another trilogy to its long-awaited conclusion in Clockwork Princess, and like many YA readers, I was eager to know exactly how Cassandra Clare would tie up all the loose ends in The Infernal Devices. Unfortunately for me, only disappointment lay down that path.
It’s been about 15 months since I last read Clockwork Prince, but I do still think of it with fondness, mostly because so much of that story was centered on Jem Carstairs. He has consistently been the most developed character, more than anyone else in the series, and I enjoyed getting to know him better. But in Clockwork Princess, Clare tries to bring the story back to focus on Will, Tessa and Jem, and it doesn’t quite work so well.
Release Date:January 31, 2012 Publisher: Razorbill Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 288 Format...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 31, 2012 Publisher: Razorbill Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 288 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from Penguin Canada
Tell Me More: Hiromi Goto's Half World is an exercise in harnessing one's imagination. Not since Graceling have I found a more richly imagined fantasy world, though it is quite darker than Kristin Cashore's work. I was glad to have Darkest Light on my shelf immediately after reading HW.
Reasons to Read: Reincarnation in YA tends to go along the route of star-crossed lovers who've been given a second chance. It also tends to be treated quite lightly, almost like a deus ex machina that ties all the problems up in a pretty little bow. Not so with Gee and his conflicting natures. Without spoiling it for anyone, I was quite impressed with the way Goto took on the challenge of making reincarnation about the person, and not about their past.
The language in this book is also astonishing in its beauty. I never doubted for a second that Gee's world is one where strange things can and do happen. The best fantasy stories lift you into a cloud that obstructs any outside distractions and let me tell you, my family had a really difficult time snapping me out of this novel. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I couldn't find anything to dislike about Goto's writing style, though I will admit that readers unfamiliar with epic fantasy novels may have a hard time. The story is worth sticking around for, and the characters are brilliantly rendered.
That's Not All:
No family is perfect, but Gee's Older Sister and Popo are just the right balance for his darker side. Their relationships are heartwarming and honest.
Diversity is the name of the game, with LGBTQ characters that never fall into stereotypes.
The Final Say: Darkest Light and its companion novel Half World are two Canadian jewels that will move readers' imaginations and hearts long after the final page.(less)
Discovery: Retellings of fairy tales always make their way onto my TBR pile, but I was especially intrigued by this post-apocalyptic twist on “Sleepin...moreDiscovery: Retellings of fairy tales always make their way onto my TBR pile, but I was especially intrigued by this post-apocalyptic twist on “Sleeping Beauty.”
+ Voice. Rose is very much an innocent and while that naivete can sometimes become tedious for the reader, it’s very clear why she thinks and speaks the way she does. It’s obvious to the reader just how awful her “fairy-tale life” really is, but she doesn’t seem to lose any sense of optimism. Rose has a quiet strength, only emerging when she needs it, because she doesn’t actually ask for much. I enjoyed her curiousity the most–she wants to learn but is afraid of what the knowledge would mean. I liked seeing her cast that fear aside when she realizes it can only do her more harm than good. She’s also quite funny and insightful; I appreciated Otto all the more because of her interaction with him.
+ Sci-fi and fairy tales. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my standards for dystopian novels are high. Thankfully, Anna Sheehan delivers a world that is complex and beautifully rendered. I had a great time imagining the limoskiffs and comms and other gadgets that Rose’s futuristic world used. Stass is also a noteworthy piece of tech and the ethics of its use gave the novel a perfect backbone. The juxtaposition of such a technologically-centered future with a fairy tale makes for some complicated questions–like “Was waking Rose the right thing to do?”–but Sheehan handles them all with deft precision and care for the characters she’d created. The revelations in this novel are expertly paced and
- Length. I do feel that some sort of a companion novel is necessary, if only because Sheehan included characters that readers will want to know more about even after Rose’s story has ended. I LOVED that the romance wasn’t the focus of the book. It’s easy to imagine where a second novel might go: Otto is a particular favourite of mine and I’d love to know more about his life.
Recommendations: A Long Long Sleep is a truly unique and complex novel, which will keep readers up all night trying to solve the mystery of Rose Fitzroy. They won’t be disappointed.
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 st...moreDiscovery: 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 loved Libba Bray’s books ever since the first Gemma Doyle, A Great and Terrible Beauty.
+ Humour. Everyone and their mothers will say t...moreDiscovery: I’ve loved Libba Bray’s books ever since the first Gemma Doyle, A Great and Terrible Beauty.
+ Humour. Everyone and their mothers will say this, but Libba is truly one of the funniest women I’ve ever encountered in literature and in real life. Her signature brand of crazed humour is the biggest stamp on this novel, keeping it from tipping into preachy territory. Miss Rhode Island’s secret is a particular favourite subplot and I love the not-so-subtle digs at popular culture. This book seems custom-made for 90s kids.
+ Characters. The Miss Teen Dream pageant is populated by colourful characters, each of whom bring a whole set of insecurities and goals to the island. Each of them are forced to face more than their fears: they also have to come to terms with what they want out of life. Miss Texas is the key example, and while I can’t talk about her too much without spoiling anyone, I will say that I’m pleased with her ending. A desert island changes people, as we all know from countless castaway books and films. Libba Bray reminds us that that change is also a choice.
- Length. To be honest, I’m on the fence regarding the length of this book. It was longer than I expected, and keeping all the names and plot lines straight was challenging. Bray quickly switches from using the state titles to the girls’ names, sometimes in the same paragraph and it can get difficult to keep up.
- Lack of focus. I also thought that certain subplots were unnecessary and/or not explained very well. I’m still a little confused about the Corporation’s role and the motivations of certain antagonists. The book’s focus was on the girls, but I think I needed a bit more exposition to really understand the underlying story. Going Bovine may have been stream-of-consciousness but Cameron tied the story down excellently. This book seems to flit from one theme to another without ever really settling down.
Recommendations: This is a satire of everything feminine, so take it with a grain of salt. I would recommend this to the older end of YA readers, who are better equipped to follow the references and inside jokes with which Bray fills this novel.
Tell Me More: I would like to preface this review by telling you all that this novel made me sob like a child. I just wanted to get that out there before I start with my usual critique of the story and characters. This is not a novel you read on a trip to the beach; this is a novel for a thunderstorm, a day to curl up against your favourite pillows and some hot chocolate. Because while Taylor's story takes place over the summer, the emotional depth needs an anchor to hold on to.
I was only nine years old when I last visited the Poconos, but the weekend I spent there made a strong impression on me. I can still imagine the swerving roads, the shadows of the trees on the path as we carefully drove up the side of the mountains. Reading Second Chance Summer was like pulling aside an old curtain and seeing a quiet grove come alive again. Morgan Matson lays the groundwork beautifully, and as Taylor remembers the details of her summers there, the reader feels as though they are remembering something lost as well. Of course, my own memories weighted down her descriptions, and I loved being able to return to a place where I was happy too.
The title of the novel makes the themes quite obvious--second chances and new beginnings are rife in this contemporary story. What makes them remarkable is the care that Matson takes to be true to her characters and their choices. I feared that Taylor might have immediately swung towards trying to be the perfect daughter and sister, that her father would become a Nicholas Sparks staple, that her family would become a trite cliché, et cetera. It's such an easy plot that the temptation to settle for an easy conclusion is always present. But throughout the novel, you get the feeling that Matson herself needed to push the story to the right ending, even when it was too raw to touch. There are emotions that we all need to experience and sink ourselves in, and Matson builds enough of them to make a lasting impression.
However, a story like this would not have worked without a character as quietly beautiful as her setting. Taylor doesn't seem like a friendly character from the start, but sticking through to the very end of the novel is paramount to understanding her. She is broken in ways she doesn't even understand yet, and for someone older, it can be a little disheartening to see her give up so early. I've known people like Taylor, who were afraid to accept their pasts and make it a part of themselves, who were frozen in their fear and lost in uncertainty. As Taylor discovers, there's only so far you can run before you have to face things and decide. This is a girl who wants so much of what life has to offer, but can't quite muster the strength for a head-long leap. Matson writes Taylor's journey with an intimate understanding of what Taylor feels and fears--she gives Taylor room to continue to make mistakes and mess up. The faith Matson has in Taylor is unlike anything I've ever seen, and it strengthens my belief that a story can only be unforgettable when it has the right character.
And really, I would be remiss if I went without mentioning the outstanding cast of supporting characters in Taylor's life. Her family is charming, but it is easy to see the pall of the news they have to deal with, and I grew to love them as much as Taylor does. The friends she had in the Poconos are so expertly drawn from teenage memories that they come to life with barely any prodding. Dear friends, I was almost overwhelmed by how SA-WOON worthy a certain someone was, even when he and Taylor were just kids. As Taylor discovers, that kind of charm doesn't wear off, and it was wonderful to see her learn to be happy with other people again.
In the end, I think Matson's true strength lies in the creation of characters that become more than the sum of their pasts, presents and futures. She understands people and the myriad joys and pains that stitch themselves into our souls, and she always, always gives them a second chance.
The Final Say: Second Chance Summer is a novel that will leave you changed in ways that may not always be visible, but will always be important. Morgan Matson is one to watch for all the stories that she has left to tell, and all the characters that she finds in us.
Release Date:January 1, 2012 Publisher: Amulet Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 320 Form...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 1, 2012 Publisher: Amulet Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 320 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC borrowed from Wendy of A Cupcake and a Latte
Anna and Abel couldn’t be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old town house and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prisonlike tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his “enemies” begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she?
Award-winning author Antonia Michaelis moves in a bold new direction with her latest novel: a dark, haunting, contemporary story that is part mystery, part romance, and part melodrama.
Discovery: I loved this cover on Goodreads and the subject matter was exactly what I was looking for in a YA novel.
+ Language. Translations of any work are always challenging, but stories pose a unique hurdle to jump through: can the translation capture the nuances of the original text? The Storyteller was originally written in German and there are paragraphs in which the translation becomes obvious to the reader. However, Antonia Michaelis' English text is just as powerfully-wrought. The words are reflective and observant, mirroring the story's own quiet qualities. The fairy tale that Abel creates for his sister Micha is filled with beautiful imagery and layer upon layer of subtext and symbolism. It isn't an easy task to create stories that spill into and depend on one another. Both Abel and Michaelis shine best when they are weaving words together.
+ Characterization. Too often, the subjects of a starcrossed romance are not fully fleshed-out. They are only whole when they are with the other person, and don't seem to have any other outstanding traits when alone. Thankfully, Anna and Abel are both very much individuals, with their own hopes and dreams and fears. With that in mind, they have no illusions about each other, and both of them are aware that any sort of relationship won't end well. There is only time for honesty. A seventeen-year-old may not have that much power over his half-sister's future, but the strength that Abel displays is astonishing. Anna is as stubborn as she is soft-hearted, giving the reader a way into this intense story.
+ Themes. I love that YA novels like The Storyteller exist. They bring to life issues that are easily ignored and misunderstood. It reminds us that not everything is black-and-white. The story isn't accusatory in any way, but it does force the reader to consider how far anyone is willing to go to protect the people they love. The ending is painful to bear, especially since by that time, the reader will already be firmly attached to the characters, but it was necessary. We may not ever be in Abel's position, but I would like to think that The Storyteller can be more than just a novel, but a true inspiration.
The final say: The Storyteller is a novel not easily read, but nor will it be easily forgotten. The characters will live in readers' minds long after they've put the book down.
Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that’s left is a note telling her about a day s...moreEach night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that’s left is a note telling her about a day she can’t remember. The whole scenario doesn’t exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can’t seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can’t make sense of, she realizes it’s time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.
Part psychological drama, part romance, and part mystery, this thought-provoking novel will inspire readers to consider the what-if’s in their own lives and recognize the power they have to control their destinies.
Discovery: I saw this book in Chapters a few weeks ago and the cover alone was enough to put it on my to-read list.
+ Tone. Forgotten may sound like a dark, heavy novel but Cat Patrick’s writing gives it a refreshing pace and feel. The reader is never bogged down in too much teenage angst and it was nice to enjoy the discoveries that London made. Her voice was clear, humorous and mature enough to make reading this book an absolute delight. Everything feels deserved, from the romance to the friendships to the family relationships.
+ Plot. I won’t lie, I’m ridiculously forgetful. That’s part of why a book like this appealed to me so much. I wouldn’t mind knowing the repercussions of my actions or decisions, if only so I could stop being so indecisive. London is the perfect narrator for this story, and it unfolded in a manner that kept me reading. There’s a threefold set-up for this novel and all of them are balanced by London: her family, her best friend and her first boyfriend. All three issues are given ample discussion time and the reader won’t feel slighted or misinformed. I also thought that the twist was perfectly timed and explained.
+ Romance. Oh my gosh, the romance in this book was EXACTLY what I needed after my weekend fling with Anna and the French Kiss. Luke and London are an adorable couple, reminiscent of Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates. Luke is a great character, funny and warm. Their interaction is so much fun to read about and gives London a wonderful dimension.
- Slow exposition. After reading the synopsis, the first question most readers must ask is “Why does she forget?” And it’s a fair question, but not one that will be answered within the first 30 pages of the book. Actually, it won’t even be revealed until the very end. I’m on the fence over whether or not this is a good thing: on one hand, the desire to know kept me going; on the other hand, it did get a little frustrating. Forgotten is a fast read, but it may not be fast enough with the information for some readers.
Recommendations: I would definitely recommend this to YA readers of any age. Mystery lovers will have a nice little puzzle to mull over, and readers looking for a sweet teen romance will enjoy Luke and London’s story.
Release Date:January 24, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Random House) Pages: 256 Format...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 24, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Random House) Pages: 256 Format: Paperback Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: In recent years, The Taming of the Shrew has become one of Shakespeare's highly contested plays. Readers are split over whether Petruchio was horribly sexist or if Katherine was bullied into submission. Of course, it's easy for those of us who grew up with 10 Things I Hate About You to believe that love has the power to change one's attitude, but what happens when we can't tell the difference between love and abuse?
Plot-wise, I was extremely impressed with The Taming. It introduces the idea of infatuation so subtly that you can get through half of the book without realizing that Evan has suddenly become a creepy presence. In fact, he's quite easy to fall in love with as a character. He is charming and smart and realistically, he'd be at the top of the social ladder. His charisma is so strong that even the reader's head is turned, and who could blame them? Was Katie wrong to fall for him? Just as the reader starts to realize that something is terribly wrong about Evan, he turns into someone we don't recognize, someone who might actually be a victim himself.
It's that kind of topsy-turvy perspective that many victims of abuse develop toward their partners, and it is portrayed so starkly in this novel. Love needs trust to grow, and Evan doesn't even trust himself. I have heard negative feedback about that aspect of his personality, and I don't blame readers for being angry with Evan. But I do think that to simply dismiss him as a messed-up boy is wrong too. He is, whether we like it or not, mentally ill, and deserves our compassion, if not our respect. The ending was spot-on in that regard.
However, I do think that Toten & Walters could have done a little more with Katie. Her transformation from shy wallflower to instant center of attention was too fast for my taste, and I would have liked to see her grow into that confidence. As Katharine is one of my favourite Shakespeare heroines, I wanted to see more of that unconquerable spirit in Katie. Because, yes, I am firmly in Camp True-Love-Can-Overcome-Obstacles when it comes to this story. To me, Katharine and Petruchio are a great example of realistic love: they fight, they argue, they even hate each other sometimes, but in the end, they would sacrifice their former reputations for the joy of being able to love one another. That's something that Katie and Evan will (I think) have learned to value after meeting each other.
That's Not All:
> SERIOUS geekery over reciting Taming of the Shrew lines as I read the book. > Hilarious supporting characters!
The Final Say: Teresa Toten & Eric Walters take on the tough subject of relationship abuse through the eyes of Shakespeare, and it truly is a poignant and powerful combination.(less)
Release Date:March 13, 2012 Publisher: Random House Children's Books Age Group: Young Adu...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: March 13, 2012 Publisher: Random House Children's Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 262 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: Before I say anything else, I have to express my disappointment over the change in covers. The previous cover--which you can see here--was beautiful and atmospheric. It had the feel of a Renaissance painting, which tied in wonderfully with the story. The new cover, however, feels derivative and might actually make casual bookstore browsers believe that it is a paranormal novel. Sometimes I agree with the need for a new cover, but this book didn't need it.
The reading experience itself is difficult to describe. Laura's story is full of mountains and valleys of revelations, but you are never quite sure which one it is. Conversations that seem innocuous turn out to be damaging, events meant to save reputations destroy them. And in the middle of this quiet chaos is a sixteen-year-old girl who has to learn to lie and cheat and keep deadly secrets, not only to save her life but her family's as well. "Intense" doesn't even begin to cover it. Gould's talent for atmosphere serves her well--you can almost hear the lapping of the water against the gondolas as you turn the pages. Laura's world is an easy portal to enter, and shadows lurk everywhere. I was extremely impressed with the details Gould included in the story, and my attention never wavered while I was reading.
I cite this book as an excellent example of well-written teen literature for many reasons. One of them is the impeccable combination of parts that turned into a magnificent story, otherwise known as organic unity. It is one of the standards I hold books up to when I read them. Should the author drop the ball, so to speak, by including unnecessary scenes or confusing plot twists, it becomes harder for the story to remain whole. Cross My Heart is a powerful book for many reasons: because Gould takes care to mold her characters well and make their actions believable; because her atmosphere reflects her setting and vice versa and; because the themes of secrecy and loyalty are played out in mysterious ways. I never once asked myself what the point of a particular scene was, nor did I think there were any unnecessary characters or descriptions. Gould said exactly enough of what she needed to say to provide a tightly woven and intriguing read.
The Final Say: Historical YA has found a bright new voice in Sasha Gould--Cross My Heart is not a book you should miss if you love chilling revelations and emotional intensity.(less)
Release Date: August 28, 2012 Publisher: HarperTeen Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 352 Forma...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: August 28, 2012 Publisher: HarperTeen Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 352 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: If there's one thing Lesley Livingston does well, it's smart and sassy adaptations of European mythology. Starling is just as enchanting as the Wondrous Strange trilogy, and highlights Livingston's charming writing style just as well.
Mason Starling is--dare I say it?--the Livingston heroine to the letter. She's clever and capable, with a touch of the strange about her. Even without having read the synopsis, it's clear from the first chapter alone that Mason is a mystery even to herself. On a related note, I've always found it interesting that paranormal stories mirror the unpredictable nature of adolescence. Mason isn't an easy character to know, and the reader discovers her identity the same way she does, through action. Livingston takes her readers into a new world, with unfamiliar rules, and it's only through actually participating in it that you can begin to unfold the richness of that world and its people.
Starling is an extremely lively novel, and the pace is rewarding for readers who don't like a lot of exposition before getting to the exciting parts. As you find out about Fenrys and the supernatural conflicts that awaits Mason, the story is deepened with just the right amount of details to help flesh out both worlds. I will admit that I was wary of what Fenrys would be like in this story--he had never felt quite real to me in the Wondrous Strange trilogy. But from his outstanding entrance to the very last page, he is a solid and believable person and the right kind of partner for Mason to have on her journey. There's a very real sense of that partnership throughout the entire story. They complement each other and best of all, neither of them are afraid to tell each other off. The development of their relationship is realistic and understandable, and it never takes away from the focus of the plot.
The Final Say: The Norse gods may have already made their comeback with Thor and Loki, but Starling can certainly give both boys a fight to remember. Young women will find an admirable heroine in Mason, who never fails to remain interesting as well as dangerous.
Discovery: Lots of book buzz put this book on my radar, but it’s the story that hooked me. I haven’t read an epic fantasy since Game of Thrones, so I...moreDiscovery: Lots of book buzz put this book on my radar, but it’s the story that hooked me. I haven’t read an epic fantasy since Game of Thrones, so I was looking forward to sinking my teeth into this book.
+ Elisa. Rae Carson’s protagonist seems to be a textbook case of strong-heroine but that perception shifts just as quickly as the sands around Orovalle. I thought I had her pegged within the first few chapters, but I was wrong. At first, Elisa is exactly what one might expect: an insecure girl who’s thrust into a situation from which she can’t break free. But over the course of the novel, she emerges as a girl who’s aware of her weaknesses and pushes past them anyway. It’s easy to forget that Elisa is only sixteen during the events of the novel–her insights into human nature are mature for her age. Nevertheless, Rae Carson doesn’t let the reader forget that at the end of the day, Elisa is a teenager who has found an extraordinary well of strength in herself. She is a wonderful example for girls everywhere.
+ Religion and power. When I started reading this book, the first mentions of religion made me nervous. I am Catholic, but religion in novels always makes me a tiny bit anxious because either it’s full-on hate for organized religion or heavy-handed adoration. Thankfully, the themes in this novel were expertly handled. I love the parallels drawn between religion and power, how both can twist saving acts into the worst kinds of abuse, and how it’s often the smallest and least powerful that truly understand the nature of love. The idea of destiny is also twisted–Elisa isn’t alone in her quest and that cooperation saves her life more than once.
+ Writing style. I won this book from Karen Hooper in a comment contest. Karen asked her readers to tell her why they deserved to read The Girl of Fire and Thorns and I had this to say about the matter:
As a little girl, I burned my hand. The fear of fire has stayed with me since then, to the point where I can’t hold a lit candle without having a panic attack. I chose to be a writer but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. More writers are rejected and ridiculed every day than find success, and it really can be a bath of fire sometimes. But books like Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns inspire me to keep going. One day, it will happen for me, and in the meantime I have to find a way to break away those fears. Somewhere out there, there may be another young girl afraid to spark the flame of passion and joy inside her and I might be the lucky person who can help her. Isn’t that the best thing a writer can achieve?
In case you didn’t know, this is Rae’s first book. It’s also, hands-down, one of the best books I’ve read in the last two years. That doesn’t come from nothing. It’s obvious that Rae cared about her story enough to make sure that it received the best treatment possible, and the writing is simply superb. The kingdoms are beautifully described, the characters full and vibrant and the dialogue smart and intense. The work she put into crafting Elisa’s story is inspiring and intimidating, and I’m so glad that I got the chance to read this book.
Recommendations: If I could, I would put this book into the hands of every person I meet. For now, I’ll just have to settle for stroking the cover lovingly when I see it in bookstores and wait for my birthday to buy it. BUT YOU SHOULD ALL ORDER IT RIGHT NOW.
Release Date: June 14, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin Canada) Age Group: Young Adult...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: June 14, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin Canada) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 395 Format: Hardcover Source: Library
Tell Me More: The boy-next-door has always been one of my favourite tropes in literature and film, so it won't come as a surprise that I wanted to read this book immediately after I heard about it. In fact, I even dedicated a Waiting on Wednesday post to talking about this book. There was a certain je ne sais quoi about that synopsis that assured me I would love Samantha's story, and thankfully, I was right.
Samantha Reed is a wonderful character, layered with very real insecurities and doubts. Fitzpatrick's careful reveal of Samantha's family life is necessary to the integrity of the book, and it allows the reader to make their own conclusions about Samantha's decisions. Fitzpatrick doesn't ever excuse her characters for the things they do, but neither does she convict them unfairly. I loved the way the author handled the mother-daughter relationship without reducing it to a tired cliche--even as I grew annoyed with how her mother treated Samantha, I wanted them to fix things and love each other.
The idea of love reveals itself as a main theme in My Life Next Door, though maybe not in ways you would expect. There's Exhibit A: the love of and within a family, as illustrated by the Garretts to great success, though not so much by the Reeds. Exhibit B: the love of power and ambition, as illustrated by Clay Tucker, and Grace Reed to a lesser extent. Exhibit C: love in a friendship, as shown through Nan and Tim's respective relationships with Samantha. And lastly, Exhibit D: the love between two young people.
I thought Exhibits A and B were done extremely well in this book. The saying "It's lonely at the top" popped into my head multiple times as I read about Grace Reed's attempts to become a powerful person, with Clay's "help." The stark differences between the Reeds and the Garretts were never clearer than in the moment when Samantha realizes how far her mother was willing to go to feel good and confident about herself. Instead of finding strength and joy in her family, Grace Reed falters and places her faith in a man who admits to always backing the highest bidder. Samantha faces the same decisions, and she chooses to love and to heal with the help of people who accept her for who she is. It's a powerful decision, and one that gives power to Samantha without destroying her integrity. Strangely enough, it reminded me of how Ron and Hermione from Harry Potter insisted that they would go with Harry wherever he needed to go, because they were his best friends. They drew strength and comfort from each other.
Unfortunately, the friendships in this book did not have positive results. Twins Nan and Tim, Samantha's closest friends, are predictable at the start of the novel--it was very easy to side with smart, confident Nan against loser Tim. But as the novel progressed, I found it extremely gratifying that Tim would turn out to be more than what people assumed he'd be. Teenagers (and adults, for that matter) still make assumptions based on past mistakes and first impressions, and I loved that Fitzpatrick chose to illustrate how people you trust can still betray you, even when they don't seem like they will. Nan's fears made her into exactly the kind of person she didn't want to be, but Tim's solid decision to do the right thing helped him to become a good person.
The romance between Jase and Samantha is likewise a tale of opposites, but happily, they manage to fix things for the better. Jase was utterly enchanting, almost too perfect at times, but it was just so easy to love him. He was kind without being a saint, and he was understanding and loving towards everyone in his life. He cares for his family with consideration and compassion, and always, always protects them as best as he can. What young man would have the patience to deal with his terrified younger brother or a sister whose first word was poop? That requires a lot of courage, and beyond the physical and emotional appeal of such a character, it's Jase's willingness to make the best of everything he has that made me love him completely. He learned from Samantha, even as she learned from him, and I foresee them being very happy together in their imperfections. I don't want perfect characters. I want real ones, people that make mistakes and get angry and still try their damnedest to be good people and love one another.
The Final Say:My Life Next Door is the perfect summer romance, on par with Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. If you know me, you know that this is the highest compliment I can give a contemporary novel. In the last six months, I haven't found many novels that can make me stop whatever I'm doing just so I can read, but I wouldn't give back the three hours I spent savouring this novel for the world.
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