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.(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!
Tell Me More: If you know me, you know I'd be hard-pressed to resist any tale that uses period elements, even if the main genre that the story resides...moreTell Me More: If you know me, you know I'd be hard-pressed to resist any tale that uses period elements, even if the main genre that the story resides in is dystopian. So yes, my hopes were high for Landry Park, but unfortunately I found it predictable at its best and offensive at its worst.
The life of Landry Park, literally, is dependent on the class issues that permeate the story. The reader is introduced to this peculiar new world through Madeline Landry, who enjoys the lifestyle powered by abuse of the lower classes, even as she expresses a vague desire to change it. In various exposition paragraphs, the reader learns that Jacob Landry, Madeline's ancestor, invented Cherenkov lanterns as a power source after a devastating war with the Eastern Empire. What's left of America is miserable, save for the 1%, now known as the gentry, who are not the government but more powerful.
Madeline is not a very memorable heroine, and neither are many of the other characters. She fits into the trope of a dissatisfied rich girl well enough, and I understand her desire to educate herself. But what is it all for? She tells her father that it will make her a better owner of Landry Park in the future, but even her attachment to the estate feels half-hearted. I never really felt like she was a fully-formed character, capable of standing on her own. I have read of heroines like her before, and she does not do much to distinguish herself from the rest. I never felt like she was in true danger, and I was not emotionally invested enough in her to worry either way. Even the relationship between her and David was dulled by how obvious it was that they would end up together.
On a more serious note, I am particularly bothered by the seeming demonization of Asians as the Eastern Empire, even as a character espouses that "race is no longer a factor" in this futuristic world. I believe this is the first book in a series (correct me if I'm wrong), so there may still be more information to be gleaned about this war in future installments, but what I have so far is just that China, Japan and the rest of Asia decided they'd had enough of America's environmental overreaching and invaded. If this is the war that has changed the landscape of the globe, describing its impact requires more than a few passing sentences. Race can never not be a factor. Including token black and Indian characters among the gentry is not enough to claim that, especially since America's "enemy" in this story is made up of Asians. The difference alone establishes that race is a factor. Frankly, I find it is easiest for those for whom race has never been a factor to imagine a world where it isn't. So why the Asians? Why this cause? I would love to know more about the background of this war, so that I can ground myself further in the story.
The class issues that Hagen attempts to address also fall flat because there just isn't enough solid worldbuilding to hold them up. So much of the book is set in a very small area, because Madeline herself is isolated from knowing much about her life. As a reader, this can quickly become frustrating, because there isn't enough ground covered to stabilize the world the author asks us to believe in. At the very least, why did fashion in this future world return to that of the 1800s? Was it meant as a sign of how out-of-touch the gentry are with the rest of the world? I can't be sure because we get no hints as to how the social norms developed hand-in-hand with the rise and fall of certain classes. Reading this book felt a lot like being surrounded by gorgeous, filmy curtains that aren't actually hiding anything substantial or valuable or even new.
The Final Say:Landry Park may dazzle readers new to the genre, but there is not much to see past the first few fireworks, and less to remember.
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)
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.(less)
I think this book dug out a piece of my soul, it was that life-changing.
Discovery: One of my best friends, Allie, rec...moreMy 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.
Release Date:February 21, 2012 Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult Page...moreYou 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.
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)
Tell Me More:Eleanor & Park was a book that came highly recommended to me by the fabulous Rebecca at Indigo Yorkdale. With comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars and Gayle Forman being made by fellow readers I trusted, I knew right away that I had to find the time to check out why everyone loved this story. Unfortunately, good recommendations don't always result in satisfying reads, and Eleanor and Park simply did not charm me as much as I hoped they would.
My reading experience can best be expressed as an inability to suspend disbelief. I couldn't lose myself in the story because everything felt too perfectly set up to tell a certain kind of story. I felt like I could see all the reasons why Rowell chose to have her characters say and do certain things, instead of discovering those hidden layers bit by bit as I read. I spent most of my reading time nodding along, thinking "of course they love the Smiths," "of course comic books are what they connect over," and the like. There's nothing wrong with those things being E&P's interests, but I feel like every single "nerd/outcast" character in YA fiction shares the same interests. Some variety would be nice--how about a self-proclaimed nerd who loves pop music or reality shows? Park's parents were pretty stereotypical too, and I couldn't quite shed my discomfort with the way the relationship was illustrated. Park' father might love his mother, but I never got the sense that he truly understood her or cared about her cultural background, and I do not agree with John Green's review where he stated that they were well-drawn adults.
Likewise, the love story between Eleanor and Park results in some adorable moments, but it never really got off the ground for me. I couldn't particularly relate to either of them, so I wasn't invested in what eventually happened between them. Some thoughts Eleanor had about Asians also bothered me enough to make me step away from the book for a little bit. The relationship between Eleanor and Park wasn't surprising either, though there were a few moments that made me go "awww." There was little to distinguish it from other contemporary YA romances, and even as I write this review, I struggle to recall scenes that made me emotional.
What I did find intriguing were Eleanor's life at home and her family. I wish more time had been spent on scenes between Eleanor and her siblings, instead of the hints of discontent and distrust that are scattered throughout the book. Her abusive step-father was the only character to garner a real reaction from me, and remembering some of the things he said and did still makes me shudder. I also would have liked to know more about her mother and the relationship they had before her mother married Richie.
The Final Say: Eleanor & Park read like a sketch of a painting: not quite whole, not quite full and not quite real enough to capture my imagination and make me love it.
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)
Oh God, I have never been so happy to finish a book. I was looking forward to reading this at first, but a) it wasn't compelling at all and b) Parker...moreOh God, I have never been so happy to finish a book. I was looking forward to reading this at first, but a) it wasn't compelling at all and b) Parker Fadley is almost as annoying as Bella Swan. I just didn't care about any of the characters in this novel, and I wasn't really given any reason to.
I found the writing so-so, and the dialogue and characterizations to be quite cardboard in essence. Parker was so whiny, I wanted to kill her halfway through the book. I feel like Courtney Summers was trying to emulate Sarah Dessen, especially with the angsty plotline that was a little bit like Just Listen. That book was way better, imo.
I'll be honest: this book has made me wary of trying Summers' other novels.(less)
Release Date:February 28, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 4...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 28, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 459 Format: Paperback Source: Finished copy received from publisher
Tell Me More: Most of the buzz I've seen surrounding this book are consistently focused on its similarities to The Hunger Games. To which I say: what similarities? Where THG is a dystopian society, with touches of sci-fi, Blood Red Road is more like a Western thriller. If I had to draw parallels to any sort of media, the closest might be the late, great television series Firefly. As a reader, I didn't appreciate the blurbs' attempt to condition my mind into seeing something that isn't there, even if that illusion would sell more books.
That small grudge against the blurbs can explain why I did find it difficult to enjoy the story at first. As I began reading, my brain kept trying to point how dissimilar Blood Red Road was to THG, and if it was distracting to me, it'll be distracting for other readers. I can see how Saba might be compared to Katniss, but I see them as two completely separate and unique characters. Saba is angry, dependent and reckless. She might be the most challenging character I've ever encountered, and she doesn't make it easy to know her. One aspect of her personality that I found confusing was her attachment to Lugh, her twin. While it's easy to say that twins share a kinship unlike any other, I never really felt that kinship. If anything, Saba seems to be more dependent on Lugh, rather than an equal relationship. It did get to the point where I started to wonder if Saba was a little bit in love with Lugh. While that doesn't bother me at all, I would have appreciated more indications either way.
Overall, the character development strikes me as uneven and the plot races along without it at times. My interest was peaked, but I couldn't quite care for any of the characters, and the ones I was concerned for weren't given enough page time to really win me over. The plot is unique and overwhelmingly complex at certain points. Young has a tight control over Saba's story and her eye for detail is superb. There is always something at risk in Blood Red Road, and you are never quite sure what you could lose next.
Another salient point that should inform your decision to read is the writing style and dialogue. Moira Young employs a Midwestern style of narration, and if readers aren't familiar with that way of speaking, it may be difficult to proceed with the story. Quotation marks are also missing from the story, which may bother some readers. Interestingly enough, I also believe that Blood Red Road can stand on its own. It is meant to be a series, but should you decide to stop after this book, you won't feel like something is missing. Frankly, I am glad for it, because I don't see myself continuing the series at this point.
The Final Say: Blood Red Road was an okay book, interesting but not intense and a challenge to invest in. Readers interested in a high-stakes story with unique elements will find much to enjoy in this series.(less)
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 all...moreIf 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: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.
Discovery: I’m working my way through a list of faery YA novels.
+ Mythology. To be honest, I didn’t see anything that I haven’t encountered in the oth...moreDiscovery: I’m working my way through a list of faery YA novels.
+ Mythology. To be honest, I didn’t see anything that I haven’t encountered in the other faery novels I’ve read, but I liked seeing the nods to the wide variety of fae. Being able to recognize kelpies, redcaps and bean sidhe before Meghan is told what they are? It feels amazing. I am a little sick of Titania and Oberon, so the new enemy was a refreshing change. (I can’t talk too much about them because it’ll spoil the story.)
- Predictability. A lot of the same problems that I saw in City of Bones also popped up in The Iron King. Meghan is just as naive and reckless as Clary and I did find myself frustrated with her actions more than once. The dreaded love triangle reared its head and I’ll tell you right now that I’m not on Team Ash. I don’t see any reason for that relationship. There was practically no build-up, beyond Ash wanting to kill her and can I just talk about all the problems I have with that trope? Really, thin line between love and hate, I know, but that’s just not a healthy relationship to present to teenagers.
I also thought that the big conflict in the novel could be seen through heavy fog from thousands of miles away. Nothing really surprised me or made me want to know more. I feel let down by this novel and I didn’t particularly want to finish it.
- Special Snowflake Syndrome. The majority of YA novels revolve around characters who discover hidden powers or abilities and must learn to use them against ancient enemies. The Iron King‘s Meghan Chase is no exception, but unlike a lot of these characters, Meghan Chase is not that likeable. I first started to dislike Meghan on page 17, when she rails at “inflate-a-boob” Angie: “Ms. Perfect Cheerleader, who’d flip out if she saw a caged gerbil or a speck of dirt on her Hollister jeans. I’ve pitched hay and killed rats and driven pigs through knee-deep mud. Wild animals don’t scare me.” This passage bothers me. A lot. For one, I don’t think Meghan has to compare herself to a cheerleader to get her point across. She grew up on a farm and it’s not necessary to sling aforementioned mud at Angie just because Angie didn’t grow up that way too.
I’ve run into this kind of negative characterization time and time again and not just in YA novels. I understand that books are often written from one perspective and that that perspective is almost always skewed. But I’ve always seen it as a sign of weak writing to resort to saying “I can do things cheerleaders can’t” as a way of proving that you’re a better person. I’ve found that characters who do this can be just as petty and shallow as the people they profess to hate. They may think that they’re better people, but when you sum up a person based solely on what they wear, listen to or read, you do yourself a disservice too.
Recommendations: I know that this series has many fans, but it just wasn’t for me. I wouldn’t personally recommend The Iron King, though in the interest of fairness, I’ll be reading the next two books.
Ugh my heart hurts so much. I am not coherent enough to write a proper review right now, but I LOVED IT....moreMy 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.
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.
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: 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.
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)
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:May 29, 2012 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 26...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: May 29, 2012 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 266 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC received from publisher
Tell Me More: It is wonderfully refreshing to find authors who are willing to bring obscure moments in history to life, and none more so than Philippa Gregory. The critical acclaim and widespread popularity she has achieved are hallmarks of her hard work, and it was that reputation that gave rise to my expectation of a solid and strong story from her first venture into YA. I began Changeling not having read any of her previous books, which may have been for the best, as I wasn't fully satisfied with the world Gregory created.
Changeling is told through the dual perspectives of Luca, a member of a secretive religious order, and Isolde, a young heiress who is forced to become a nun. Their respective challenges were well thought out, but while Luca was charismatic enough for me to ignore some holes in his characterization, Isolde was dull and shallow for much of the novel. Often, I could predict what she was going to say before I looked any further into her conversations, and that can quickly grow tiresome. I wanted to like her and root for her, but there just wasn't any opportunity for me to really connect with her. Her reticence was also off-putting--it was difficult to ascertain whether she truly wanted to fight for her happiness or simply settle for whatever her brother and father wanted for her. She wasn't given the agency to own her decisions, even the ones that would put her under someone else's control, and so I grew to see her as a leaf on the rapids, being jostled along and not knowing where it was she really wanted to go.
The story itself feels disjointed, as though two or three different fabrics were sewn together with one colour thread. The concept behind Changeling is extremely interesting, almost like a pre-Renaissance Unsolved Mysteries, but it never quite grows into its own potential. The first half of the novel is devoted to a violent mystery at Isolde's own abbey, and the conclusion will certainly raise some eyebrows, considering the time period. I enjoyed watching Luca uncover the truth, but I do wish that Isolde had had more of a hand in the solution to her abbey's problems. Understandable as it is that Luca and other men would find it wiser to place the abbey under the control of a monastery, it did not help the argument that Isolde is different from other girls her age, wiser and more adventurous.
Ultimately, that is where this novel falls short--the contradictions between historically accurate attitudes and the actions shown in the book created a gap too wide for Gregory to satisfactorily bridge. I've been told that she has an excellent grasp of historical detail, which can be seen in her other novels, but I was never given enough information to truly immerse myself in this particular time period. We are told that Luca is different, that there is something worth observing in him, but he consistently displays the same attitude as his peers. I can't be sure if the expectations I built up for Gregory's work in my head were responsible for my dissatisfaction with Changeling, but I am certain that based on the synopsis alone, I was asked to believe in more than what the story could give me.
The Final Say: Unsure as I am about the overall coherence and completeness of this novel, I would still recommend Changeling to readers who are starting out in historical fiction. Gregory's writing will ease them into olden times with care, and give socio-cultural issues to dissect as well.(less)
Tell Me More: Whirlwind romances, summer flings, desperate Romeo/Juliet situations--they're the stuff of teenage dreams and wishes. I'd be lying if I said I never wanted any of those things, and most people can attest to the same. There's something about being a teenager that makes one feel as though anything is possible and everything is open to you. Interestingly enough, the tag line for this novel is in that same optimistic vein: "Love can conquer any distance...right?" But While He Was Away suffers from much more than just distance between the two characters, and doesn't manage to raise itself from those depths in time for the ending.
I've spoken to former soldiers and learned about the military experience from ex-Navy SEALS and their families. I've read excellent Harlequins with military characters. So to a point, I can certainly agree that Karen Schreck's narrative rings true regarding the difficulties of living an army/navy life. I just could not get past the sheer immaturity of the characters. Penna is particularly grating--she is barely developed enough to be more than just David's girlfriend, and yet the story relies on her narration. Because she is so underdeveloped, there is very little to like about her (try as one might) and worse for the story, there is very little to care about. Penna's experiences as an Army Girlfriend (emphasis mine) had the potential to be compelling and powerful, and it was disappointing to see them reduced to scenes that had little to no emotional power.
The pacing of the story is extremely off-putting, which isn't helped by weak prose. Schreck goes from discussing one issue to another in a single paragraph, leaving the structure of the story without anything to hold on to. Other novels are able to transcend this problem with attention-grabbing characters and a strong overarching plot. Given that While He Was Away is such a closed, intimate story, Schreck's approach does not work for its benefit.
Beyond these problems with the story, I would have still recommended it to beginning YA readers, but there was one scene that bothered me enough to change my initial rating from a 2 to 1 star. Penna and David go on a website where they can "shoot" an Iraqi artist with paintballs. The simulation bothers Penna enough to have her hesitating, but David encourages her.
“Holy crap,” David said. He laughed nervously. He said it was my turn. “Come on,” David said. “Just think about 9/11. Shoot him.” The artist was bent over, collecting the messy shreds of newspaper when I took my shot. I aimed off to the side, but even when the paintball just burst bloodily against the floor, I practically hyperventilated. “I don’t like this,” I said. David stuttered around for a little bit—9/11 this, 9/11 that. Finally he said he didn’t really like this either. Not really. The guy reminded him too much of Ravi. David rolled his eyes then. “Total stereotyping, right? Seen one, you seen ’em all. God. I sound like my worst enemy.” We left that site then and went somewhere else where we shot droids, not humans."
I understand that this may have been Schreck illustrating the stereotype, but the scene still made me angry enough to stop reading the book for a few days. My best friend is Muslim, and I dislike anything that insinuates, in any way, that people from any race are interchangeable, that they are all to blame for one evil act. I cannot stomach that ignorance, and it makes me angry that Schreck thought this would be the best way to illustrate her point.
The Final Say: While He Was Away is not a novel that offers anything new to the discussion of military life, both off and on the war front.
Tell Me More: Selkie folklore is, bar none, my favourite sea myth, so it won’t come as...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Tell Me More: Selkie folklore is, bar none, my favourite sea myth, so it won’t come as a shock to anyone that as soon as I found out about Tides, I knew I had to pick it up.
From the first melodic line in the prologue, Betsy Cornwell sets up a story that doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. And how could it, when so much of selkie mythology talks about how they are fleeting visitors in one’s life? Unlike many mermaids in popular culture, selkies may be enchanted by land, may need it, but they never stay for long. Cornwell does an excellent job of capturing the ephemeral nature of the selkie and her writing style fits very well with the way Noah begins to learn about them.
Interestingly enough, Tides employs a few different points-of-view within the story, a technique I also encountered in The Brides of Rollrock Island. I actually enjoyed the use of multiple narrators–it contributed well to the idea of dualism and differences within the story. The same theme is reflected in the cover: both the seal and woman move in different directions. Noah also finds himself facing conflicts between what he believes to be true, and what he has begun to see as fact, and Cornwell handles this uncertainty and confusion with a gentle hand.
If there was one thing I was dissatisfied with, it would be the way social issues seemed to pop up every few chapters. Merged seamlessly with the story, these aspects would not have been as distracting as they were, though I understood that the contemporary setting might have lent itself to that opportunity. That said, if a little more time had been spent elaborating on Lo’s bulimia, I think that conflict would have been an excellent addition to the story, as it fits with the theme of shedding a part of oneself to take on another form.
The Final Say: Tides is not a story to be read quickly–it is best consumed in pieces, to let the prose sink in and work its magic. Betsy Cornwell is an author to watch for her subtle and captivating writing style.(less)
Release Date:April 5, 2011 Publisher: Dutton Juvenile Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 260 For...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: April 5, 2011 Publisher: Dutton Juvenile Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 260 Format: Hardcover Source: Personal copy
It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.
Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.
Discovery: After finally finishing If I Stay, I immediately--and I do mean immediately--went to the bookstore and bought Where She Went.
+ Intensity. Where If I Stay was poignant and pensive, Adam's story is deeply devastating. The pages bleed with his emotion. It's commonly assumed by people that artists feel too much (Van Gogh is just one depressing example out of many) and in this case, they would be right. Adam Wilde's torment is a silent kind, which he himself has difficulty voicing. The reader quickly realizes that only one person can understand him, and it's the one person he can't bring himself to be with. All in all, these factors make for an explosive and emotional book that I devoured in a single hour.
+ Romance. Contemporary romance is something I've always struggled to enjoy, because it can feel very cheesy and uncomfortable to read. It's also rife with cliched dialogue, which is one of the biggest turn-offs in my reading experience. Thankfully, Gayle Forman succeeds with another beautifully-written story of love in all its forms. Just when I thought I'd reached a threshold for adorable and emotional moments between Mia and Adam, another one would break through my defenses. I was reduced to speechless hand-waving and head-holding. The pages fairly sizzled as Adam and Mia talked and wept and existed with each other for the first time in three years. To be honest, I couldn't take this book in all its unashamed, gritty glory, dear readers. It was simply too much for my fragile heart to handle--it was so very real.
The final say: Gayle Forman concludes Mia and Adam's story with emotional gentleness and incandescent prose, ensuring that readers' hearts will never be the same again.