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....more
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 residesTell 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 IndigoRelease 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.
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....more
I think this book dug out a piece of my soul, it was that life-changing.
Discovery: One of my best friends, Allie, recMy 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 PageYou 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.
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 anInitial 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. ...more
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) ParkerOh 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....more
Tell Me More:Eleanor & Parkwas a book that came highly recommYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Source: Purchased copy
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.
Tell Me More:Here is a story of unbearable pain and regret, told in musical prose and by a character whose sadness is hazy but still visible in everyTell Me More: Here is a story of unbearable pain and regret, told in musical prose and by a character whose sadness is hazy but still visible in every sentence. Ava Lavender and her tragic, luminous family are some of the most memorable characters I've ever encountered in fiction, and Leslye Walton tells their stories in short bursts, letting their strength carry the words forward.
Sorrows is not an easy book to read. The narrative follows a rough timeline, and Ava begins with the story of her great-great grandmother, with the reader trusting that this history will contribute to Ava's own tale. Other than that, it meanders, taking breaks every now and then to share a tidbit, visit an old friend, ponder the meaning of past events. Readers who want a clear-cut story with obvious conflicts and villains won't find that here, or at least not for a good long while.
In addition, Sorrows is a magic realism novel, with girls turning into canaries and ghosts silently watching their siblings live. Unlike a lot of speculative fiction, there's no obvious logic to the magic in Sorrows. Ava, like her aunts and uncles before her, deals with her inexplicable wings with the help of her family, and they keep her sane. Walton's writing style complements the tone of the story beautifully--she has a gift for picking the right word to make her sentences sing, and they will haunt you. I particularly admired how Walton handles Emilienne's story, as it stretches from her arrival in Manhatine(as her father calls it) to the warping of her family's quiet existence. Readers need an anchor, and while the story is told through Ava's eyes, it is Emilienne who grounds it in her tragedy and strength.
Female characters outnumber males in Sorrows, and while the story doesn't quite make a statement about feminism, it does make a statement about abuses committed in the name of love, highlighting the way women are used, discarded and forgotten by men. Emilienne and Viviane give their hearts to men, trusting in that love, and they are treated cruelly, rejected because of their eagerness to love. Ava is more cautious, and suffers for it anyway. There are reminders of the original "The Little Mermaid": both stories are about girls who try to go after their dreams and are punished for wanting more than what they have. Emilienne, Viviane and Ava face men who are used to getting what they want, and they all recognize that entitlement too late to save themselves in the moment that it hurts them. But they don't lose themselves in the end. More than determination, I think that Sorrows reminds its readers that having the will to survive can carry you through the worst moments of your life. And maybe it's too hard to muster up that will in your darkest times, and that is when you let someone else carry you for a while.
The Final Say: Leslye Walton is an astonishing new voice in YA fiction, much like her unforgettable Ava Lavender. Her Strange and Beautiful Sorrows will stay with you past the last page.
Discovery: On the heels of City of Bones (which I reviewed here), I’m continuing the Mortal Instruments series, albeit a little less willingly than beDiscovery: On the heels of City of Bones (which I reviewed here), I’m continuing the Mortal Instruments series, albeit a little less willingly than before.
+ Maia and other supporting characters. I mentioned how much I liked the supporting characters in my review of City of Bones and that still holds true. In fact, Maia, Simon, Alec and Isabelle may be the saving grace of this novel. I do wish that Maia had had more page time, because her story is mysterious enough to whet my appetite.
- Jace and Clary. I read Forbidden this week. It was one of the most compelling stories I’ve read in a very long time, and it was about a brother and sister who fall in love with each other. I will say straight out that there is no comparison between that book and City of Ashes. For one, Forbidden‘s Maya and Lochan were caught in circumstances far beyond their own control. That doesn’t make what they did right, but knowing their background would certainly help in understanding how they felt and why they thought they belonged together. That story did not end happily. Whether you think that was divine retribution or whatnot, that’s dependent on personal opinion.
This is not true of Jace and Clary. I find their so-called starcrossed romance foolish and unnecessary. I was especially bothered by the scene with the Seelie Queen. I don’t see any reason why she would ask them to do what they did, or why it was necessary for the story to develop further, and so I come to the conclusion that that scene was there to try to stir up some much-needed shock/excitement. I was more squicked out by that scene than I was during the sex scenes in Forbidden. It’s difficult to emphatise with characters who make reckless decision after reckless decision without giving thought to what the consequences could be. Jace was an especially unlikeable character in this novel–I found myself rolling my eyes at his not-so-subtle insults towards Simon more than once. He might be jealous because he loves Clary, but right now, Clary is his SISTER. There’s no excuse to be jealous.
- Plot. There were some unexpected twists in this novel, but overall, I was actually bored. Valentine isn’t a threatening villain at all and the Inquisitor just annoyed me. I realize that isn’t the most professional opinion ever, but I had a hard time feeling motivated to finish this book. I understand that a demonic takeover of the world is a bad thing and that Jace, Clary and everyone else were doing their best to deal with it, but unlike City of Bones, I felt no urgency while reading. Maybe it’s knowing that there is a third and fourth book after this one, maybe it’s just plain disinterest. Either way, I know I won’t be hurrying through to find out what happens next.
Recommendations: As sequels go, it’s a poor answer. This particular book isn’t for me, but Jace/Clary fans will enjoy the unresolved tension between the siblings.
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....more
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:February 28, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 4You 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....more
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 othDiscovery: 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.
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 allIf 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.
Release Date: August 27, 2013 Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) Age Group:You can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: August 27, 2013 Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 330 Format: Hardcover Source: ARC from publisher
Tell Me More: There are some books for which you know exactly what's going to happen, the secrets which will be revealed, the main overarching journey that the protagonist takes, and you love that book anyway. The Beginning of Everything was not that book. It dances on the edge of being something breathtaking without actually jumping off and losing its breath, and does so in favour of a rushed and unsatisfying ending.
Ezra is not a difficult character to decipher: he slides in perfectly with the typical hero of this subgenre, and you could recognize him in a heartbeat. He's used to life falling into place just so, without complications or complexities. The novel's first chapter hints at the supposed development of his personality with careful, poignant writing, and it was precisely those first few paragraphs that sold me on the book when the premise had not. That said, I didn't feel that his character development was explored as deeply as it could have been, and I didn't get the sense that he had truly matured. In fact, the experience was quite similar to how I'd felt at the end of (500) Days of Summer. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the film, but Tom Hansen and Ezra share quite a few traits. They're not horrible people, but they are very self-centered in the most basic sense of the term. Unlike Tom, Ezra takes on more responsibility for his choices and his perspective of the world by the end of the novel. And that's great, but the development is crammed into the last 20 pages of the book, as though the reader is just expected to take his word for it without seeing proof.
Cassidy Thorpe, on the other hand--I was never quite sure what Schneider had intended for her character. We get a portrait of a girl painted in very broad strokes, with the occasional quirk to make her relatable to the reader. She enchants a cynical and tired Ezra almost effortlessly, though I enjoyed the banter between her and Toby more. But she's selfish, in a way that the titular Summer Finn never was (Tom Hansen's bitter viewpoint nonwithstanding). She was unsettling to me, because I could sense there was something off about her from the beginning. At first, my fear had been that she would turn out to be another manic pixie dream girl, but as the book went on, it became clear that she was faking that too. And again, that's fine and I applaud Schneider for steering away from that trope. But there is very little time to digest that revelation before the book has ended and the reader is faced with questions they didn't think (they had) to ask. The big plot twist was obvious from the start, and it didn't have the impact it probably should have had because there wasn't enough time spent on building it up/making the reader care about it in the first place. Instead, the reader is caught up in the relationship between Ezra and Cassidy, which only adds to the dissatisfaction when things don't exactly work out the way you think they will.
The plot is heavily centered around the mental and emotional journey that Ezra embarks on, so it isn't heavy on the worldbuilding. I highly enjoyed the scenes during the debate tournament because they felt the most real, even when Ezra didn't know what was going on. And oh, I could sing praises about Toby for nights on end--he practically leapt off the page, his energy and enthusiasm so palpable that they were almost contagious. But though parts of the novel were very well-drawn and substantiated, the fact remains that this is Ezra's story, and it never achieved the closure it should have.
The Final Say: Though the original title--Severed Heads, Broken Hearts--would have been an eye-catcher, I do think that the current title of this story fits it perfectly. The Beginning of Everything is full of false and fresh starts, but you may want to avoid it if you want a novel that pushes itself to the limit and past.
Ugh my heart hurts so much. I am not coherent enough to write a proper review right now, but I LOVED IT.My 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.
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 howTell 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’ve known about this series for a few years now, but have been studiously avoiding it. I know about Cassandra Clare’s fanfiction history aDiscovery: I’ve known about this series for a few years now, but have been studiously avoiding it. I know about Cassandra Clare’s fanfiction history and accusations of plagiarism and although many of my favourite authors are friends with her, I’ve come to distrust her work on principle. My decision to read these books now come from my desire to be a fair and honest reviewer. I won’t tell anyone a book is badly written unless I’ve read it, so I figure this is as good a place as any to start.
+ Humour. I was pleasantly surprised by how funny the dialogue was in this novel. Most of what I’d heard about the Mortal Instruments focused on the romance between Jace and Clary, so I wasn’t expecting to find much humour. Clary has a biting wit when she wants to use it, and Simon made me crack up more than once. I loved the interaction between Clary and Isabelle and I’m pretty sure Isabelle is going to be one of my favourite characters.
+ Supporting characters. Again, Jace and Clary might be the main characters, but I found myself more interested in Alec, Isabelle, Luke and Hodge. Alec is especially important to me because I like the inner conflicts he undergoes. At the beginning of the novel, he seems older and more burdened than Jace, but as the story progresses, he becomes a young boy who has insecurities galore. Isabelle is the same way. Luke reminds me a lot of Remus Lupin and his problems, and I don’t know how I feel about that comparison.
- Cliches. I’ve never seen so many copied ideas/cliches in my life: the girl who all the (bad) boys want, the evil villain who wants to “purify” the world, the tortured bad boy, the twist in the romance (which, by the way, I laughed at for ten minutes straight–people are going to feel so weird walking out of the movie). Mundies are Muggles too. Everything seems ripped straight from popular culture. Even the Mortal Instruments aren’t unique, as J.K. Rowling did it first with the Deathly Hallows. I felt like Cassandra Clare made a list of all the tropes that made books and films successful and decided to dump them all into her novel.
- Writing style. I am a grammar freak. Seriously, seeing grammatical/spelling errors in any text makes me twitch. If there is a pen handy, red or not, I will correct it. If I owned this book, it would be a sea of red. Misplaced commas, awful phrasing and repeated words. When I read Twilight, I played a game where I kept a tally of how many times certain words–golden, smell, eyes, topaz–were repeated. After the first three chapters of City of Bones, I wanted to break out my tally sheet again. The chapter from Luke’s point-of-view was also jarring and nothing more than a massive info dump, which seems clumsy.
Recommendations: I’m reserving my recommendations for when I finish the series, which should be around next week. For now though, it’s not looking good. The characters need to be more developed than they are to make up for the negative points.
Tell Me More:Whirlwind romances, summer flings, despYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Source: ARC received from publisher
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.
Release Date:January 24, 2012 Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Random House) Pages: 256 FormatYou 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....more
Release Date:January 31, 2012 Publisher: Razorbill Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 288 FormatYou 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....more