I was a huge fan of Waller’s first young adult novel, A Mad, Wicked Folly, so when Penguin sent me an advanced copy of The Forbidden Orchid, I was preI was a huge fan of Waller’s first young adult novel, A Mad, Wicked Folly, so when Penguin sent me an advanced copy of The Forbidden Orchid, I was pretty excited.
To be honest with you, I wasn’t familiar at all with the concept of plant hunters during the Victorian Era, and here in America we learn very little about the Opium Wars. In world history we just touch on them, and I’m pretty sure my teacher just said, “Then there was the Opium Wars. Moving on…” I really appreciate this about Waller, because I made the same comment about A Mad, Wicked Folly. She is really touching on subjects that American readers will benefit from learning through her historical fiction.
Some of the same themes run throughout The Forbidden Orchid as in A Mad, Wicked Folly, and there is a very similar formula. Formula: Privileged upper middle class British teen girl + patriarchal society of England (interesting considering there was a powerful Queen on the throne during BOTH novels) + familial duties + said character’s sense of adventure/individuality + character wanting more than the privileged life she already has. I’m totally okay with this formula in Waller’s novels, because it works. The characters are so wonderfully developed with the flaws of those who come from privilege, and they are frequently made to check that privilege when dealing with other characters.
Similar themes that show up in both: Romance (obviously as it is a Young Adult novel), Political Climate, and Women’s Rights. However, much like in A Mad, Wicked Folly, the romance really takes a back seat to the primary focus of the novel. Waller is excellent at constructing a meaningful romantic relationship without having the primary plot take a hit in favor of making a character swoon constantly in narration.
Elodie really evokes some Ingrid Michaelson songs to me, as I think Michaelson has an exotic voice/sound that would really appeal to this character. So for me, I’m going to characterize Elodie with one song: Are We There Yet. “They say that home is where the heart is/I guess I haven’t found my home/And we keep driving round in circles/Afraid to call this place our own” Even though Elodie has a home and lives comfortably with her family there is just something missing. So Michaelson’s pleading voice repeating Home, Home, Home just really feels like it could be Elodie questioning her purpose in life.
Splitting the novel into parts was a great way to avoid boring narrative where the time jumps were due to the long nature of travel from England to China. I really only found the book lagging toward the beginning, but I think it suits the dull nature of Elodie’s existence in Kent versus the quicker paced last half of the novel, as she is finally experiencing travel and plant hunting. Overall I really enjoyed this novel and read most of it in one sitting.
**I originally reviewed this novel for Reading Teen and you can visit their blog as well.
Release Date: May 19, 2015
It seems almost impossible to desc**I originally reviewed this novel for Reading Teen and you can visit their blog as well.
Release Date: May 19, 2015
It seems almost impossible to describe the voice in your head when you have an Eating Disorder. The voice is disembodied, but it seems more tangible than a book in your hands or the food sitting on a plate in front of you. That voice fills up the space in your mind and takes away the silence and peace that you’ve worked so hard to achieve. It tells you all of the things you hate most about yourself and drills them into your subconscious, and the worst part is that you believe every insult it throws at you.
Elena Dunkle’s memoir, Elena Vanishing, is the first book that I’ve ever read that gives a completely honest picture of how hard it is to accept that there is a problem and that help is needed. The authors note at the beginning of the novel that Elena’s story is true, but that there are fictional aspects to the story. Does that sound contradictory? Of course, but so is life with an eating disorder. But the main point of that disclaimer is to recognize how impairing an eating disorder can be and how many memories and moments are distorted through the disease. So when venturing into reading this, remember that parts are embellished based on Elena’s experience. Instead of taking away from the narrative, I believe that these parts make the story even more powerful.
The writing is superb, and Elena acknowledges that the majority of the writing was actually completed by her mother, Clare, but that the collaborative effort was intense and brought them closer together. Be aware that this story is very painful. There are a lot of family issues explored, self esteem, depression, self harm, obsessive compulsive disorder, and a lot more on top of the eating disorder. By no means is the narrative overwhelming, the Dunkles did a fantastic job of displaying the harrowing details of their experience with Anorexia without being too overwhelming. The pacing is excellent and at no point did the narrative lag.
While I find this memoir to have been comforting due to feeling like someone finally put words on a page to describe my struggle, please be aware that stories like these can also be triggering for some who are struggling with eating disorders. I firmly encourage you to reach out to your primary care physician or therapist if you are having trouble. Elena states in the memoir: getting help saved her life. It saved mine. It can save yours.
For more information about eating disorders and treatment options please visit the National Eating Disorder Association. For more information about Elena, her struggle, and her life now please visit her website.
You can also connect to Elena on Twitter: @ElenaDunkle...more
When I first heard about this book, I had a distinct feeling that it would be a big deal. Granted, I also thought it was going to have something to doWhen I first heard about this book, I had a distinct feeling that it would be a big deal. Granted, I also thought it was going to have something to do with Alice in Wonderland, but that was just wishful thinking. Either way, I can’t imagine how Red Queen cannot be hugely popular. Not only did Aveyard sign a three book deal and the movie rights were purchased by Universal before the book has even been released, but the narrative is filled with all the aspects that are super popular in young adult literature right now: futuristic, paranormal, and filled with social injustice. So yes, Red Queen is going to be a big deal.
Aveyard has created an excellent story world that pits blood against blood: Silver and powerful versus the Red and weak. It is set up very much like the standard ideal of the bourgeoisie and proletariat, just like this quote from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — bourgeoisie and proletariat.” I admire that the narrative reflects such adept use of political theory in this notion, whether it was intentional or not.
I also really liked Aveyard’s stress on how important the family unit is throughout this narrative, and how Mare, no matter what, was constantly thinking about those she cared about at home and what she could do to help. Whether it was thievery or sacrificing her identity to provide for her family and bring her brothers home from war. Again, the way that Aveyard has the Red blood’s society set up is that children are either apprenticed and in training to make money and a livelihood by serving the Silvers or they are forced to serve in the army, which also serves the Silvers.
I love it because this too can be interpreted using Marxist literary theory, “The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.” Reds are forced to work to provide for Silvers and their families = money relation. So many kudos to Aveyard for this.
Overall the story building in Red Queen was phenomenal. Aveyard set up enough of the background to make the story-world feel complete, but that there is still a lot of information that the readers don’t know yet. There is a love story, but it most definitely takes a back seat to the political, familial, and court intrigue aspects of this novel, which is a breath of fresh air.
Also, I kept imagining Mare looking a bit like the Red Queen from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, mostly because they shared a similar rags to riches story, and let’s face it, Emma Rigby is gorgeous. I cannot express to you how much I enjoyed this novel and how excited I am to see where this story goes in the subsequent installments.
I leave you with this quote by Karl Marx: “Let the ruling classes (silvers) tremble at a […] revolution. The proletarians (reds) have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”
*Disclaimer* The use of Karl Marx’s works in this review serve to apply as literary theory....more
The most I really know about post World War II hollywood can really be summed up in a few movie titles and one famous murder, The Black Dahlia. McCoyThe most I really know about post World War II hollywood can really be summed up in a few movie titles and one famous murder, The Black Dahlia. McCoy was definitely influenced by the Noir era heavily, and this novel has almost every aspect of a film noir. McCoy's novel actually mentions the Black Dahlia murder and references it as "a few years go," which means that Dead to Me should be set somewhere in 1949 - 1950.
The man character, Alice, is the quintessential younger sister character that idolizes her talented, beautiful, and intelligent older sister for all that she does and everything that Alice believes she is capable of. Much like Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, Annie has a bit of a wild streak and would be caught drinking and sneaking out during her teen year flashbacks in the narrative. I really enjoyed that the novel was interspersed with flashbacks to Annie and Alice's childhood and their friendship in their younger years, because it really juxtaposed how violently their later years are and the circumstances that bring them back together.
There is something to be said about the end of the 40s and the early 50s, and how glamorous it all seems from our point of view now. The fashion was somewhat seductive but still conservative, the women coy, gentle, but sassy, and the men were supposed to be dashing, passionate, and respectful. Dead to Me kind of breaks down a lot of those ideals. All but one of the men are pretty nefarious characters that are self serving, womanizing, and untrustworthy. I can argue that the one character that I exempted from that description is still somewhat dubious and the main character waffles a bit on weather or not to trust him. Hollywood itself is described as a pretty trashy town during that time, and the description of the derelict Hollywoodland sign that McCoy gives really sets the tone.
Even the women go against type in this book, with most of them still being sassy, but gentle is not a word that describes most of them. I would argue that Alice is about the gentlest female in the novel, and the rest are pretty wrapped up in some dangerous activities. I really enjoyed McCoy breaking down these ideals, because it just made the book more fun and believeable for me. The fashion still sounded pretty fabulous, but it was just details given in passing, nothing too extravagant.
But, just for kicks, here's a gorgeous picture of Grace Kelly.
There are some pretty overt references to rape in this novel, and I think that the secrecy surrounding the topic really mirror how some survivors feel when they try to tell the truth in today's society as well.
I really enjoyed this, and I think you should pick up a copy!