Rumpelstiltskin has never been my favorite fairy tale, and yet two books during this year's Fairy Tale Fortnight have made me rethink the tale. The fiRumpelstiltskin has never been my favorite fairy tale, and yet two books during this year's Fairy Tale Fortnight have made me rethink the tale. The first was YA title RUMPLESTILTSKIN by Jenni James, which I reviewed the other day. Now, with the middle-grade offering of RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, I once again find myself caring about the odd character from the original tale. Unlike in the version from Jenni James, where Rumplestiltskin is the cursed brother of a greedy king and in love with the girl himself, this Rumpelstiltskin an ordinary boy. If, of course, having the ability to turn straw into gold is ordinary. He's figuring out the truth behind the magic coursing through his veins and is sucked into happenings beyond his control.
Rump has grown up never knowing his full name. His mother died moments after childbirth, whispering his name in his ear and only uttering its unfortunate beginning, "Rump," aloud. He gets made fun of all the time, too. After all, who wants to be named after a rear end? Names hold power, too, and without his full name, Rump is only half a person, smaller and weaker than the other boys his age. One day, his ailing grandmother throws away his mother's old spinning wheel, which he rescues from the trash. Messing around with it one night against her wishes, he discovers that he can turn straw into gold. Gold is huge in the mountains, and everyone goes out daily to mine for what little the pixies haven't gotten to in order to survive. Being weaker, Rump rarely finds anything, and he and his Gran never have enough to eat. With this gold, he knows he can change their fortunes for the better. Until the Miller cheats him out of a good deal. Until his Gran passes away. Until the greedy King comes to the Mountains to find out the truth behind his new influx of gold.
The just-as-greedy Miller, of course, claims that he has a gifted daughter, and Opal is quickly whisked away to turn straw into gold for the king--with Rump's house. Rump is once again forced into unfair bargains, where he must accept whatever is offered, never able to barter due to the strength of the magic upon him. She offers her gold necklace the first night, her mother's precious ring the second, and on the third, she promises him her unborn child. Rump doesn't even want a baby, but he's forced to accept. After the third night he flees in search of Yonder, where his mother came from. If he can find out the truth behind his name and his family history, maybe he can change the course of his own destiny. If he never hears that the Queen has had a baby, he never needs to return and take it. But he does hear. Compelled to return, the traditional tale of Rumpelstiltskin plays out in a way familiar to readers, yet being seen through Rump's eyes, has a distinctly "new" feel to it.
I really enjoyed seeing Rumpelstiltskin from Rump's perspective. He wants none of what he's forced to endure, and knowing the way the original tale goes, it's intriguing to see everything familiar from the traditional tale knotted up in a new way. We've misunderstood the tale all these centuries, having seen it from the eyes of the Queen, not those of the magical spinner himself. The Miller and his family are greedy, vile characters, as is the King. They care for nothing but gold, gold, gold, and will hurt anyone in order to get more of what they want. Liesl Shurtliff does a great job shining light on these characters even as their greediness remains by-the-book, making readers really sympathize with poor Rump. And Rump! Kids will really relate to him as he journeys to discover himself over the course of the book. His story is bound together in a creative way with Little Red Riding Hood through his relationship with his one and only friend Red. Red is a great female character, and not in the book nearly enough. It would fun to see a book or novella featuring her in the future! I especially loved the way she could somehow form paths in the woods where there were none previously, and would love to see the magic involved beyond that.
With the mix of boy humor that comes from a boy called "Butt," the addition of a gal pal, and the resonating message of self-discovery, RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin is perfect for the middle-grade readers it's aimed for as well as fun for older readers....more
Last year when THE NEXT FULL MOON debuted, I was lucky enough to meet Carolyn Turgeon. She whispered secrets about how she was working on a book aboutLast year when THE NEXT FULL MOON debuted, I was lucky enough to meet Carolyn Turgeon. She whispered secrets about how she was working on a book about Rapunzel that had an unexpected twist: Rapunzel grows up to become Snow White's Stepmother. What a stunner! I immediately wanted to know more, and I'm so excited to share an early review of the book, FAIREST OF THEM ALL, with you now. One thing I love about all of Turgeon's books is the way she mixes fairy tales in new, innovative ways. There's heart, there's motivation, there's...humanity. Fairy tale characters are more than just sweet, kind souls who live Happily Ever After. There's betrayal and heartache, too, just like in real life, and this infusion makes Turgeon's books more realistic to me. I talk a little bit more about this element when discussing GODMOTHER and MERMAID in a guest post I wrote during the inaugural Fairy Tale Fortnight. Turgeon's books, as with the vast majority of fairy tale retellings, are period pieces, yet hers have a more historical feel than many others I've read.
It amazes me to see how different Turgeon's books are from one another, yet how easy it is to point her tone out from everyone else's. I could do it blindfolded. GODMOTHER features magical realism and leaves you questioning so much, MERMAID features a dual POV from not only The Little Mermaid's very own mermaid, but the human princess destined to marry the prince. Even THE NEXT FULL MOON is unique, revolving around the Swan Maiden's daughter as she begins following in her mother's footsteps. Now, with FAIREST OF THEM ALL, readers are treated to a tale of love and heartache as the story of Rapunzel is turned on its head and twisted together with Snow White in a way you wouldn't expect. There's also a twist that brings in an additional fairy tale toward the very end of the book, but it's very blink-and-you-miss-it, and since it's at the end and a secret, I obviously can't say anymore on the topic.
It's very easy to sympathize with Rapunzel, who falls instantly for the traveling prince she can never have. She's grown up sheltered by Mathena Gothel her entire life, safe in the knowledge that Mathena saved her from a mother who didn't want her, carrying only for her rapunzel-addiction. She mixes herbs and plants alonside Mathena for women wishing to forget heartache, looking to terminate a pregnancy, increase fertility, etc. She never realizes that Mathena is more than she says, harboring deep secrets of her own. When Prince Josef visits and meets Rapunzel, the attraction is instant. Mathena forbids them from seeing one another again and locks Rapunzel away in the tower, but the prince comes back and climbs her hair. When he leaves again, he gives Rapunzel both a child and the knowledge that he's destined to marry another woman. There is no happiness for her. When she later loses the baby, Rapunzel falls into a deep depression. Over time, she learns to live again, and then the day comes when Josef returns. His Queen has died and, having never forgotten Rapunzel, he returns to ask her hand in marriage. But court life isn't what Rapunzel envisioned it would be, especially when every time she looks at her lovely stepdaughter Snow White, she sees the face of her dead rival, a woman she had a hand in killing...
As with all of Turgeon's books, there are twists and turns and unexpected surprises that no reader will see coming, try as one might. There were realizations that left me reeling in ways both familiar and unexpected, having previously seen the way Turgeon likes to be twisty in both GODMOTHER and MERMAID. Fans of either books will be pleased with FAIREST OF THEM ALL. There's even more to savor this time around, because there's so much motivation. I love the backstory of a villain as much as the next person, but I never envisioned a villain who was formerly a heroine, craving nothing more than her own Happily Ever After. And the way destiny is ultimately shaped works in a fashion similar to MERMAID in the fact that it's a mesh of both the original fairy tale and a deviation of the author's own imagination. We understand so much about the woman destined to become Snow White's Stepmother, see what makes her tick, why she thinks and feels the way she does. Most of all, we emphasize with her, root for her, sympathize as we watch her heart break.
And that's really all I can say about FAIREST OF THEM ALL without giving too much away!...more
RELIC is unlike any fantasy novel I've read before. For one thing, it takes place in the Wild West. I've never read any fantasy novel from this time pRELIC is unlike any fantasy novel I've read before. For one thing, it takes place in the Wild West. I've never read any fantasy novel from this time period before. The use of relics composed of the bones of extinct fantastic beasts is also innovative and new, at least to me. The book is just the right length, too. I prefer my fantasy novels longer, because I lose something when they're too short. Characters, setting, world-building...something is always underdeveloped. RELIC clocks in at 400 pages, but it reads so fast that I could easily believe I read half that in the time it took me to devour this book. When it came to the end, I wanted more. Despite a full-circle ending, there's enough room for a sequel should Renee Collins choose to write one, and I already want it if she does!
Collins chooses to throw readers straight into the action from page one. Maggie has been left at home in charge of her two younger siblings while her parents went to a political meeting. The only problem? They never come home. Maggie sees fire on the horizon and riders with torches heading her way. She rounds up her brother and sister, and together they flee to their safe place. Even that is no longer safe, though, and right when they're about to be devoured by fire, a young Apache warrior,Yahn, swoops in to save the day. Maggie loses so much that fateful night, but is determined to live and survive. She goes to Burning Mesa, a local town, looking for work in a relic refinery, only to be propositioned by a shady man looking for a new girl for The Desert Rose, his seedy saloon. She refuses to degrade herself in such a place, and manages to get a job on the wait staff instead. Her visit at the relic refinery doesn't go unnoticed, however, and more eyes are watching her than she can imagine. Maggie has a way with relics, a way that people will go to great lengths to control. She finds herself in a dangerous game of survival as towns continue to burn and the truth behind her abilities begins to come out.
I love the use of relics in Collins' debut novel. Relics are created from the bones of deceased mystical creatures such as dragons, unicorns, mermaids, vampires, etc. Different shards give unique properties and abilities to their human users, and are often contained in pieces of jewelry. They are hard to come by and extremely expensive. Relic bones can also be liquified or turned into powder. There's a even a scene where it is mentioned that champagne has been shipped from France paced with yeti relic ice. There's a beautiful scene about halfway through the book where Maggie is dusted in sky magic, or fairy relic powder, which enables her and other guests to float in the air for a stunning, imaginative relic waltz. Only the very rich can afford to be so impractical and laissez-faire with relics. How can I better describe relics and what they can do, since they're such a foreign concept?
Here's a quick excerpt of one of Maggie's first brushes with relics and their nature:
I've never seen a spin quite like this in fantasy before, where relics work in this fashion. I'm also a big fan of the unique setting. Who would think to weld fantasy to the Wild West? It took me a while to figure out the setting since I'd forgotten much of the book's summary going into it, and I like going into books blind. The book had a very "old" feel to it, but mentioned US cities, so I wasn't sure what time period we were in until I encountered saloons and cowboys and sheriffs. I loved the way all these historical components welded together and created a unique story. There was also a bit of a Spanish flavor mixed in, which reminds me of Rae Carson's stellar Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy, of which the final book, THE BITTER KINGDOM, actually shares a book birthday with RELIC this week. There's also the inclusion of the Apache, or the Natives, and what could have quickly become a racist inclusion was handled well and delicately in a way that gives character to this intriguing group. I hope to see a lot more of the Apache in the future, especially if those scenes include the intriguing Yahn! Yahn is a prospective romantic possibility for Maggie, as is the cowboy Landon. Romance doesn't play a huge role in RELIC, since the focus is on fantasy and the relics, which is a nice change of pace from other YA books out there that lose the fantasy in favor of the romance. Maggie has a good head on her shoulders, and I'm glad to see that she doesn't take boys lightly. It will be interesting to watch her grow up and evolve should Collins write more novels! ...more
I can't remember if I was fooling around on my nook looking for books to read or saw someone talking about this one online and picked up my nook, butI can't remember if I was fooling around on my nook looking for books to read or saw someone talking about this one online and picked up my nook, but somehow I stumbled across SWORN TO RAISE by Terah Edun. The book is blurbed as being "ideal for fans of Kristin Cashore, Michelle Sagara, and Maria Snyder." I always take a closer look at books when they're recommended for fans of authors or titles I enjoy, and I decided to give SWORN TO RAISE a chance.
The book centers around Ciardis, an orphan struggling to survive. When she's taken under the wing of Serena and brought to train as a prospective member of the Companion’s Guild, she realizes there's more to her--and her family history--than she ever realized. She is one of the last surviving Weathervanes, her power highly coveted as it can amplify other types of magic. When a fallen prince is interested in the way her power can save his kingdom, Ciardis finds herself involved in a deadly power for struggle that will change the outcome of her entire life.
High fantasy is my favorite. I love books with kingdoms and royalty, with knights and adventure. I'm constantly fascinated by the nuances of political intrigue. I don't even need magic to be a happy camper, but in this instance, the addition of unusual magic works. There's even a little mythology thrown in for good measure late in the book when Ciardis must prove her abilities as she works her way through a dangerous maze. Whether the series is YA or Adult is still to be determined. The fact that Ciardis is training to be a Companion has me wondering, but I'm not convinced that Edun is using the more modern-day interpretation of the word. Instead, in this world, Companions felt more like the talented geisha to me than then do anything seedy, and there aren't any overly mature scenes in the novel, so it's very border-line. The rags to riches plot may have been done before, but who doesn't love a good Cinderella-esque tale? Edun's twists and world are unique and make SWORN TO RAISE an entertaining, fun fantasy to devour.
At first, I didn't love Ciardis as a character, but once she left home to train, she really blossomed and grew. I'm looking forward to seeing where life takes her next month when SWORN TO TRANSFER releases. Other characters have varying levels of development, but enough unique history to keep me intrigued. Some started out strong and grew weaker as their importance to Ciardis diminished, while others became more developed as the story progressed. It will be exciting to see their development continue in the next book. I'm eager to know more about the prophecy and see the way Ciardis and the people in her life will fall into whatever plan Destiny has for her. While there were a few grammatical errors, this never became an issue for me because the story was captivating and I'd come to care for Ciardis and her plight. If you're a fan of fantasy involving court politics and/or teens coming into their previously unknown magical abilities, check out SWORN TO RAISE and look forward to its sequel in July....more
Sixteen-year-old Lucy had it all. Great friends, the perfect boyfriend, loving parents, an easy time at school. Until her rival Elyse steals the roleSixteen-year-old Lucy had it all. Great friends, the perfect boyfriend, loving parents, an easy time at school. Until her rival Elyse steals the role of Juliet out from under her nose...and then steals her boyfriend, too. On top of that, Lucy's birthmother has returned and interrupted everyone's lives. Desperate to forget her problems, Lucy and her friends head out to NYC to blow off some steam. The next morning, Lucy wakes up with a wicked hangover..in someone else's bed. She puts it behind her and moves on, getting over her ex and meeting someone new. But her past comes back to haunt her in a big way when she discovers that she's contracted HIV, and goes from having the world at her feet to a lifetime of uncertainty.
The subject of HIV and AIDS is treated tenderly; Lucy goes through so much on her journey and readers will want to wrap her up in a big hug. This isn't a preachy book, but it gives a lot of information in ways that feel natural. There's also a strong look at the power of support, from Lucy's two dads who love her despite everything to the people she meets at group meetings. Her relationship with her friends changes and evolves through the various stages of her journey, and Lucy learns that she can still embrace life despite having HIV. She comes out stronger due to the trials of having to grow up way too fast. Everything feels realistic and on point in a balanced way, resulting in an emotional read.
MY LIFE AFTER NOW is the type of book that teachers should buy for their classroom libraries, the kind that should be read in Health Class, the sort that needs to make its way into the hands of teenagers. It's poised to join the ranks of hard-hitting classics such as GO ASK ALICE and SPEAK. In today's Health Classes, we have sex ed. units revolving around abstinence and pregnancy and the proper use of condoms. There's not much to be said after the fact. If the worst happens, will students know what to do or who to go to? We talk about before in the classroom, not about after. Many teenagers caught in this situation are scared and don't know who to turn to. They might not have the amazing support system that Lucy does. Or maybe they do, but they're too scared to find out...which will only harm them in the long run. We talk to kids about sex and pregnancy, but we need to be more open about other matters as well. MY LIFE AFTER NOW is an important read in the genre that shouldn't be overlooked....more
Most children love unicorns. I know I did (I blame My Little Pony). I loved reading horse-themed books growing up, and would have loved a book for oldMost children love unicorns. I know I did (I blame My Little Pony). I loved reading horse-themed books growing up, and would have loved a book for older kids centered around unicorns. There's certainly an audience for WONDER LIGHT: Unicorns of the Mist. There are unicorns, but not quite like any you've encountered before. There's also mystery and intrigue, since the island may or may not be haunted. Certainly something for everyone!
Twig arrives on Lonehorn Island feeling alone and miserable. She's to live out the next year with the Murley family and other troubled girls after an incident that occurred back home. At first, she's scared of the horse she's assigned and not thrilled with the prospect of doing chores such as mucking out his stall. She's also scared by the surrounding woods. On the way onto the island, she saw a ghost boy lurking in the mist. One night, she can't sleep, and she sees him again. And he's dropped off a horse about to go into labor. Twig later finds out the truth about the boy, the unicorn masquerading as a horse, and so much more. Her life will never be the same again, especially when she finds out that the fate of the island and its mysterious unicorns may be in her hands.
Russell builds a great environment as a safe haven for troubled girls. The island and its inhabitants are just what Twig needs to come out of her shell and start blossoming in a way she couldn't in the past. Twig's home life was far from perfect, and it's easy to sympathize with her. The unicorn lore found in WONDER LIGHT is intriguing and unique. They aren't the magical beings everyone thinks them to be, and they're also more wild and vicious than they appear. This is definitely a fantasy novel for older children who want more than the traditional unicorns they grew up with, but still covet the whimsy of fantasy they bring to a story. Readers will want to be in Twig's shoes, experiencing much of her adventure first-hand....more
For as beloved as retellings are, it's rare to find a novel revolving around the Bible. Religion is very taboo for many people. Depending on your outlFor as beloved as retellings are, it's rare to find a novel revolving around the Bible. Religion is very taboo for many people. Depending on your outlook, such books could either be labeled historical fiction or mythological fantasy. I won't make that decision for you, but for those who don't like characters being inserted into religion, FORTY DAYS might not be for you. It retells the journey leading up to the great storm from Noah's granddaughter Neima's POV. The only other retelling of Noah's Ark I've encountered is Madeleine L'Engle's classic novel MANY WATERS, a companion to A WRINKLE IN TIME. I'm not really sure how over/under-done retellings are, but I don't often see religious retellings. I was especially intrigued when I found out the story would be retold from a secondary character's POV.
By seeing everything through Neima's eyes, readers can see the way everyone ridicules Noah and his family. The women steer away from Neima when she does her laundry by the river or pretend she stinks. They whisper and tell stories about the entire family. Even Noah's own family is in a state of disbelief, believing Noah to be mad with old age, but willing to humor him...until he starts gathering up vicious beasts and filling his ark. When the rain begins to fall, Noah's family is boarded up in the ark, leaving behind everyone else. Neima dreams about her last memories of her friends and wonders why everyone save her family had to die. How are they any better than everyone else, especially her friends with kind hearts?
FORTY DAYS looks at the thoughts and feelings of one of Noah's granddaughters, who faced the ridicule and scorn firsthand. Exploring her psyche adds a new layer to the tale told in Bible School. We're taught all about Noah and his family and the ark, but never really stop to think about everyone else's perspective. A twist late in the book reveals a new perspective altogether that will become the launching pad for FORTY NIGHTS, out this summer. My only major complaint with the book? I definitely wasn't expecting a cliffhanger ending when I picked this up, and being a novella, the two could probably have been merged into one longer novel. Just don't go into this blind like I did and be prepared for the drop! It will be interesting to see the way this new theme is embraced and developed as the second half of everyone's journey onboard the ark begins. My favorite element of the novella was the way readers are able to so freely emphasize with Noah's family, fleshing out Noah's Ark in new ways, and it will be interesting to see how we'll care in FORTY NIGHTS, when the family is already onboard the ship. I also like the way Parent chose to include only the animals known to Turkey, instead of every animal in the entire world, since Noah obviously wouldn't know about more-exotic animals far from home. I'm hoping to see more on this as well in the second book!...more
It's always exciting to see retellings of more obscure fairy tales. Bluebeard is one of the lesser-known tales, perhaps because its violent nature prevents it from being read aloud to children as frequently as other, happier ones. Recently, someone (and I forget who now, I apologize) mentioned that they'd been unfamiliar with Bluebeard, but was glad she'd waited to read up on it until after reading STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD. It made the story more mysterious and exciting for her. So don't be alarmed if you don't know the tale, either. Going into it blind might actually be good for you, too!
When Sophia's father passes away, she accepts the invitation to come live with her godfather Monsieur Bernard de Cressac as his ward. She's overwhelmed by his extreme generosity, and worries about the debt she's accruing as he spoils her lavishly. Her godfather is an enchanting man, smart and interesting, and Sophia fancies him. Her infatuation slowly begins to fade as Monsieur Bernard's darkness begins revealing itself in frightening ways. She finds herself trapped, with no way out. If she leaves, Monsieur Bernard will make her life--and her family's life--hell. She might just have to tamper her true feelings and become his puppet in order to save her family, even if it means becoming his fifth wife...
Atmosphere and mood play a heavy role in STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD. Jane Nickerson has a lush, descriptive way of bringing the Southern setting to life. When Sophia first arrives, you can feel the humidity and her sticky sweatiness, for example. At times I felt overwhelmed with description, but at others, I felt it played a vital role to the story. I also appreciated the historical element brought on by setting the book in the South before the Civil War. The Underground Railroad has a role to play, and I wish there had been a little more focus on this front. Maybe in future books? The South also hasn't been kind to women in the past, and the oppressiveness of women is rampant here.
As Sophia stays with Monsieur Bernard, she falls more deeply under his spell and is suckered in by his charm. As he grows more comfortable around him, he lets his darker, more unyielding side show through. Monsieur Bernard is an abusive man with precise needs and standards, and the book is an excellent portrayal at the way an innocent girl can unwittingly fall into an abusive lifestyle. The setting added to this perfectly, and really fit the persona of Bluebeard's character. I wasn't always a fan of Sophia's character, but she also impressed me. She can be vain and frivolous but that's how girls were taught to be back in the day. Sophia proves she has a spine and the ability to think for herself, which is actually more unheard of in that day and age. She also has a good heart, wanting to do more and help, but without having the chance or means to do so. She's trapped in her world, but wants so much more in life. Her strength of character runs much deeper than I initially would have assumed when picking this up.
This is being called a trilogy, but STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD ends with a full resolution and next year's THE MIRK AND MIDNIGHT HOUR will feature new characters and be based on the Scottish Ballad of Tam Lin....more
I recently discovered Lena Goldfinch when perusing one of my favorite long-running blogs, The Enchanted Inkpot. I've discovered so many great fantasyI recently discovered Lena Goldfinch when perusing one of my favorite long-running blogs, The Enchanted Inkpot. I've discovered so many great fantasy authors through this site and highly recommend visiting if you never have before. I immediately knew I wanted to read SONGSTONE when it came out and rushed to grab my nook and buy the other two books Goldfinch had previously published. At the time, they were Kindle-exclusive, but now they're available across platforms at great prices...and I now proudly own them on my nook! Since finishing SONGSTONE, I'm eager to read more from Goldfinch. She creates new life into the fantasy genre, and I look forward to seeing what other worlds she's sharing with her readers.
SONGSTONE centers around Kita, a girl with no past or family. She was discovered in the forest as an infant, filthy and alone. When she was taken in by a village family and cleaned up, it was discovered that the grime had been hiding pale white skin and fuzzy red hair. Kita greatly resembled a Huwi baby, an enemy. She's never embraced, and grows up feared by others in the village. When she was eight, Matiko, the village medicine man took her in. Unbeknownst to the villagers, he practices dark, evil magic. He steals blood from Kita every day of her life, and lately, more than one drop. When a journeyman named Pono comes to the village looking for a storyteller to bring back to his village. Kita's been keeping an important secret from Matiko: her ability to meld song into stone and record history. She's desperate to escape Matiko's clutches and leave with Pono, but doing so means risking everything. How far will Kita go to escape from Matiko's clutches and live freely?
There are so many great themes in SONGSTONE. The search for one's identity is a big one. Kita has been kept in the dark about who she is her entire life, and everything changes when her questions are finally answered. Kita grew up thinking she was worthless, and must overcome the harsh words that have broken her in order to become a stronger woman. Her road to discovery is treacherous and painful, but also releases strength she never knew she possessed. The unique types of magic used here have traces of both the familiar and the new in them. Goldfinch was inspired by the folklore of New Zealand's Māori people, and the book has a very tribal feel to it. It brings witch doctors and island life to mind, flavored with traditional lore.
In today's author interview, Goldfinch mentioned that she came up with the concept of melding song into stone with the advent of e-books and the war between digital and print media. She states that "stories are stories are stories, no matter how we receive them," and created the concept behind SONGSTONE. It adds an extra layer of history to the piece, reminiscent of the days when there was no written language, only the tradition of oral storytellers and the way history used to be passed down. I really appreciated this element and thought it added to the atmosphere of SONGSTONE, even though there could have been so much more done with the element.
One of the great things about SONGSTONE is the fact that it's a beautiful stand-alone novel, not part of any sort of series. I would love to visit the world again in the future, perhaps through companion novels in a vein similar to beloved authors Juliet Marillier and Zoë Marriott. I'm not ready to leave this world and explore all the rich texture that makes everything so interesting and unique. But at the same time, I finished reading with satisfaction over the closure of it all, which can be hard to do these days. If you're a fan of high fantasy and want something new and interesting, SONGSTONE is worth putting on your TBR list. I'm eager to see what else Goldfinch has to offer!...more
While you could read PIECES as a stand-alone without ever picking up THE BREAKAWAY, knowing Naomi's history prior to PIECES will help you understand hWhile you could read PIECES as a stand-alone without ever picking up THE BREAKAWAY, knowing Naomi's history prior to PIECES will help you understand her mental state as she attempts to fit the pieces of the puzzle that is her broken life back together and move on after the traumatizing events that resulted in her kidnapping. PIECES deals with the repercussions and ongoing struggles of a girl who escaped from extraordinary circumstances but is unable to fully move on in life. Michelle Davidson Argyle explores Naomi's mental state and refuses to sugarcoat things, resulting in a more realistic portrayal of a situation that is sometimes idealized in literature.
It has been two years since Naomi managed to escape from her kidnappers in THE BREAKAWAY, yet they remain with her in small ways. The way Eric made coffee and eggs, the way Evelyn painted her nails and taught her to cook; small things remain in her daily life, reminding her of her time in captivity. Most of all, Naomi can't bring herself to forget about Jesse, with whom she fell in love during her time at the house despite the fact that he was one of her captors. Naomi's slowly moving on and in therapy now. Everyone tells her that her attachment to her captors is a result of Stockholm Syndrome, but while Naomi knows this to be true, she also knows that she and her captors truly grew to care for one another in a way that only they could understand. She's slowly begun repairing bridges with her parents, especially her mother, and has even started attending her mother's alma mater, Harvard University. When she finds out that Jesse has been let out early on parole for good behavior, her entire life is in upheaval once again. Naomi has to figure out the truth behind her own feelings. How well does she know Jesse? Does she truly love him--and if so, would she follow him to Italy? If she does, she'll leave behind her fragile new relationship with her parents and her budding friendship with a guy named Finn who has been supportive of her decisions. But if she doesn't, will she miss out on the greatest love she's ever known?
Naomi suffers so much in PIECES. She's completely mixed up and doesn't know the truth behind her own feelings. Her captors did a true number on her when emotionally binding her to them during her time in captivity, and she finds it hard to break free from the invisible shackles still clinging to her. I would go so far as to say that Naomi is also suffering from PTSD, and while she's been on the road to recovery, Jesse's early parole brings everything back and takes away so much of what she's gained for herself. Her emotional state is very easy to sympathize with; all I wanted to do was give her a big hug. Naomi grows so much and learns a lot about herself. She comes out a stronger person by the end of her journey with us, but will always be marred by her past. PIECES is a great look at what happens after a person has experienced a tumultuous situation and the way s/he must re-integrate with the nuances of daily life. So often, books end after the event and don't focus on the repercussions or if they do, they gloss over all the psychological effects that traumatic events can have on a person and make it seem as though such events never bothered the person, which makes the book unbelievable PIECES balances this well, and provides a close-up look about one girl's shattered life as she attempts to move on and discover her own identity in life....more
I've been anxiously awaiting CHANTRESS since reading the book's unusual, intriguing summary. It sounded like something that could have been influencedI've been anxiously awaiting CHANTRESS since reading the book's unusual, intriguing summary. It sounded like something that could have been influenced by Greek mythology, yet it was also original. And it involved singing. I would like to see more fantasy novels where singing is considered magical art in and of itself. I never had time to read the title, though, and it fell down my TBR list. I was recently lucky enough to take part in Lena Goldfinch's Blog Tour for her new novel SONGSTONE. I reviewed the book and interviewed the author. This book also revolves around the magical elements of song in a fantasy world, albeit in completely different ways. Even so, it re-inspired me to read CHANTRESS, and I'm glad I finally have the chance to talk about it.
In a world where chantresses are feared and persecuted, one managed to escape. She stowed her young daughter away on a deserted island before she herself was murdered. That daughter, Lucy, has grown up unaware of the ability stowed away within her. She lives alone with Norrie and knows only that singing is forbidden. She comes of age without being told the terrible truth about her heritage, and accidentally sings on All Hallow's Eve, breaking the spell her mother cast and propelling both herself and Norrie to their homeland of England. The only problem? The Lord Protector is high on power and knows that only a chantress can reverse the dark magic he wields. He's mandated that all chantresses must be brought before him...where they are then executed. Lucy goes into hiding with a circle that calls itself The Invisible College is bent on finding a way to bring Lord Scargrave down and give his power to young King Henry the Ninth before London is destroyed. Lucy's newfound abilities as a Chantress are the best chance they have. Lucy only has six months to learn skills that she should have been learning her entire life. If she can't learn to focus and control her songs, she has the power to sing a song of destruction that will bring England to its knees...but if she pulls it off, she'll save everyone.
I didn't realize that CHANTRESS was historical fantasy until I was reading the novel. It added to the appeal, however, and never felt forced. Instead, the time period was completely suitable and added an additional layer to the story. I find that more and more historical fantasy novels are making their way into YA, which is always a welcome addition. The tides seem to be turning in that direction when it comes to fantasy with recent entries like GRAVE MERCY and DARK TRIUMPH by Robin LaFevers and CHANGELING by Philippa Gregory.
Those readers looking for an epic romance novel will be disappointed, while the ones who want a book more focused on the story will rejoice. There's a little romance, but much later on, and I expect it to be more of a focus in future titles. Greenfield chooses to focus on developing Lucy and preparing her for a meeting with destiny, as well as creating a backstory of the persecution of all Chantresses. She builds a state of array for London and features citizens longing to break free of the horror of Lord Scargrave and his Shadowgrims
CHANTRESS is certainly an ambitious novel. The scope of a Chantress is vast and intriguing. At times, there's a lot of info-dumping that can be hard to wade through, creating more Tell than Show. The sequence where Lucy begins studying how to properly be a Chantress leans tedious. At the same time, future books will likely be more focused on action since we already know all of this information. While CHANTRESS ends cleanly and can stand completely on its own, there are two more books to come. Those looking for a book that doesn't have any sequels can read this and feel satisfied, but those wanting more will be happy as well. Greenfield has achieved a good balance here, and it will be interesting to see where she takes Lucy in future books. ...more
Underwater-themed books are always at the top of my reading list. There's something about them that captivate and enchant. When I saw the gorgeous covUnderwater-themed books are always at the top of my reading list. There's something about them that captivate and enchant. When I saw the gorgeous cover for SURFACE, I was bewitched and couldn't tear myself away. The cover is a siren itself, so it's only fitting that the novel is about a girl who discovers that she's a siren. Sirens in SURFACE, however, aren't the variety we're so used to seeing. They are the result of the relationship between a human and an Artagasian, forbidden, and condemned to death before they're even born. Their blood is special, and their existence must be prevented at all costs.
Theia has grown up with her human mother, never dreaming that forbidden blood courses through her veins. She thinks the birthmark she's had on her shoulder since birth is ugly, yet it's also the key to her birthright. When she's kidnapped from her home and dumped in the ocean, Theia quickly learns that she's far from an ordinary girl. She's Artagasian, able to breathe both on land and underwater. She was supposed to die as a child due to her parents' forbidden relationship, but she was saved, and she and her mother have been living inland, far from the sea. Now that Theia's identity as a Siren has been discovered, however, humans and Artagasians alike hunt her, coveting her blood, and willing to kill to get what they want...
Looking for action, adventure, romance? SURFACE has a little bit of it all. I would have loved to stay beneath the sea longer to learn more about the Artagasians, but look forward to seeing more when LANDLOCKED comes out this summer. The concept of Sirens and the abilities coursing through their blood was innovative; I haven't seen this before in mermaid lore, and you know I've read a lot of these books. The Artagasians also have unique abilities I haven't encountered previously, and the fact that they have legs and not fins reminds me of FATHOMLESS by Jackson Pearce. I would love to learn more about this in the future as well. Artagasians are separated from mermaids in SURFACE, and the mermaids are more like unintelligent animals, at least in the glimpse we've currently seen of them. They're vicious and brutal, which is how I genuinely feel that wild mermaids would actually be. They remind me more of the deepsmen from IN GREAT WATERS by Kit Whitfield or the larva from Sara Porter's Lost Voices trilogy (LOST VOICES, WAKING STORMS). They are darker, scarier, and I hope to see them again in more details come LANDLOCKED.
For all the intrigue around Tiffany Daune's world-building and unique lore, I do wish there was a little more, and look forward to a second book. There is a case of insta-love in SURFACE, which is always a pet peeve of mine in YA fiction, though Daune does take the time to create a reason for this later on in the book. I'm also not a fan of love interest Luc's materialistic sister Celeste despite the fact that we read from her POV at times, though she is a catalyst with a purpose in the novel. There could definitely have been a little more character development, but since so much focus in SURFACE is on world-building, I fully expect to see powerful characters in LANDLOCKED, even as we delve deeper into the underwater lore of Daune's world. There's so much potential with this series, and I'm looking forward to seeing where Daune takes readers next. ...more
THE CADET OF TILDOR, Alex Lidell's debut novel, was everything I hoped for and more. When I first heard about the publishing deal, I was intrigued. TaTHE CADET OF TILDOR, Alex Lidell's debut novel, was everything I hoped for and more. When I first heard about the publishing deal, I was intrigued. Tamora Pierce meets G.R.R. Martin, really? I'm not sure that it's too similar to Martin, but there are strong threads tying Lidell to Pierce, and I mean that in the best way possible. In high school, two of my all-time favorite series were the Song of the Lioness quartet and the Protector of the Small quartet. In both, Pierce creates strong female heroines who stand alone among boys as they go through school to become knights and serve their kingdoms. Pierce's heroines Alanna of Trebond and Keladry of Mindelan would be great friends were they to come across Lidell's Renee de Winter, and rightfully so. If you're a fan of Pierce, and especially of these two series, you will absolutely adore CADET.
Unlike Pierce, who takes readers on adventures from the very first year of training, Lidell drops in on senior year. Renee used to be at the top of her class, but now, she's fallen to the bottom, no longer as strong as the boys. She wants nothing more than to become a Servant and serve the Crown, making sure to train extra hard to build her endurance. Her father tries to keep her home where she "belongs," but Renee defies him, cutting family ties in order to return to school. When she finds out that her new instructor is none other than Commander Savoy, one of her role models, she's excited and idolizes him, but traumatized to realize that he sees her as weaker than her peers. As a plot against the kingdom unfurls, Renee must come to terms with her own limitations while still paving her own way and attempting to achieve her dreams.
There is so much to love about CADET, which reminds me of why I love this sub-genre of fantasy so much. Fantasy doesn't have to be about sappy romance and eye-rolling love triangles, which I seem to have forgotten after all the like-minded YA novels crowding the genre these last few years. There are so many layers to CADET that each layer pulls back like an onion, revealing something deeper and truer at its core. Renee is so blinded by her dreams and her wants that she's unable to see the reality of the way things are. She'll never excel in life if she can't come to terms with her own limitations and learn to work with them, not against them. She grows in so many ways over the course of the novel, and I truly became invested in her plight.
There are so many characters and settings that on the surface, it seems as though it would be easy to become overwhelmed. In reality, however, everything is well-crafted and bonds together to form a fascinating, gritty story at the underbelly of a kingdom in need of saving. Lidell seamlessly blends right and wrong to the point where readers are constantly guessing and wondering which characters can actually be trusted. It's hard to talk much about the intricacies without giving much away, but I truly love the way this book unfurled. Whenever little things came together, whether I saw them coming or not, they managed to slip into place like a well-greased cog. Even character development was superbly brought out.
While I was always rooting for our underdog Renee, there were characters I went from liking to disliking, and others I had an on-again, off-again relationship with. Definitely on-again by the end, however, and I want more books from Lidell! While CADET easily stands alone, it ends in such a way that more adventures are sure to be had, especially after reading the novel's final line (perhaps one of my favorite lines in the novel, and one I can't share for obvious reasons. It is, after all, the final line!) I'm seriously hoping that Lidell brings us more books in this world and returns all of her characters to us. I wonder if one character will be a villain, if another will become something more, if a third is destined for greatness. Etc, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed CADET and now want to go back and re-read other books with female knights at their core to keep this feeling close to my chest. What a great debut!...more
I've wanted to read POISON since I first saw the book deal write-up and have had my eye on it ever since. It's been one of my highly-anticipated titleI've wanted to read POISON since I first saw the book deal write-up and have had my eye on it ever since. It's been one of my highly-anticipated titles, and I was sad when the publication date pushed from 2012 to 2013. At the time, I hadn't realized that author Bridget Zinn had passed away. I'm actually glad I didn't know until after I read the book because my first thought upon finishing was that I was looking forward to more books in the future. What a promising debut novel! I was shattered when I heard that it wasn't to be. I truly enjoyed reading POISON and hope that this amazing book community embraces it and shares the title through Word of Mouth with friends, co-workers, students...anyone and everyone. This book deserves to be read by fantasy lovers everywhere!
Kyra has studied potions for years, and is especially good at making poisons. Before the book begins, she attempts to assassinate her former best friend--the kingdom's princess. It's the one and only time her poisoned dart misses its mark. Now, Kyra is a fugitive on the run. Only she knows that if the princess isn't killed, the kingdom will be destroyed. But how can Kyra seek out the princess and assassinate her if the army knows what she looks like? Together with the help of a tracking piglet,Rosie, and a fellow traveler, Fred, Kyra will attempt to save her kingdom...even if it means sacrificing herself in the process.
While POISON isn't especially deep, it's fun. It's a little too mature to be middle-grade, but probably falls into the tween category even though it's officially catalogued as a teen title. The novel starts off slowly, but quickly picks up speed, especially as revelations come forward and explain the events leading up to the start of the story. There's adventure, excitement, and romance; everything you could want in a book. And Rosie! I admit that I was a little wary of the pig element but after reading POISON, I have to say: I want a Rosie in my life! She's like a little bloodhound as she tracks the princess' scent with her nose. Rosie stole the show whenever she made an appearance. Zinn did a good job developing her characters and making you feel for them. Everyone has a backstory, even villains, and it was refreshing to see. I really found myself rooting for Kyra, too. I really grew to love her character throughout the book. And Fred! It was refreshing to see a male love interest who doesn't fit any of the tropes found in too many of today's YA novels. He was a sweetheart, and I enjoyed the pace and rhythm of his scenes with Kyra. The writing is fresh and humorous, easy to fall into. Even some of the surprise twists remain just that--a surprise. For readers such as myself who often discover plot secrets too early, it's always exciting to find that element of surprise.
If you're look for a light-hearted, fun-filled, action-packed adventure, grab your favorite bloodhound piglet (Okay, I suppose a cat/dog/ferret/etc. will do...), curl up with your favorite blanket, and embrace the magic of POISON....more
If you're a fan of Norse mythology and looking for something to read, the first book in Susan Krinard's new urban fantasy series may be just what you If you're a fan of Norse mythology and looking for something to read, the first book in Susan Krinard's new urban fantasy series may be just what you need. MIST is an adult novel, so I wouldn't recommend it to a kid looking for a Percy Jackson-esque story (And for that, we have Rick Riordan's own Norse mythology series due out in 2015 anyway!).
Mist was one of three Valkyrie to escape her dying world during Ragnarok. She escaped to our world and no longer holds the same beliefs she once did. She never ages, and has lived through unspeakable horrors such as the Holocaust. One day on her way home from working out, she stumbles into an angry Jotunar (frost giant) and Alfar (elf). She realizes that Ragnarok never happened. Loki is back, seeking Odin's Gungnir, which is in Mist's possession. The only problem? Loki was also disguising himself as Mist's boyfriend of the last six months. The jig up, Loki steals Gungnir and runs. It's up to Mist and the all-knowing Alfar Dainn to follow Freja's will from beyond and save Midgard before Loki brings the real Ragnarok down and destroys our world.
There's a lot of Norse mythology going on here. I'm not as familiar with Norse as I am other mythologies, though I wish I knew more. The book was rich with this information, and brought in many types of creatures and gods. There's so much more to Mist than what meets the eye, and she learns a lot about herself that was kept hidden from her over the centuries, information that changes everything. Her love interest, Dainn, knows more than he shares with her, and at first, he's dislikable, but once readers get a glimpse through his eyes, he becomes more endearing. I also sort of envisioned him as Legolas. Sorry, Orlando Bloom. There's so much world-building going on in MIST, and at times, I question the rhyme and reason of things, but I'm hoping these matters become more fleshed out in future books. MIST is still a great fantasy novel for fans of Norse mythology or those looking to learn more about it!...more
The premise for NOBODY is unique, and upon reading it, even more so. Unlike previous books by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, which deal with creatures seen befThe premise for NOBODY is unique, and upon reading it, even more so. Unlike previous books by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, which deal with creatures seen before such as werewolves, the author now shares her own creation, Nobodies. No, we're not talking Kingdom Hearts-esque Nobodies here. We're talking people that are blink-and-you-miss-them. The book's tag-line? "There are people in this world who are Nobody. No one sees them. No one notices them. They live their lives under the radar, forgotten as soon as you turn away." There is an organization called The Society that finds Nobodies and trains them to be assassins, because only they can slip away unnoticed.
NOBODY is in third-person, so readers get thoughts from both Nix and Claire. Nix was born knowing he was a Nobody. He's been put through torturous training to become an assassin like no other--one who can slip in and out of the world unseen. He believes in his duty to eliminate Nulls, "the ultimate somebodies...soulless, broken monsters. Master manipulators, devoid of human compassion" (pg. 22). Nulls and their psychopathic tendencies sicken him, and when he is assigned a new target to eliminate, a teenage girl named Claire, he doesn't question it. Until Claire sees him. Until Claire questions him. Until he realizes that Claire isn't a Null, but a Nobody like himself. Suddenly, he finds himself questioning everything The Society has ever told him, every target he's ever illuminated. What happens when two Nobodies join forces to stop an evil, corrupt secret organization? Life as Nix knows it will never be the same again.
The amount of detail and creation that has gone into NOBODY is vast. There are Sensors, five-person units where each member is extraordinarily talented in one of the four senses for tracking purposes. The Fade is an in-between place where Nobodies are able to slip in and out of when travelling to pass unnoticed. When touching in the Fade, they can even freeze time. Nulls are dangerous and evil; when we're introduced to a young Null late in the book, it's chill-inducing. And let's not forget Nobodies, who are easy to relate to because everyone goes through a period of feeling overlooked and forgotten, even when standing right in front of someone else. There are so many unique elements to admire in NOBODY. All of the original lore is by far my favorite aspect of the novel. There's a bad case of insta-love, and considering that Nix wants to assassinate Claire, it's not necessarily the smartest decision she'll make when she falls for him. Both Nix and Claire could be impulsive and illogical, especially when it came to one another, which makes sense, because they are teenagers, but at times, it becomes overpowering. Then again, Nix and Claire have never been able to have a normal relationship because, as a Nobody, no one has ever seen them before, so this is one book where these ups and downs actually make sense, because neither knows how to behave. It still gets redundant after a while, but can be overlooked because the story is just so unique. The mystery and intrigue as Nix and Claire unravel The Society's motivations was enough to keep me turning pages, especially as deeper truths about Nobodies, Nulls, and even Sensors were revealed....more
I thought INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows was innovative, but ASUNDER is even more so, blossoming into a powerful, gripping fantasy that's hard to put down.I thought INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows was innovative, but ASUNDER is even more so, blossoming into a powerful, gripping fantasy that's hard to put down. There were so many questions left unanswered in INCARNATE that are explored in ASUNDER, some with dark, horrifying answers. The second book in the Newsoul Trilogy is grittier and rougher; some scenes even gave me chills. Meadows' imagination is vast, and she takes readers on a memorable journey. In a way, there was something fragile I can't name about INCARNATE (perhaps just that it was my first exposure to the world) that made me love it a little more, but ASUNDER is a more than worthy heir, and one that will proudly sit alongside its sibling on my shelf.
Ana is still trying to come to terms with the fact that she is the only newsoul in Heart while everyone else has been reincarnated repeatedly. She learned her existence was a mistake at the end of INCARNATE, and in ASUNDER, she will discover the dark truth about why everyone else's souls repeatedly come back. Because Ana is new, she isn't affected by the same things as everyone else. To her, the fact that the temple and walls of buildings in Heart have a heartbeat is creepy, not comforting. She is able to remember things that slip away from others, especially things that concern their existence. Together with Sam, Ana leaves Heart to explore her deceased father's research and discovers that she's a magnet for Sylph, dangerous creatures that everyone fears. When she returns to Heart, many citizens mistrust her and she is horribly bullied despite the law saying a newsoul is not to be killed. She does, however, have friends willing to back her, ones that are eager to meet more newsouls and incorporate them into their lives. Through ASUNDER, Ana discovers much about herself and realizes she does have a role to play in Heart, especially when it comes to making things safer and kinder for future newsouls...but getting everyone to trust her first is proving to be one of the most difficult tasks she'll face, especially when there are people willing to result to mayhem, destruction, and murder, to stop her.
There are so many elements of ASUNDER I can't talk about without leaving a trail of spoilers. Ana has grown so much as a character over two books, and I can't wait to see what happens to her when the final book releases next year. She's gained confidence and has a better outlook on life, thanks in part to her unwavering relationship with Sam (whom I still adore). She's more in charge of her own destiny now, though she still struggles to overcome the insecurities she's had from a lifetime of verbal abuse and neglect. There are a few devastating, heartbreaking moments in ASUNDER, as well as a particularly memorable one when the truth about reincarnated souls is revealed. We meet new characters, and Meadows is great at weaving together truth with red herrings so that readers never quite fully trust anyone, making them feel a lot like Ana herself does. A whole new, startling array of possibilities, is opened up, and I have no clue where Meadows is planning to take us next year, but I'm already anticipating the journey.
And the romance. Let's just stop and talk about the romance for a moment. I love the way romance is handled in the Newsoul Trilogy. In a way, it reminds me a lot of the Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth (also from the Katherine Tegen Books imprint of HarperTeen, no less!). Too many YA novels out there deal with insta-love or rely on love triangles or feature unhealthy aspects of a relationship that are treated as good role models for teens. With both of these series, the characters get together in Book One and are still together in Book Two. Many series would find a way to rip the characters apart again until the final book, but both of these insist on finding ways for the couples to work out their problems. There is so much work that goes into a real relationship, especially once the initial period of attraction wanes, and both of these books show the level of commitment needed to have a strong, working relationship. I applaud both of them, as well as HarperTeen, for creating such healthy examples of a good relationship!
I, for one, greatly enjoy the depth of Meadows' world and all of the elements she brings together. She reveals something stunning toward the end of ASUNDER that will really start the third book (still untitled, though I have a guess with a 5% chance of being right...same with the cover, lol) rolling. I'm also eager to see more innovativeness from Meadows, which is one of my favorite aspects of her writing. A year feels like a very long time to wait!...more