Wendy Darling's Reviews > Between the Sea and Sky

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
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May 04, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: pn-sea-creatures, read-2011, huge-disappointments, heroines-wimpy, 2011-publication, cover-fraud, mg-not-ya
Read from November 21 to 22, 2011

Ten (Unfulfilled) Wishes for this Book:

1. If this is was supposed to be a YA book, I wish that the story was more complex, the characters more fully developed, and the dialogue less juvenile.

2. If this was supposed to be a middle grade book, I wish there were no fewer mentions of breasts and men looking at them, fewer mentions of drunken sailors making suggestive remarks, and less focus on the rather insipid romance. Such random lascivious behavior inserts an ugly note into the story for no reason whatsoever.

3. I wish mermaids didn't eat olives and nuts and other decidedly human foods; it just doesn't sit well with me. I also wish mermaids didn't eat fish. While I understand that fish do eat other fish in the wild, there's a certain cannibalism about this scenario that I would think the human part of the merpeople might be uncomfortable with. But okay, if it is absolutely necessary, please give me a reason why this is happening, because in my opinion, it's a little weird.

4. I wish there were more descriptions of underwater life. There are a couple of nice scenes at the beginning, but they're very short and don't really do enough to set the mood. And I feel like you need a good dose of MOOD to set the scene in a mermaid book.

5. I wish Esmerine were a more interesting character. Or that we had at least one interesting character to fall in love with and root for. Sadly, this is not the case.

6. I wish so many YA authors wouldn't make their heroines booklovers. I understand why this is such a prevalent trend, as obviously the books are written by and for girls who like books themselves. But more often than not, it feels forced (Hello Mara Dyer!) and lacking in any real depth or appreciation or breadth of knowledge. Here, the bookloving agenda was pushed so hard that it became somewhat annoying, especially because I kept thinking about the impracticalities of transporting books from the human world to mermaids in a way that wasn't going to damage them. (Silly, but it's true!) The books that are briefly mentioned don't even have any real significance to the story or the characters.

7. I wish there were some sense of urgency to this novel. The quest to find Esmerine's sister doesn't appear to have any sort of deadline and there's never any real danger to any of the characters. Apparently she can take all the time in the world, just so long as she doesn't give up her chastity magic siren's belt.

8. I wish the characters behaved in a way that seemed genuine or interesting or showed an emotional connection between them. Why do Esemerine and Alander fall in love? Why does Dosia fall in love? Beats me.

9. I wish this book lived up to the lovely little fairy tale that was the author's first book, Magic Under Glass. This one doesn't have one bit of that story's charm, and contains none of the imaginative details that made Glass so entertaining.

10. And lastly, I wish the author's Acknowledgements page didn't contain the following passage, which is most unfortunate when the story feels so slight:

I'm sure I wasn't the only young writer who had the Lord of the Rings movie soundtrack on repeat and decided I needed to write a huge fantasy epic with war and tragic death and many points of view. One of the approximately forty plot threads in my attempt was the love story between a mermaid and a winged boy. (This is why you always keep your lousy older writings!)

I think with a little more development and a lot more depth and detail, this might have turned out to be an interesting story. But sadly, in this current format, it's a pretty disappointing read. And the search for a great YA mermaid novel goes on...

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. And advance copy was provided by the publisher.
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Reading Progress

11/21/2011 page 3
1.0% "Apparently these mermaids eat olives." 23 comments
11/21/2011 page 91
38.0% "I'm having such a hard time getting a handle on this book. It feels very young to me, except that suddenly there was a lot of talk about breasts and men looking at them. :-(" 4 comments
11/21/2011 page 197
82.0% ""Now, I've always wondered about mermaids," one of the men said, clearly halfway to drunk, raising his eyebrows suggestively. "They're girls, but also fish. Can't say I've ever wanted to seduce a fish. Why are mermaids supposed to be so much better than other girls?"" 3 comments

Comments (showing 1-50 of 110) (110 new)

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) I just got through this myself and it seemed very simple, superficial. . and then the random fixation with breasts and nakedness. :-\

Wendy Darling Exactly! I don't know who the audience for this book is. (view spoiler)

It's so disappointing, because I really liked her first book Magic Under Glass.

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) Nor me, either. I whizzed through it and went, "Huh?" I just wanted a good mermaid novel. :-(

Wendy Darling If didn't have a galley, I probably wouldn't finish it. I'll probably be skimming before long, too. :(

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) I tried to resist, but once they get to Diels/the mountains I skimmed a bit. It's kind of hard to avoid with this one!

Wendy Darling Hah, I'm glad I'm not alone! And the book is so short, too. You wouldn't think it would feel like such a chore.

message 7: by Crystal (new)

Crystal Cook I hate reading books that feel like a chore. I am in a reading drought right now, haven't found anything that's keeping my interest!

Wendy Darling Aw, I'm sorry, Crystal. I seem to go through phases of finding lots of really great books or lots of really mediocre ones. Hope you find a good one soon!

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) This does not make me happy. :-( I'll eventually read this one, but I'm looking less forward to it now. In the meantime, go read Carolyn Turgeon's book!! You know you want to...best. mermaid. book. EVER.

Wendy Darling It might be best to go into this one with tempered expectations at least, Jennifer. I was really hoping this would be great, and it was so...not. I will read CT's book sometime soon. I'm a little scared, though, since another friend really disliked it. :( No more mermaid disappointment! I can't take it anymore.

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) Did she write a review on it? If so, I want to read it.

message 13: by Kaye (new) - added it

Kaye Aww. I was looking forward to this because I just won a copy. :(

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Despite the exciting premise, BTS&S didn't impress me much either, Wendy =(

Wendy Darling Aw, I'm sorry Kaye! Maybe you'll like it more than I did.

I'm pretty disappointed in this, Mocha. :( I'll have to come compare notes with you after I write my review.

message 16: by Donna (new)

Donna Oh no!! And this is one I've been looking forward to reading....:-(

Wendy Darling I know, so was I, Donna. :( Just don't expect too much, I guess?

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) Wendy, did you read Tempest Rising yet? I can't remember.

Wendy Darling Nope, not yet...

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) That one disappointed me as well...

Wendy Darling That's what I hear. :( I don't know why we can't get a good one. (I'll definitely give the CT book a shot at some point, though.)

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) I think probably my favorite one so far is the one I read all those years ago by Jane Yolen, but it's out of print now. I had to buy a used copy and spent quite a chunk on it.

Wendy Darling Oh really? I'll keep an eye out! I'm in secondhand bookstores quite a bit. More so than regular ones for sure.

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) It's called The Mermaid's Three Wisdoms. If you find it, I will be totally impressed! It's a very simple story, definitely geared toward young, young readers, so just be aware of that when/if you read it.

Spider the Doof Warrior Cool. You used the word "lascivious"

Ceilidh Great review. The book just felt very unsure of what it wanted to be, which really spoiled the potential it had. I do think Dolamore has a wonderful imagination and both this and Magic Under Glass would make amazing Ghibli movies but story and dialogue-wise, it was so empty.

message 27: by Giselle (new)

Giselle Oh I'm glad I'm nor the only one who noticed the book lover trend!! It's in almost ALL the books I've been reading these past months. And... olives!? *puke* I was never a fan of mermaid books so I'm not sad to see this one off my TBR.

Wendy Darling Synesthesia: whenever possible. :D

Thanks Ceilidh--I am at a loss as to who the audience for this book is supposed to be. It's pretty much a failure for pretty much all age groups. I like the idea of MUG as a Studio Gibli movie, though! That would be perfect. I hope the sequel to that one is better.

Giselle, the book loving thing is driving me mad! I don't mind it when it's well done, but I suppose if this element is integrated into the story in a meaningful way, the rest of the book is probably well done to begin with.

message 29: by Giselle (new)

Giselle And just the thought of Mermaids eating fish makes me want to gag a little.

message 30: by Donna (new)

Donna Eeeek @ Giselle! That is creepy! lol. I really like the idea of mermaids, but I have yet to find a mermaid book that I can get more than halfway through. Eventually I will find a great one though! Apparently this one is not it.

message 31: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr This book sounds... weird. But not in a good way. I'm trying to pick which of your 10 (fabulous and intriguing btw) unfulfilled wishes I like the best. I think I like Number 10 the best. If they were all lollies, number 10 would be the weirdest flavour.

message 32: by Shauna (new)

Shauna And the search for a great YA mermaid novel goes on...

I'm right there with you!

message 33: by Taneika (new)

Taneika Lovely review :) I completely agree with point 6. I think Maggie Stiefvate did a really good job of not making books seem like it was being forced and made it part of the actual plot in Wolves of Mercy Falls!! As for worrying about whether the books will be damaged, I'd probably be thinking the same thing!

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) Well, what would mermaids eat, then?

Wendy Darling I know Giselle! I just don't understand why everyone floats around eating fish off fancy trays and no one seems to think it's at all weird or inappropriate.

Donna: same here. I am relentless in my quest. I've gotten some good suggestions lately, I'm slowly making my way through the list. I had such high hopes for this one since I liked the author's first novel. :/

Shirley, I literally winced when I read the Acknowledgements page. :( I feel bad for her, and I'm surprised no one advised that it could be fodder for...unkind remarks.

Shauna, fingers crossed a good one comes along soon! Though I'm not holding my breath...

message 36: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr I gotta be getting me that Lord of The Rings soundtrack
Later I will be dancing to it in my underpants seeing if it inspires me into some epic writing.

If I were a mermaid I would eat Nori rolls, using my own underwater-garden fresh, organically grown seaweed.... umm, was there any nori roll eating in this book btw?

message 37: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Thanks for the review, Wendy. This seemed quite promising, but mermaids are apparently a very hard genre to get right. Hopefully one day we'll get a good one, because they are quite interesting mythology wise.

Wendy Darling Hah, it's weird that I think of such things, Taneika, but I can't help it! I worry about the poor books.

Jen: sea cucumbers? Urchins, clams, shrimp? Exotic made up foods? It just made me a little queasy. And like I said, if they must eat fish, I just want it acknowledged in some way that it's a little sketch. Or just don't talk about food so much! My husband wanted to know if the olives would float away...

Shirley: no nori. Nothing that made any sense, really. But at least she doesn't vacuum!

I agree, Rachel, mermaids are beautiful and fascinating creatures. I still hope we'll see a good one someday. Someday. *sigh* Glad the review was helpful.

message 39: by Taneika (new)

Taneika Shirley wrote: "I gotta be getting me that Lord of The Rings soundtrack
Later I will be dancing to it in my underpants seeing if it inspires me into some epic writing.

If I were a mermaid I would eat Nori rolls, ..."

Now I feel like nori rolls :( and I can't get any at this time in the morning! Shirley, your torture tactics are sneaky...

message 40: by Reynje (last edited Nov 22, 2011 05:38PM) (new)

Reynje Brilliant review, Wendy. I'm partial to the line about "..random lascivious behavior..". Well said :)

(Also, it is crazy that as I read your review, I had the song from that Simpson's episode in my head: There'll be no accusations / just friendly crustaceans / under the sea...?

Well apparently not, huh?

message 41: by Reynje (new)

Reynje Also, I love this review format :)

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) LOL! @ olives floating away. Yeah, I would kind of think so. I don't like the idea of them eating off of trays, either. I don't think they would. I guess I kind of think of mermaids as more of scavengers...

I think you'd have to eat a lot of shrimp or clams for it to give them proper nutrition, so it makes sense to me that they would eat fish. I always pictured them just grabbing one as it swam by and eating it raw. I mean, how would they cook it? But I also get the argument that it would kind of be like eating themselves.

Trust me, I've thought about this topic a lot because I have a mermaid story in the works. These comments are good to read, but also it makes my writing task even more challenging. Especially since no one on this thread seems satisfied with what's already been published.

message 43: by Wendy Darling (last edited Nov 22, 2011 05:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Wendy Darling I love nori. And sushi. I could easily be a mermaid. Although in this underwater world, the fried chicken we're having for dinner would probably pass, too.

Hee, any excuse to bring up The Simpsons is okay by me, Reynje! The one in Australia makes me laugh like a crazy person, btw. ;) And thanks, I felt too aggressively indifferent towards this book to write a properly formatted one, so I thought this list might be somewhat amusing.

Jen, I love that you're concerned about the nutritional value, hah. And I LOVE the idea of them randomly and savagely seizing fish that are swimming innocently by and sinking their teeth into them. Rawr!

Good luck on your manuscript, btw. WE WILL BE WAITING.

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) Wendy, do you have In Great Waters on your TBR? By Kit Whitfield, I think? I need to read that one really soon.

Also, if you haven't read Ingo, it's pretty good from what I remember. I need to re-read it because I don't remember it. It got a little preachy on taking care of the world's oceans and that annoyed me, even if I do agree our oceans are not a dumping ground.

Wendy Darling P.S. But please make some mention of the cannibalism if your mermaids eat fish? It's sort of like mermaids eating...people. :-(

message 46: by Arlene (new)

Arlene Sorry you didn't care for this one Wendy. It hadn't made my TBR mountain yet, so I think I'll keep it that way. Awesome review! :)

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) Oh, trust me. :-) I will. It's already formulated in my head. I think there will be veggie-only mermaids. I haven't written the scene yet, but I know how it plays out. I think you'd probably enjoy it.

Wendy Darling Thanks Arlene! :)

I have both those titles on my TBR list, Jennifer. IGW got 2 stars from a couple of friends who read a lot of mermaid books, though, and I am not keen on "preachy." Sooner or later I will try them all.

Vegetarian mermaids? Just so long as they aren't preachy, hah. ;)

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) No, they aren't. They just get grossed out by the idea of eating something that resembles themselves. :-)

Wendy Darling EXACTLY! Your mermaids apparently have some common sense.

And not to harp on this subject, but this is from the author's GoodReads review of her own book:

About eight years ago, I was working on this big epic mess of a never-finished novel. I wasn't very good back then at outlining or understanding what the core of the story was, but in hindsight, the core was the story of a mermaid and a winged boy who were childhood friends that met again later in life.


Again...not great things to put out there unless your novel is rock-solid. Much of this lack of planning and insubstantial thought shows.

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