Wendy Darling's Reviews > Between the Sea and Sky

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
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Nov 22, 11

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." 27 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. :-(" 6 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 51-100 of 110) (110 new)


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard You see the fish doesn't bother me because even though mermaids have a fin I don't think of them as being like-fish. Plus faeries are so superior in their mindset normally they don't seem like they'd ever compare themselves to something as mundane as a fish.

This felt young to me too and the stakes were just so low. I was like "So what?"


Wendy Darling But but but...they're half human, half fish! But hah, I guess this wasn't a problem for the author, either.

That was really just one small part of the issues for me, though. I agree completely with the "too young, low stakes, and so what?" part!


Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) I've been dealing with my mermaid idea since I was 12. It really is hard to write about mermaids. I'm almost 30, and it's not done yet. I want it to be, but I don't know that even the publishers will be very receptive of it.


message 54: by ♥Rachel♥ (last edited Nov 22, 2011 06:18PM) (new)

♥Rachel♥ That's too bad you didn't like it Wendy. I'm not big fan of the mermaid genre, so it would've had to have been really good for me to read. Great honest review! :)


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard But do faeries think like that? To me they all seem to think very little of humans so I can't imagine how they feel towards fish.

Someday they'll be a good mermaid book surely!


Wendy Darling Yeah, if you're not inclined to like mermaids, this one is definitely not worth seeking out, Rachel. Oh, well.

I guess I never really think of them as faeries, Cassi. But even if I did apply that to the mermaids in this book, somehow I would expect Esmerine to have a little more arrogance and wit and mental dexterity and charm. But I suppose she didn't really have very strong characteristics any which way, and few of the other mermaids really did, either.

And yes, we can only hope we'll live to see the day...


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard I might have spent too much time reading my faerie encyclopedia. And you're right they didn't have any of the traditional faerie superiority complex. In fact they were almost lower than humans, which is weird.


Wendy Darling Cassi aka Snow White wrote: "I might have spent too much time reading my faerie encyclopedia."

That's something I don't hear everyday. ;)

In this encyclopedia--all the mermaids have tails, right? I'm still not over the tailless, Murphy's Oil Soap-using mermaid in Ripple. I fear I never will be.


message 59: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Jennifer wrote: "I've been dealing with my mermaid idea since I was 12. It really is hard to write about mermaids. I'm almost 30, and it's not done yet. I want it to be, but I don't know that even the publishers will be receptive..."

Jennifer,
Don't worry about publishers being receptive while writing. Just write a story you love, and write it well. The perfect publisher will follow. ;)


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Yes all mermaids have tails. Some can change into human, some don't seem to have that ability.

Was she full-blood mermaid or part mermaid? (Some thin-blooded Merrow descendants may not really become mermaids with fins if I'm remembering properly).


Wendy Darling None of that was really explained, Cassi. The girl just swims against her will and sings teenage boys into the sea.

I probably wouldn't have been so hung up on the tail thing if there had been more time spent on her mermaidy activities.


message 62: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana What is it about the mermaid "chastity" belt? As always, my curiosity is easily excited by details like that:)


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Tatiana wrote: "What is it about the mermaid "chastity" belt? As always, my curiosity is easily excited by details like that:)"

I think it's modified from the Merrow legend. They have something (forget the name of it gosh darn it!) that's a red hat that allows them to change between the 2 forms. If someone takes their hat they are forced to stay in human land.

My faerie book seems to lack Sirens so I don't know if it's something else.


Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead My wish...
That I could write reviews like you.


Wendy Darling Sirens get a magical belt, which I believe they cannot give up or else they can't return to the sea. If they do give it up, they no longer feel pain when they walk and the recipient falls under the siren's spell.

It isn't explained very well and it becomes pretty convoluted in the end, because (view spoiler)

But Tatiana, I hope that's the only detail that excites your curiosity, hah!


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard The pain comes from a different type of mermaid. From "The Little Mermaid" legend, not Merrows. That story is much darker than the Disney movie you can imagine.

(I should probably mention I did all these research for NanoWriMo)


message 67: by Tatiana (last edited Nov 22, 2011 07:02PM) (new)

Tatiana Yeah, I'll pass, you've painted a pretty dire picture of it:)

IDK about good mermaid books, but I am looking forward to Margo Lanagan's selkie novel - Sea Hearts. She is capable of creating something unusual and creepy.


message 68: by Wendy Darling (last edited Nov 22, 2011 07:06PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Wendy Darling You're talking about the origin of the author's inspiration, right Cassi? She definitely feels pain in this book, and yes, it appears the author has based her story on a lot of different kinds of mermaids.

I don't really care so much which kind of mermaid lore authors borrow from or blend (although I suppose following one kind of mythology might lend it some relevance), just so long as it's well-developed and interesting and fun.

I have that one on my list, too, Tatiana! Sooner or later there's got to be a good one.

And Michelle, I just saw your comment! Thank you, but I like your reviews just the way they are. :)


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Yep that's what I'm talking about.

I think the good thing about sticking to any particular fae lore is that you have a reason for making choices and it gives you an accepted framework within which to improvise.


message 70: by Andrea (new)

Andrea I tend to picture mermaids living on sailor's blood and souls.

And cherries.


Wendy Darling Hah, if only, Andrea...if only.

I think that's generally best, Cassi. I think a lot of these paranormal book could use more structure.


Nafiza I hear you and I agree. I so, so, so wish it was more complex.


message 73: by papalbina (new)

papalbina oh, no, two stars? i own a copy, dammit!! xDD ok, that will just delay the reading a couple of... hmm... years, probably...

you know perhaps cynthia hand could try mermaids. after the success with angels maybe she could manage mermaids, don't u think? :P


Wendy Darling It's a shame, Nafiza. :( I wanted to like this book so very much.

papalbina, I like the way you think! Cynthia Hand would be a great choice. She could be the author who tackles all the paranormal subjects that we've given up on...


message 75: by Elizabeth (last edited Nov 23, 2011 04:49AM) (new)

Elizabeth May I wish so many YA authors wouldn't make their heroines booklovers.

Gasp! I was seriously just thinking about this yesterday and wondered if anyone else thought the same.

It's one of those instances where I feel like I'm seeing The Voice of the Author. And I honestly think it's an easy method of showing: "My heroine is smart. She's reading! Look at how smart she's being!"

I mean, it's totally fine to have heroines as readers -- it's something a lot of readers will identify with. I just want to see other interests, too.

Anyway, great review!


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Elizabeth wrote: "I wish so many YA authors wouldn't make their heroines booklovers.

Gasp! I was seriously just thinking about this yesterday and wondered if anyone else thought the same.

It's one of those inst..."


*raises hand* There are also a lot of main characters who want to be writers out there too.


message 77: by oliviasbooks (new)

oliviasbooks Jennifer wrote: "I always pictured them just grabbing one as it swam by and eating it raw."

That's how they do it in Sleeping with the Fishes.


message 78: by oliviasbooks (new)

oliviasbooks Jennifer wrote: "Wendy, do you have In Great Waters on your TBR? By Kit Whitfield, I think? I need to read that one really soon."

I do not recommend that one. I read only a third or so, but it was really, really bleak and would appeal only to fans of historic fiction (focus on politically scheming royals).


message 79: by oliviasbooks (last edited Nov 23, 2011 04:52AM) (new)

oliviasbooks ... and Wendy: Thank you for reviewing "Between the Sea and the Sky". I made it leave my wishlist pronto.


message 80: by Brandon (new)

Brandon I think a lot of writers write something because they enjoy it. From your review is sounds like this book would have benefited greatly from a reading group to give her that feedback. Those details allow readers to suspend disbelief. Every time one of those questions pops up, it pulls you out of the story. I have not read the book, but I appreciate the review as a starting writer/reader.


Wendy Darling I don't mind when the book-loving heroine is done well, Elizabeth; I have actually really enjoyed it in several books I've read quite recently. But I do object to it when it doesn't feel genuine to me and is just randomly inserted into the story in a way that sticks out like a sore thumb. But YES the "Look, she's smart!" thing is what I think most of those are aiming for.

Thank you, Olivia--and you're welcome! We must save each other from the lackluster mermaid books.

Brandon, I agree with you in theory. We do know, however, that this book presumably made it past several rounds of edits at least and is released by a good-sized publishing company, so...it's surprising that some of the plot/dialogue/character/focus issues weren't addressed at least. Who knows how some of this stuff makes it through.


message 82: by Brandon (new)

Brandon Wendy Darling wrote: "I don't mind when the book-loving heroine is done well, Elizabeth; I have actually really enjoyed it in several books I've read quite recently. But I do object to it when it doesn't feel genuine to..."

I agree, but I believe authors are responible for their own integrity. C.S. Lewis had the Inklings, a reading group of pros above and beyond the publisher. More authors need groups like that, I think.


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Brandon wrote: "I agree, but I believe authors are responible for their own integrity. C.S. Lewis had the Inklings, a reading group of pros above and beyond the publisher. More authors need groups like that, I think. "

CS Lewis and his Oxford circle of writers. Haven't heard anyone talk about them since college (one of our profs was a Lewis expert).

I think there is also too much fear about being critical out there in the publishing world. It's too close and everyone's friends. As long as criticism is done in a constructive, intelligent, respectful manner I think it improves the quality of books in the long run.


message 84: by [deleted user] (new)

From the way you describe it, the author seems to have an unnatural fixation with breasts, nakedness, and cannibalism (your review still makes me snicker and chuckle). An agenda pushing author, perhaps? Quite disappointing...


message 85: by Sesana (new)

Sesana The idea of books going underwater entirely makes me cringe.

I read Ingo just a few days ago. I also thought that it was rather preachy, and I couldn't get attached to any of the characters, especially the POV girl.


Wendy Darling I saw your review, Sesana! We really must campaign for authors that we like to write a decent mermaid book.

Leanne, it was rather strange to see all that in this novel. It's not as though those things took center stage, but it's enough for that they were included at all in a book that frankly feels rather juvenile/middle grade. The whole tone is just off for me, I'm not sure who the audience for this book is supposed to be.


message 87: by Sans (new)

Sans Damn, another hopefully-this-book-won't-suck struck down.


message 88: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I tend to assume merpeople eat fish; in fact I remember seeing Disney's The Little Mermaid and eyerolling a bit at Sebastian's constant harping on humans' fish-eating, because I figured the merpeople probably ate fish too. But then I just don't think of merpeople and fish being much more similar than people are to any legged animal they might eat. I figure you'd probably have mer-vegetarians who were bothered by it, just like you have vegetarians here, and then you'd have meat-eaters. And heck, regular fish eat other fish anyway.

But everything else sounds awful. I like mermaids but there are so seldom any good books about them.


Wendy Darling Yeah, I don't think you'd have much patience with this one, Sans. I really had to push myself to finish it.

Kelly, that was really just one small part of the book that bothered me. (And I would have accepted the fish-eating if there had just been some explanation/nod to the fact that it might be a little skeevy for some readers, as it was for me. It's like blithely eating humans and not mentioning that it's at all unusual!) There were a lot of other issues, too. I still have my fingers crossed we'll find a good mermaid book someday, though...


message 90: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth May Kelly wrote: "But everything else sounds awful. I like mermaids but there are so seldom any good books about them. "

Mermaids are just so hard to write well, aren't they? Because when it comes down to it, they're half-fish. And, well, characters that only have half human bits are so awkward to write.

So then authors feel forced to go the Little Mermaid route and turn them human. But then that treads a fine line because if I choose a book about a mermaid, I'm not particularly interested in her being a normal human.

Sigh. I'm very conflicted about Mermaids.


message 91: by Sans (new)

Sans Wendy Darling wrote: "Yeah, I don't think you'd have much patience with this one, Sans. I really had to push myself to finish it."

You already know me so well. No time for idiocy. ^o^


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard The only book I can think of (off the top of my head) that goes under the sea and works is the 5th in an adult Urban Fantasy series. One Salt Sea (October Daye #5) by Seanan McGuire and it takes places mostly on land.


message 93: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I loved One Salt Sea! And the little nods to the Little Mermaid tale filled me with glee, without it being an actual retelling.


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Kelly wrote: "I loved One Salt Sea! And the little nods to the Little Mermaid tale filled me with glee, without it being an actual retelling."

The October Daye series somehow keeps getting better. I don't know how she does it!


Wendy Darling Elizabeth wrote: "characters that only have half human bits are so awkward to write."

Hah, I suppose so, Elizabeth. I'm still hoping for a good one sooner or later, though. (view spoiler)

I really have to read October Daye sometime. Your reviews have made me very curious, Kelly--and hearing that one of them is partly underwater makes them even more interesting, Cassi! Hmm. I'm trying to picture how that would work. But I won't ask and spoil it for myself.


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard The October Daye books are good. The first is the weakest (but still good) and they improve with each new book. They are reliable favorites.


Wendy Darling That seems to be the case for most series, Cassi. As long as they keep getting better!


message 98: by Pricky (new) - added it

Pricky How sad...I'm so glad you reviewed this. I did pick this book up at the library a few weeks ago. Read the first couple of pages and was wondering if I should pick it up again. Thank you for helping me make my decision. :)


Wendy Darling Oh, no problem, Pricky! My pain is your gain. ;)


message 100: by Alyssa (new) - added it

Alyssa Uh oh, I've been looking forward to this one! I think I'll still give it a try... Good review!


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