Now, I love Lisa McMann. I’ve read every single books she’s published, and both of her heroines, Janie anPut another one on the board for Lisa McMann!
Now, I love Lisa McMann. I’ve read every single books she’s published, and both of her heroines, Janie and Kendall, have made my list of the Top Ten Girls in YA. McMann is awesome at creating a world that feels real and implementing paranormal elements. Going into this book, I knew it would be different for three reasons: this book is written from many POVs, but mainly boys’ POVs; this book is intended for middle-grade kids (so not quite children’s, not quite YA); and it’s a combination dystopia/fantasy story. I’m prepared for all of these things, because McMann writes in a way that will make anyone seem normal and real.
However. This book starts out really rough. We don’t even know why the Unwanteds are unwanted until much later. Alex’s parents immediately forget about him after The Purge. We don’t get any sense of what Alex’s life was life before he was Purged. I realize the story is about Alex’s journey post-Purge, but it would have been nice to get a little window into his home life. We do get a little bit of that later, but it’s really jarring and unsettling watching families just shrug and walk away as their children are taken away to be killed.
Alex does journey, too. This is really a coming-of-age sort of tale and Alex has to fight his preconceived notions and prejudices throughout the first half of the book. Alex is different, and he chafes at the restrictions placed on him, even though he doesn’t understand the restrictions. His friends begin to learn magic, and one in particular, uses it against him as pranks. There’s typical teenage romantic angst, and while I rolled my eyes at a lot of their antics, I wasn’t taken out of the story. These teenagers act like young teenagers, and I like to roll my eyes at them to piss them off. Nothing makes a fourteen-year-old speechless with rage like rolling your eyes. Alex grows up too. He learns that family ties are not unbreakable, and he begins to develop better judgment of character.
There’s a war looming, and it comes fast and hard, and I skimmed most of it. Lisa McMann or not, I don’t like fantasy fight scenes. I skim for dialogue and that’s about it. You sort of know what will happen before the battle starts, but the book reminds you that the fighting is far from over.
I liked this book a lot. Like all McMann books, it’s a quick read and engrossing from the (almost) beginning. Alex is a sympathetic character, and instead of raging at him when he did stupid things, I felt sorry for him and related to him. Let it be known, though, that this book will draw a lot of Harry Potter parallels, which I don’t think is fair. Harry Potter is not the be-all, end-all of YA fantasy, and hey, at least the teachers don’t abuse the children like they do at Hogwarts! (Don’t come after me. I spent like fours hours refreshing the Pottermore site the other day. I love it, you love it, your mom loves it, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.)...more
Really quick, this is the only link I could find to buy this book. The ISBN is invalid, according to most sitesOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
Really quick, this is the only link I could find to buy this book. The ISBN is invalid, according to most sites, and others just don't recognize the name or author. Weird, right? Maybe it will become more widely available after the publication date? Also, longest summary ever, right? Jeez. However, anything with a sentient cat has won me over before I've even begun, if I'm honest. This cat, Pokos, reminds me of Grimalkin from Maguire's Wicked Years novels: blunt, forward, and not really that sensitive. Catherine herself sort of starts off badly. She sneaks out of her palace, gets robbed, and is clotheslined by a branch while fleeing. Pokos eats her horse. She is not a happy camper. From the third chapter, I suspected she had some kind of precognition; she mentions very realistic dreams more than once. This apparently has to do with being around Pokos. They pick up another girl, Bessie, in a village and end up running from Catherine's betrothed, the Candlewax King. I liked him, Cyril, the Candlewax King. He's very haughty, and he and Catherine are off to a bad start, but I think it'll get better. There's a lot of action in the first part, which I appreciated. Infodumps are no fun for anyone!
I'll admit to first being annoyed that Catherine disguises Bessie as Princess, because I just felt like I already knew the ending. I won't spoil it though. It was just extremely awkward reading about Cyril picking his way around Bessie, while assuming Catherine is a servant boy. Cyril is drawn to Catherine-as-Kenneth in a way that makes reading kind of cringeworthy. I even skimmed most of the detailing-the-landscape-of-Candlewax parts, just hoping someone would figure it out and stop it. I am put out of my misery after only a few chapters, but man, how I writhed. Things work out though, and Catherine continues on her journey. We meet The Betrayer, as well, but I won't spoil his identity. I'd also like to mention that the trodliks remind me of the Diggers from the Bone World series. They were gross in those books and they're gross in this one too!
Another thing that's gross? When Catherine and her party arrive in Cinna, she "immediately dislikes" a beautiful, confident-looking woman with a tight bodice. Lovely. There's going to be a Man Stealing Whore in this novel, that was my first thought. I was wrong about it in this instance, but it's not uncommon. I need to rant about it. Look, people, women can be ugly or beautiful, dainty or not, and still be nice people! The tightness of the bodice does not reveal a person's nature, so can we just stop with this bullshit trope? It shows up in every YA book that has ever existed (okay, that might be hyperbole) and I am sick of it. Not every story needs a woman out to steal the protag's man, and really, it's unrealistic. Bah. Granted, Julia isn't working alone and she wasn't trying to steal Cyril either, but there is only so much "instant dislike" between female characters that I can take, you know?
I skimmed so much description in this one, but I still liked the way it was written. Catherine wasn't overly sheltered or annoying or too stupid to live, and the plot didn't really drag at all. It's pretty vanilla when it comes to the Catherine/Cyril romance, too. They wait forever to kiss and there's no way we're getting even a fade-to-black. Which is fine. I guess. I just liked Catherine and Cyril a lot as people, and they got over their issues really quickly (especially for YA). Catherine does her own thing and Cyril doesn't want to "contain" her or anything. They fall in love. It's nice. They have some sweet scenes that I enjoyed reading.
In all, I liked this one. It's sweet and descriptive, with a real plot and a back-burner romance. Plus, it's legit fantasy, and I love that. This one comes out tomorrow, so be sure to check it out if you're so inclined....more
First of all, the page designs on this thing are beautiful. I stared at them for awhile every time I reached aOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
First of all, the page designs on this thing are beautiful. I stared at them for awhile every time I reached a new chapter. The summary is pretty self-explanatory. We follow Ruby Rose, the girl with two first names, as she tries to solve a murder that has been pinned on her janitor father. She and her friend, Rex, seek out of the help of an old recluse they call “the Window Lady.” There was something different about this book that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at first, but I think it’s the lack of dialogue. That’s not a problem for me; it was just something I noticed when I compared it to other MG/YA novels in my mind. That’s not to say there’s no dialogue, but it is sparse in the very beginning. I liked it. It was almost lyrical sometimes. Another thing I liked about Ruby when I was first introduced to her is that she appears to have OCD. I can relate, Ruby, especially with the constant counting (hers are three and one, mine is six or eight). I did find myself wondering if this world is dystopian or not, but I was never quite sure.
I get a little bit of a Harriet the Spy feel from this one, and I like that! I loved Harriet when I was a kid, so it’s cool to watch a more modern version investigate. When we meet the Window Lady, or Mrs. Whitmore, properly, I decided I liked her. She wanted to help these two kids even though she’s a recluse who doesn’t leave her apartment. She wants to help Ruby clear her father’s name. I like that. She’s an unlikely hero, Mrs. Whitmore. You know what else I like? The racial implications in chapter eight. Before this, I wasn’t sure if this book was just a silly story about a girl detective, but the “Go take an English class, Raoul” (p. 68) line really got to me. In a good way. A way that makes you think. That’s around the time I got really interested, and this book became really fun to read. The only thing that continued to bug me a little was the dialogue! At first, it’s so sparse as to not exist, but in the middle of the book there’s so much slang I don’t understand that the dialogue becomes hard to read!
Eventually I figured it out and I enjoyed the book a lot, but there was so little backstory. You learn about Ruby in bits and pieces, and the rest in crumbs. You don’t learn Rex is Jamaican until almost the end of the book. We never learn anything more about the setting, other than Ruby and her dad live in a 1000+ apartment housing project. So this story isn’t really character-driven, and I could definitely tell the author is a science writer in real life. There’s some chemistry talk that went right over my head (I’m a psychology brain, not a chemistry brain) but it was still enjoyable. The science talk happens in maybe two chapters, so it’s nothing overwhelming. In all, I liked this one. It was cute, and the kids were resilient and bright. I thought it was a nice little read for middle-grade students and absolutely no romance! I think this one is worth a try....more
I love middle-grade! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m nearly done with my undergrad degree in SpeciaOriginally published at Nose in a Book
I love middle-grade! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m nearly done with my undergrad degree in Special Education, and lately I’ve been really interesting in finding good middle-grade novels for my future classroom (here, let me recommend two MG novels by Laura Amy Schlitz, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair and The Night Fairy) so I just really wanted this one when I saw it up on NetGalley. Plus, it’s got a little history thrown in there, which is always a plus when choosing novels for a classroom! This one starts off with a little backstory before we meet Colophon and the modern day Letterfords. Colophon’s family sounds stifling, with a rigid seating hierarchy at Thanksgiving dinner and a strict rule that ownership of the company passes to the eldest child only. Her family is rich, owning a huge home with its own library. Colophon is twelve and has her own laptop. None of this stuff bothered me, but I was kind of amused by all the stuff in the Letterford mansion, the formal way her family spoke, and her interactions with her brother. Plus, I love a good black sheep, and Cousin Julian fits the bill quite well.
As we got into the mystery, I found myself liking Colophon more and more. Where at first she seemed annoyingly inquisitive (a common trait among intellectually gifted children), she later seemed charming and precocious. I started to really like both her and the little mystery she’s solving. While Mull Letterford, Colophon’s father, is trying to save his family’s publishing house in Georgia, Colophon herself eventually travels to London to get down to business trying to find the hidden family treasure. The relationship between Colophon and Julian is fun to watch unfold, because Julian has been almost outcast his whole life. I found it amusing that his way back into the family’s good graces was his twelve year old cousin.
As the book goes on, it becomes increasingly obvious that someone is trying to sabotage Mull’s reign as head of the publishing house. Colophon’s main suspect is her father’s recently reappeared cousin, Treemont. I felt so sorry for Mull during his scenes, but even his catastrophes are humorous (to us, at least), keeping a whimsical air about the whole thing. During all of this, Colophon is with cousin Julian in Stratford-upon-Avon, and while the clues fall into her lap a little to easily, the story is cute and fun, and the mystery is easy to follow. Colophon’s brother, Case, who seems like an insensitive jerk in the beginning, turns out to have some depth in him after all. This one was a quick read, but I enjoyed it immensely....more
It’s that time of year again! You know, late September, you’ve read 70+ books and now you can’t even look at aOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
It’s that time of year again! You know, late September, you’ve read 70+ books and now you can’t even look at a book without feeling stressed and nauseous? Or is that just me? To cleanse my palate of angsty supernatural YA, I’ve been immersing myself in… supernatural middle-grade. All the fun and adventure without the romance! Perfect! (I’ve also been reading the Ruby Oliver novels, which are so silly and have almost no plot.) This one really doesn’t disappoint either! Maya is a precocious thirteen year old with divorced scientist parents. Her mother is often out of the country and her father has bad luck with grants. She likes colors and connecting them to emotions and she draws in her notebook. She’s super smart and makes connections in her head that I’m not sure I would, plus she has this vast storage of esoteric knowledge gleaned from her scientist parents. She makes for an interesting narrator, which is good considering the book is written in first-person. It’s always a sad day when being in the protag’s head makes you hate them more.
The story gets going pretty quickly, and there’s only a little bit of fact-finding before they reveal the mammoth is fake. I like Maya’s interactions with her father, who sounds like the coolest dad ever, and her adventuring with Kyle, who she doesn’t immediately swoon over. I was dying to know what was actually under the ice during this period too. Dying! I had no idea this story would be fantastical (obviously I am not very good at closely reading summaries), so I was really happy when I discovered there’s a teensy bit of magic in this one! Oh, and something I thought was cute (and entirely contrary to my own thinking), but Maya is okay with the icy tundra being a mammoth graveyard, but it makes her sadder to think of the people the ice might encase. I’m personally sadder for the poor mammoths. Let me segue here into something I didn’t really like: the stereotypes. Russian man tied to the mob and illegal drugs, mystical indigenous women in Alaska, stiff and formal Japanese man. Those characterizations lacked the depth of Maya or Kyle or even Randal.
HOWEVER. The mystery is great and so is Maya. When they unearth their prize, strange things start happening, including very realistic dreaming. Maya goes out one night into the snow and discovers cool things that will spoil you, so I won’t elaborate, but I ended up reading bits and pieces of it to my boyfriend, that’s how much I liked those scenes. I always like storylines that show how much adults root themselves in what’s “real” and forget about magic. Only children can see magic because they haven’t yet learned to ignore it. I believe in magic, though maybe not in the way most books use it. No one can shoot light out of their fingers, of course, but that doesn’t mean magic doesn’t happen. That’s probably my favorite part of middle-grade, the magic of being a kid again, even though I almost always figure out the twists before the protag. (True in this case as well!)
Maya gets a little irrational in the last quarter of the book, though I understand why. She wasn’t on equal standing with the rest of the scientists and didn’t really have the language to explain her feelings to them. Couple that with fear she wouldn’t be believed, and her bad decisions can be understood. Things get really crazy at the end of the novel. I liked this one a lot, both for its elements of “real” and for its magical action. Middle-grade at its (almost) best, in my opinion. Check this one out when it comes to bookstores on October 1!...more
Middle grade time again! I got the first Infinity Ring novel from NetGalley last year, and the third Infinity RingOriginally posted at yAdult Review.
Middle grade time again! I got the first Infinity Ring novel from NetGalley last year, and the third Infinity Ring novel from NetGalley this year, and I somehow missed this one, so I went out and bought the ebook. Yay! It’s a super easy read, only 192 pages. In this installment, Sera, Dak, and Riq are in France in 882, and things start off badly right from the beginning, when Dak scales a wall and rocks start raining down on the friends. This time they’re up against Vikings, and while those are my ancestors, I certainly wouldn’t send kids out to deal with them. (Read Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories for a more… realistic historical account of how that usually went.) I was confused off the bat because I wasn’t sure which Viking invasion they were trying to head off (this is less clear than the Christopher Columbus story from the first novel), and they kept referring to “Paris” and “an island” in the same sentence. What? I decided to just sit back and let it unfold, however, since messed-up history is these books’ MO (and eventually you learn that yes, Paris is on an island, it’s own island). And honestly, I’m happy these books are nicer than the real thing, because Cornwell’s novels tend to be full of animal death and other awful things I’d rather pretend never happened. Anyway. Onward!
As someone being trained as a teacher, Dak and Riq’s little rivalry was starting to get on my nerves, but it was understandable, and really, both boys aren’t lacking in arrogance self-confidence. In fact, I thought Dak was a little stupid in this one. He’s eleven, yes, and naturally impulsive, but come on, at least stop and think for a second. He hasn’t so much “been captured” as “walked right into the enemies’ hands.” This, however, proves to be eye-opening not only for Dak, but for the reader. Dak begins to see the Vikings not as a group of fearsome beasts, but as real people just trying to find a place to live and marry. He begins to grow close to them, and he finds an unlikely ally. Meanwhile, Riq and Sera have screwed up royally, and need to figure out a way to fix things.
I was just extremely frustrated with these children, Dak especially, though Sera had her moments. Like I said before, sending preteens to fix history is just a bad idea, and it was really made clear in this novel. Dak is unable to learn his lesson, and he endangers their mission and his friends so many times, he is almost useless. I won’t stop reading, but I hope that by the next book, Dak starts realizing there are consequences to his actions and stops being selfish.
Let me be upfront: I liked the first Infinity Ring book a lot more than this one. I’m not sure what didn’t work for me, as I usually like Viking history, but it just didn’t. Maybe because I know the violent realities of real Viking conquests? I’m not sure why I had such a hard time suspending my disbelief here. I’m usually better at it when it comes to middle-grade. Maybe this one just really drove it home to me how insane it is to send a bunch of eleven-year-olds out to save the world. Still though, this was a solid story, and it moves along nicely. I was never bored while reading. Next up in the series, The Trap Door by Lisa McMann!...more
I immediately liked this one better than the last one, maybe because I love Lisa McMann so much, I don't know. IOriginally published at yAdult Review.
I immediately liked this one better than the last one, maybe because I love Lisa McMann so much, I don't know. I have graduated from disliking to full-on hating Dak though, so maybe that's a bad thing. He has no sense of responsibility, which makes it seem even sillier that a bunch of preteens are saving the world. Kid needs to be sent home. Plot-wise, this (slavery) is a tough subject, because racism is still so rife in our society, no matter what the media tells you. Riq is black, and he is targeted immediately. He is well aware of how precarious his position is, which is heartbreaking because he's just a kid and being born black should not mean one has to always watch one's back. Riq is abducted and sold, and that part was so hard for me to read that I had to take a break for awhile. I know at the beginning of this paragraph I said I hated Dak more than ever, but the solemnity of the whole thing even made him seem better. Or it could be McMann's writing. I'm not sure. Either way, this was the most heartbreaking of the series so far.
I felt so much for all three kids during this one, even Dak, because they're exposed to all kinds of terrible truths about our country and the way we enslaved and dehumanized a whole race of people. Riq learns a lot about his history, but also about sacrifice and the greater good, and I think that was really good stuff. McMann did a great job with a tough subject, and it's presented in an accessible way, so those who know very little about the time period can pick it up easily. This review is so short because the topic is so sensitive, and the story is so good that you should really just read it yourself. Onward to the fourth Infinity Ring novel, Curse of the Ancients!...more
I loved this one, you guys! LOVED IT. I read the beginning of a review for the next book in this series over atOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
I loved this one, you guys! LOVED IT. I read the beginning of a review for the next book in this series over at The Book Smugglers, so I knew I had to pick it up. The tone of the writing is formal but a little mocking, with September as a little bit of an unreliable narrator. This one is biting and funny and heartbreaking, and there’s no clear villain, not even the Marquess. People die, or are taken, or disappear, never to be seen again. The mythology of how Fairyland connects to Earth is lovely, something I haven’t yet seen, and I know my fairies. This is going to be a short review, because so much happened, and what’s important is what September learns on her journey, about others and about herself.
I bought this one, which isn’t something I often do with a book I haven’t read, because I love fairies and dragons and impetuous twelve-year-old girls who are Somewhat Heartless. And I ended up enjoying myself more than I thought I could, even though the ending, while happy enough, made me cry. The imagery of the different places-a town made of fabrics, and one of baked goods-was incredible, and the isolation I felt when September sailed the Sea made me so lonely for her. There’s a cute little love story, or the beginnings of one, in this too, and it is very sweet. What made this novel for me, though, was the writing and the style of it, so I have a few quotes I’ve taken from the paperback edition of this novel. Check this one out immediately, then head over to Tor.com and read the short story about Mallow, The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland — For Awhile.
“All little girls are terrible, but the Marquess, at least, has a very fine hat.”
“It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.”
“I suppose that would be true if the earth were round.” “I’m reasonably sure it is…” “You’re going to have to stop that sort of backward, old-fashioned thinking, you know. Conservatism is not an attractive trait. Fairyland is a very Scientifick place. We subscribe to all the best journals.”
“I…I don’t think that’s how evolution works…” “Oh? Your name Charles Darwin all sudden-true?” “No, it’s just-” “It’s Survival of Them Who’s Best at Nicking Things, girl!”
“I say, let them as wants to evolve do it and soak the rest.”
“[...] Witches present brewed a bouillabaisse of a long and interesting marriage: five children [...] and a friendly sort of unfaithfulness for all involved”
“Oh, Ell! No, no, don’t be dead, please!” “Why not?” said Iago. “That’s what happens to friends, eventually. It’s practically what they’re for.”
““One can always bear more love,” the Wyverary purred.”...more
First off, I want to say that while this book is recommended for grades 8-12, I think it’s more suited toward grOriginally published at yAdult Review.
First off, I want to say that while this book is recommended for grades 8-12, I think it’s more suited toward grades 5-8. I think a lot of older YA readers will find the story a little childish, which doesn’t mean it’s unworthy, just that it reads a little young. Kyra is on the run for trying to poison the Princess Ariana, Kyra’s best friend. After this happens, Kyra is forced to break her engagement to Hal, a fellow potioner. Along the way she picks up Rosie, a “pig the size of a house cat” who helps track down Ariana, who has disappeared. Kyra also meets Fred, a traveler. Kyra is a little annoying in the beginning, mostly because it felt like Zinn tried too hard to make her a plucky, clever heroine, and Kyra doesn’t like animals. What? I am wary of all people who don’t like animals. Indifference is fine, but active dislike is strange (says the cat lady).
So this was a fun little romp, but I had a few issues with it. First, the dialogue was very modern, and it sort of took me out of the story when Kyra used words like “offed” or “cupcake” or “guys.” Second, Kyra was kind of on the dumb side of stubborn. She has a vision, and believes she is the only one who can save the kingdom, but she won’t develop her powers? That made no sense to me. I understand that witches were persecuted in Mohr, but that is a really ridiculous thing for Kyra to do. She fights her visions, then gets one that really scares her and decides she’s the savior of the land? Come on. I couldn’t buy that. Lastly, we are told Kyra is brilliant with potions, but we don’t ever see that. We are shown her using potions already made, but we don’t really ever really see her doing anything genius. Kyra never really grew on me, unfortunately. This happens a lot when we’re stuck in the head of the protagonist, and why I personally enjoy multiple points of view. The best part of the novel, in my opinion, was Rosie, the pig.
I wanted to like this novel, but I really just didn’t. It’s less about poisons than about Kyra learning how to embrace things she doesn’t like about herself. A lot of the dialogue seemed immature, as though everyone talking was ten years old. The mystery wasn’t hard to solve, in my opinion, and I never get the villain right in books. I think I laughed maybe once. It just didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you!
Bridget Zinn died before she could see her book published. It was cancer, and she was way too young. If you liked this novel and read it as an ARC, please buy it to support Bridget and the husband she left behind....more
This is my first 5-star book of 2013! I love Catherynne M. Valente. I’ve added pretty much her entire backlog toOriginally published at yAdult Review.
This is my first 5-star book of 2013! I love Catherynne M. Valente. I’ve added pretty much her entire backlog to my TBR. Her books are written with such elegance, woven with humor and sadness in equal parts, and this novel is no different. September has returned to Fairyland, but things aren’t as she left them. Time moves differently in Fairyland, and it has been years since September last took her trip there, while in Nebraska, only a single year has passed. September is no longer Heartless, which is a good thing, but also opens her up to heartache and betrayal, which she experiences in equal doses. She makes a new friend in a Night Dodo named Aubergine, and meets the shadow versions of many people she knew: A-Through-L, Saturday, and the part of herself she sacrificed to the Glashtyn, Halloween, Queen of Fairyland Below. The shadows resent their counterparts in Fairyland Above, and Halloween is using a terrifying invisible specter called the Alleyman to steal shadows from Above. The shadows are devoted to her, because now they can live like never before, and magic is freely available to the shadows of Fairyland Below. Only the shadows, however; September herself can’t access magic without a book of rations, something she’s familiar with in WWII America. So while she is comforted by the familiar faces of Ell and Saturday, they are not as they seem, and September knows this, but she tries very hard to quiet those thoughts. As Lemony Snicket would say, she’d come to regret that decision.
Halloween has no interest in becoming September’s shadow again, and many of the other liberated shadows want to remain free as well. But Halloween’s siphoning of magic is making Fairyland crumble, and September must stop her before Fairyland merges into September’s world and ceases to exist entirely. September embarks on a journey and meet so many fabulous people. I marvel at the extent of Valente’s imagination. This book made me laugh with its dry wit, tear up with its life lessons (one quote in particular stuck with me and I’ll post it below), and just generally get caught up in the lives of the shadowy citizens and otherwise of Tain, Fairyland Below’s capital. If I thought I loved the first book, I loved this one even more, and I am actually really grateful to Ashley, who gave me her $10 card for Changing Hands in Arizona, enabling me to but this one in hardcover. Seriously. Go out and buy these books. You absolutely will not regret the purchase.
My favorite quote: “September had never been betrayed before. She did not even know what to call the feeling in her chest, so bitter and sour. Poor child. There is always a first time, and it is never the last time.” How profound and true is that? Do you remember your first experience of betrayal? I do. I’m tearing up just reading it....more