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The story: When she was ten, Abbey Chandler was meant to die, but instead, Death took her mother. Five years later, Abbey is still trying to cope with her survivor guilt and dealing with her misguided, but well-meaning father. When someone posts doctored pictures of her and her best friend on an Internet cite, she decides to go with her dad to their family cabin for some alone time, and hopefully to escape the worst of it. But then weird things start to happen, not least of which is Nate, Abbey’s crush of all crushes, suddenly seeking her out and declaring his love for her. Weird, because at the time, Nate is supposed to be climbing mount Denali and <spoiler> since we’re allowed to look through Nate’s eyes as well, we know that at the time, he’s also dying in the snow after an avalanche. </spoiler>
On a Dark Wing is a hard book to get into. Abbey is not your perfect heroine - she’s boy-obsessed, she’s self-centred and she’s kind of a coward. Her best friend, Tanner, who was left paralysed after a bad incident, had a lot more guts than her, and in fact, he was a lot more fun to follow.
But as the book progresses, I admit I kinda liked Abbey. Sure, sometimes I thought she was selfish and honestly a bit TSTL, but who wasn’t at fifteen. And with the spins Dane puts on the story, you really can’t blame her. I wasn’t wild about the altering POVs (first person for Abbey, third person limited for everyone else), but I kinda see why we need it - otherwise, the story wouldn’t make much sense.
I don’t want to spoil much for you, so I can’t tell you exactly what happens, but here are the things that would make anyone disillusioned with YA Paranormal renew their faith - the creepy stalker DOES NOT get the girl. How awesome is that? This book gets brownie points just for that! And it only gets better because the real love interest is bite-your-fist swoon worthy.
Even better, though, is the fact that throughout the book, Abbey GROWS. She advances by leaps and bounds, and somehow, it’s made to look realistic. She becomes very mature as the story progresses, and instead of ignoring her disillusionment, she embraces it to become a better person (for the most part).
Some of the scenes that rang the most true for me, though, were those between Abbey and her father. Dane portrays their relationship realistically, creating a father - daughter experience which is not common in the genre.
What can I say, it is a great book. Even when there are things I didn’t like, it didn’t bring down the experience for me because the overall product was good.
If I had to point out a specific problem, though, it would be the last chapter. I honestly don’t know what to think of it, and it really depends on the interpretation. On one hand, it is delightfully creepy. On the other, it throws all the good stuff I said about Abbey’s character growth into a loop. But given that she’s fifteen, I can’t really fault her.
NOTE: A copy of the book was provided by the publishers via NetGalley.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if all the YA heroes and heroines got together to discuss the times they saved the world?
Jace&Clary: “We stopped our dad from starting a demon apocalypse and then got together.”
Edward&Bella: “We stopped a vampire war after we made a demon baby parasite.”
Bethany&Xavier: “We tripled the visits to our local church!”
Everyone else: *blank stare* “Dude, that is so lame.”
Seriously, our reality has been put in danger so many times that I’m surprised none of those super villains hasn’t succeeded yet. Wonder what would happen when one does?
What I mean to say is that books nowadays need some kind of earth-shattering calamity to get a story going. It takes a special kind of talent to just write a simple tale of a person taking on a journey.
Holly, the protagonist of “Solace on the Road”, literally goes on a journey. She’s been in foster care for years, ever since her Mum had to disappear off to Ireland, but has always dreamt of joining her one day. After her friends from the home start moving on, and tensions begin to arise in her new foster family, she decides that it’s high time she goes through with her plans. She dons a wig, leaves a flippant note and takes off.
As Solace, a slim-slam glamour girl, Holly is able to do a lot of things she has never dared to do - bluff, lie, drink, shoplift. She travels along the A40, from London through Oxford to the shores and even gets on a ferry to Ireland. But the further she goes, the more problems she encounters, and the cracks begin to emerge in Solace’s perfect image.
“Solace on the Road” isn’t a hard book to get into. Unlike most YA books nowadays, it doesn’t need bombastic opening sequences and crazy conspiracies to hook the readers. While on the surface this is a journey story, the intention is only internal - for the most part, it’s Holly and Solace, marching on together, exploring the innermost depths of their heart.
Siobhan Dowd was probably one of the best contemporary YA writers. Ever.
I don’t make that statement lightly, especially considering how little contemp YA I’ve read, but seeing her books, I cannot imagine coming across something that resonates with me as strongly as her books do. I thought so with “A Swift Pure Cry”, but “Solace on the Road” well and truly cemented that opinion for me.
Holly is not an easy person to love. She does not want to be loved. Her only desire is to be together with her Mum again, and go back to the kind of sweet reality she had as a little girl. The grown-up reader would easily see the problem with that and shake their head with sadness at her tragedy…
Except there is nothing tragic about Holly. In spite of the hardships, in spite of the pain, in spite of the fact that her very world is burned to a cinder by the end of her journey, she has a kind of an internal power that drives her forward and makes her shine. She doesn’t slow down and she doesn’t look back, just moves forward, fighting and fighting even when there seems to be nothing left to fight for.
Holly is glorious. I have no other way of describing her.
How can I describe “A Swift Pure Cry”? Certainly not in terms that are often applied to books.
This is the story of Shell, short for Michelle, a 16-year old girl who, in 1984, deals with the aftermath of her mother’s death and the consequences of her father’s drinking/religious awakening. She finds comfort in the friendship of a young pastor, Father Rose, not realizing that their interactions spike a scandal which rocks the community.
Reading the synopsis, I thought of lifetime movies and melodrama and angst (which shows just how much I know). It sets a backdrop for the reader - a devastated, poor family in an even more devastated, poor time, a dead mother, a drunk father, an eldest daughter who has to step up to the role of a caregiver and housekeeper much too soon.
What I didn’t expect was how personal the narrative felt. Shell’s life is confined to the routine, from which she rarely finds reprieve. It’s claustrophobic, stiffling, and very, very scary, seeing her fear, frustration, desperation, and feeling them for yourself. It’s also full of vibrancy and color and hope, and that’s why it’s so wonderful when the ending reflects the positive, and not the negative.
You know, even with my exam lurking around the corner, there’s no heartache a good novel can’t fix.
Why yes, I do believe that. Why else would I always keep a copy of Lips Touch: Three Times nearby? The library is my Tiffany’s, and books are the chicken soup for my dark, twisted soul and right now, Sarah Diemer’s The Dark Wife grounds me when I ought to be nervously leafing through my textbook in the hopes of some knowledge seeping through into my head.
“The Dark Wife” retells the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone… with a twist. Hades is actually a woman.
In case you haven’t cottoned on, I loved this book. I loved the characters, I loved the prose, and I loved the three-headed puppy. And I’m supposed to be a cat person!
That’s not to say that the book is flawless. Like a lot of my friends, I was slightly annoyed at how black and white the characterization was. Although I loved Hades and Persephone and everyone, I felt like maybe a little more moral ambiguity would have made the story even better. After all, the Greek Gods are not quite known to hold a grudge - take Hera, for example. Spends all those years trying to wipe out Hercules, but in the end lets him have her daughter Hebe for wife when he is accepted amongst the gods of Olympus.
Nevertheless, those flaws can be overlooked, and I do think that the novel more than makes up for them when it comes to the world-building and mythology. First of all, this is a retelling of the Hades and Persephone story which stays true to the original, but adds up to it, which as I understand is quite a rarity nowadays. The elements of the story are there: the descent into the Underworld, the pomgranade, we even have a meeting in a field of flowers and scattered petals. However, those elements are changed in a way which fits the story, and I have to say, the symbolism here is superb.
But wait, you say, don’t you love character-driven novels?
Yes, yes I do. And I like the characters here, even if they’re “either, or”. But when it comes to folk tales and myths being retold, I like to give priority to how much the retelling stays true to the original, and not just because I’m a bit of a fairy tale geek. Storytelling is, in my opinion, the world’s oldest religion. Long ago, our forefathers used made up stories to explain what was inexplicable to themselves. It made perfect sense to accredit fire and thunder to a diety, even if nowadays we know how both of these occur. Later on, folk tales were used to explain things and give advise on things which were otherwise difficult to talk about: Red Riding Hood, for example, is a cautionary tale for girls to guard one’s virginity and stay on the path (seriously, you know that a fairy tale is not meant for children when Disney doesn’t make an animated movie about it). Hell, even Shakespere didn’t go easy on the symbolism and morals: “Romeo and Juliet” is not so much a love story than a tale of teenage stupidity and lust.
What I meant by all this is that myths are important, and that they convey important ideas. The way the Underworld is described makes perfect sense to me, because in Greek mythology, while the Gods are fickle, sins do get punished: Sisyphus, for example, or the Danaides are sentenced to eternal fruitless labors. Hell, Hercules’ labors were meant to atone for his sins, not to win him immortality. It’s that evening of the score which reminds us that while the Greek gods were fickle, they were not unjust, and I’m really glad that this was the way Diemer described the Underworld - not as a Heaven or Hell, but an equalizer.
So, in a nutshell: This is a great book with some amazing writing, world-building, mythology and characters. Highly recommended to anyone.
So you think that a world where love is a disease is the scariest dystopia you can think of?
Oh, foolish mortals.
This alternate universe has America in the midst of a devastating civil war (because, you know, the seventies were just too tame), where Czesh alchemists make gold in tiny NY flats, Women (Carter’s caps, not mine) go around sexually harassing men and committing terrorist acts, the desert hosts an ultra-modern technology lab that allows full sex-change operations, but also an animalist poet who prefers pigs to humans (but it doesn’t stop him from keeping a sheared, toothless harem for his enjoyment), and a former plastic surgeon who turned herself into a fertility goddess.
Reading Angela Carter’s books is like plunging into one huge, extended metaphor, which you might need a lot of help to interpret. Her world building varies from fairytalish (The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories) to downright bizzare (The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman). The Passion of New Eve falls somewhere towards the latter category - we have scenes that came either from a sci-fi movie or a drug0induced hallucination. To that kind of world-building, you can go in two different ways - you can either decide that it is not worth your time and abandon the book entirely, muttering about it stretching disbelief like chewed gum, OR you could stop trying to suspend your disbelief altogether, sit back and enjoy the ride.
I did the latter.
Image courtesy of GR.
Where do I begin?
Maybe by pointing out my (quite limited) experience with truly great YA books? Or by lamenting the horrible, horrible trends in popular literature? Or maybe wishing for a time where more YA contemporary was written?
How about I begin with this story and how completely awesome it is? Or maybe with two characters who are just so loveable, so awesome, so absolutely fantastic, I just want to sit down with them in a cafe and talk until dawn?
Amanda “Zero”, is our protagonist - a seventeen year old girl who has been accepted to the college of her dreams, but has to give up when her scholarship application is shot down. She can’t talk to her best friend anymore, and her house is a constant war zone. Enter Mike, the drummer of the band Gothic Rainbow, whom Zero meets at a gig.
And if you think that this is just another rom-com about bands achieving greatness and misunderstood artists getting recognition and problems and home… you would be right, and yet completely wrong at the same time. Allow me to explain - those elements do exist in this book. But unlike “She’s All That”, Zero actually puts them to far better use.
Let me put it this way - in your standard rom-com, Zero would go through some uber-traumatic experience, then get on her feet with Mike’s help, and then meet some gallery owner who totally digs her art and skyrockets her to fame and fortune. This doesn’t happen - not only are there is no immediate artistic recognition in this novel, Zero is refreshingly proactive when it comes to… well, everything. That is not to say that she’s without her flaws - on the contrary, she makes plenty of mistakes, but she recovers from them, and, more importantly, she refuses to take anything lying down.
And can I just say I love it when I see a realistic portrayal of sex and a sexual relationship in a book? Just sayin’.
Mike… what can I say? Have my babies? Or let me have yours, unless Amanda beats me to it. I mean, seriously, if Amanda is refreshing, Mike is, I don’t know, revolutionary, at least as far as romantic interests in YA come. I mean, the dude actually refuses to let his girlfriend have a low self-esteem, and goes about it in a convincing, non-creepy way! Either this is an awesome feat, or I’ve been reading too muck YA Paranormal.
So, great characters, great story, great voice. I have nothing else to say but “Pre-order away!”
NOTE: A copy of this book was provided by the publishers via NetGalley.
Image courtesy of GR.
Linh Cinder is a cyborg - part girl, part machine. Her unique make-up, combined with her adoptive father’s inventions in cybernetics, allowed her to become the best mechanic in New Beijing at the tender age of sixteen. Her talents become so widely known that one day the crown prince himself brings an android for her to fix, and while he tries to make light of the subject, it’s apparent that it’s a very serious matter.
Unfortunately, Cinder’s life is not all roses and sunshine - a deadly plague ravages the Earth, and cyborgs are drafted all over as experimental subjects. When Cinder’s younger sister Peony falls victim to the plague, her stepmother immediately signs her up as a volunteer for the study, even though nobody has survived it. And when the scientists start working on her, it becomes apparent that she is a lot more than you ever expected.
I’ve wanted to read this book for ages!
No, it’s not the hype. Even before. When I started off at livejournal a couple of years back (mostly to write Kaleido Star fanfiction), a friend of mine pointed me towards Marissa Meyer’s blog, and I have been hooked ever since. I read about Cinder and was half in love with it before it was even queried, so is it that much of a surprise that reading the actual book made my head explode?
Well, it did.
How can I even articulate my love for this book? Let’s just say that between this and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I may never read YA the same way again. I mean… wow, just wow!
First of: the characters. So well-crafted, so real! Cinder is an absolute joy to read - she’s smart, she’s strong-willed, she’s realistic sometimes to a fault, and also a little bit romantic. She’s painfully aware of how bad the situation gets, and unlike any other heroine I have ever read, keeps her focus throughout the book. Not once does she let her feelings for Kai overshadow her judgement (or common sense), and while she does acknowledge them, she really does have her priorities straight.
And Kai! I could buy this guy a drink and then listen to him spill his troubles to me all night long. I’m that pathetically in love with him. I mean, he’s just… he’s just like you’d imagine a fairytale prince to be. Totally swoon-worthy, no wonder every girl in the Commonwealth is in love with him. It’s like… he’s a prince, but that’s not his defining feature. Instead, he’s a man, who happens to be a prince, and who tries to deal with the difficulties thrown in his path the best way he can. He’s not a fool - he knows exactly what responsibility rest on his shoulders, but instead of angsting about it like any other male lead in YA, he just deals with it, because there is no-one else who can do it.
Speaking of love, this book gets even more brownie points for having the romance develop at a believable pace. There is no insta-love (although there is attraction) - Cinder and Kai interact many times throughout the book, and each time they discover different facets of their personalities. Their interactions are very genuine, very down-to-earth. It’s amazing.
And it’s not just these two characters - from Peony and Pearl, the stepsisters, to Dr. Erland’s assistant Fateen are well-developed, three-dimensional characters. A very poignant scene in the beginning of the book is Fateen confronting Erland for only testing on young girls, and giving males placebos. It’s a small scene, and yet it makes me go back to it, again and again. Strong female characters are all around the table, and Cinder shines bright amongst them.
But enough about characters, what about the plot, you say? It’s a futuristic retelling of Cinderella, but oddly enough the things it has in common with the Perreaut story are: the poor girl, the step family, and the ball. This book is part fairy tale, part political intrigue, part sci-fi adventure, and let me tell you, it all works fantabulously. There are so many subplots, intricate details and whimsy that make your head spin, in a good way.
So what else is there to say but: read this book. Or preorder it. I promise, it’s worth it.
And if you find it’s not… well… I’ll review “Silence”.
See if I don’t.
Image courtesy of GR.
It’s summer again, which means a lot of things for Kid. In the last year he was kicked out of home, lost a loved one and had his roof burn down (both literally and figuratively). He’s hounded by the police, and isn’t too thrilled when he discovers he’s falling in love again, with a guitarist who answers a long-forgotten add.
That’s not really what this book is about, though. It’s just what I could sum up in two sentences.
Much like its narrator, Kid, Brooklyn, Burning is hard to fit into a particular category. Is it Young Adult or documentary? LGBTQ or not? A coming-of-age story? A music story? The answer is none and all of the above.
While the people and some of the places in the book are fictional, the problems described are not. Surveys that LGBT youths represent the majority of homeless teenagers, which makes Kid’s story not only sad, but horribly plausible.
Also, although I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have enjoyed it, throughout this book I just wanted to walk in there and give Kid a big hug. No particular reason, it just felt like something I wanted to do. His character is really alive - from his background to his experiences, everything rang true and his voice was very relatable. I’m not sure how much of his story was coming-of-age, since he already has been through a lot, but he was yet to draw conclusions from those experiences and grow.
Music also plays a role in the story, but not in the way it usually does in YA. Typical “music” narratives have the events of the book structured around the band’s (or musician’s) road to success (see: Five Flavors of Dumb). In Brooklyn, Burning there are actually two narratives, developed in a parallel manner - the now and the before - Kid’s current life and his story prior to meetign Scout. The music is the thing that links the two narratives together, just as it links Kid with Felix, and then with Scout.
There are some things I didn’t like about this novel, but now that I write this review, I discover that 24 hours later I can’t even remember them.
So, my final verdict? Definitely worth reading. It’s not just because it showcases some excellent characters and some very important questions, but also because it’s a story about love. Love between friends, love between a parent and a child, love between two people which is like no other. And that’s a nice story to tell.
Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publishers for the purpose of this review.
Image courtesy of GR.
This book rips my heart out.
I imagine it’s a very unlikely statement to make, especially if you read the book, and know how it ends… especially if you know me. But there are those stories that hit the bullseye, and in my case, it was this one.
Bria Sandoval is eighteen, and uncertain where to head in life. Not only has her ex made her lose her shot in an art school, she simply cannot draw. Her friends patronize her, and when they pull out of their planned vacation in Europe, she decides to stick it to them, and to escape the Cold War at home, by going on a trip to Guatemala. Things soon spirall out of control, and she realizes that running away won’t fix things.
The reason why this book hit so close to home for me was because one year ago, I was in the exact same place as Bria… well, not in Guatemala, but I was facing a huge change. I was going off to learn something practical, not something I was passionate about. I was about to go into a new country, in a new city, leaving my friends and hobbies behind. Needless to say I was feeling miserable.
Wanderlove is a book about journeys. A lot of people will only see it as a tale of a summer romance, and yes, there is that too. It’s what 13 Little Blue Envelopes should have been - a tale of a girl that goes off on a backpacking adventure, only Bria’s troubles and adventures are a lot more real, thus making her a more relatable character than Ginny. On its own right, it’s a wonderful romance story.
But to me, its merits go way beyond those of a holiday read simply because it spoke to me as a person. One year ago, I was uncertain, and angry, and resentful. Why can’t I be passionate about useful things? Why can’t I fall in love with what I study? I was frustrated, throughout summer and most of the academic year. I still am, in a way. I was angry at the world for not taking my passion seriously, and I was angry at myself for giving it up as easily as I did, which was why reading about Bria was a little like looking in a mirror for me.
And it’s also why I find a great deal of comfort in the ending, and in the lessons learned. Wanderlove isn’t just about finding love while trecking in Guatemala - it’s about perspective, and realizing that life isn’t, in fact, offering you an all-or-nothing deal. And sometimes, for some people, that’s a nice thing to know.
Note: A review copy was provided by the publishers via NetGalley.