I love peeking at what other people have on their tbr lists because it offers such a great opportunity to find new books. Here’s a look at some books I’ve added to mine. All covers link to Goodreads.
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published August 14th 2012 by Simon & Schuster BFYR
In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.
Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.
As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.
I was really sick after I finished this book, like confined to the bed for five days sick, and for some odd reason, in the delirium brought on by multiple Tylenol 3s, I could not stop thinking about this book. Deconstructing it in my head, analyzing the plot twists and the narrative elements. It almost drove me crazy.
So it was inevitable that I would write a review of this. The cover and the promise of steampunk pretty much guaranteed that I would give this one a try. The novel however was a disappointment. It had the potential but never fully met it. The setting of the novel is interesting. A contemporary London is torn up from its usual haunting grounds in merry olde England and finds itself, rather like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, in an alternate universe. And just like they did in America and elsewhere, they start killing the natives. Only they don’t just kill the natives, they preserve them in museums for the entertainment of all the elites who can afford to go and be entertained. There are firm hierarchies present and social division plays a big role in this society. There are also a gypsy like people who live in abandoned train tracks and who undergo Culling which is a nice and magical term for genocide.
There is a fourteen year old boy, Syrus, who has some magical abilities and there is a fascinating creature, some kind of mythical beast, who holds the fate of their world in her. The synopsis is misleading in that it implies that Syrus and Vespa are the two main characters. And while this is true to a certain degree, it is certainly not the whole truth. There is a very useless, yet strangely intriguing (to Vespa, not me), love interest present. Vespa is one of those protagonists who make you question where she has ever read a book. She is supposedly a witch. Supposedly. The most fascinating and memorable character in this novel is Syrus. The love interest whose name I can’t remember is, if you recall, useless. He does not do anything even though he is full of hot air about doing everything. Even in situations of extreme urgency, he is waiting for Syrus to make an appearance before taking any action. And Vespa, like any good stupid heroine, waits to be rescued by others.
There are so many similarities to Twilight in this one. Apart from the Sparkly. Oh and Edward does not actually marry another girl. The ending is kind of ridiculous with no logic, no backstory, no world building to substantiate the surface claims. The romance is even more lackluster. The main character is not a favourite, she doesn’t even make the top thousand. And I didn’t enjoy this book. At all. I will not be reading the second one.
Published May 8th 2012
Despite her troublesome attraction to magick, Flora Fyrdraaca has — more or less — spent her life doing what’s been expected of her. Yet now, at sixteen, she knows that this path has been strewn with secrets. Secrets have kept her from following her passion of becoming a ranger, of perfecting her use of magick, of proclaiming her hidden identity. But Flora has had enough of living with lies.
Convinced that her true mother, Tiny Doom — long believed to have been killed by the evil Birdies — is alive, Flora becomes determined to find her. Doing so will allow Flora to leave behind the lies her false mother, Buck Fyrdraaca, has told her about who she is. She can shake off the slavish drudgery of being a lowly lieutenant in the Army of Califa. And she need never again speak to her former best friend (and recent love) Udo — he’s become a total snapperhead.
Flora and her red dog, Flynn, are thrown into a journey that takes them to the high seas, onto lawless islands, and into the deadly desert. It’s an adventure filled with pirate battles, magickal encounters, and an unexpected romance with a brooding stranger who reveals himself to be a kindred spirit. And it all becomes far more dangerous when Flora realizes how desperately the Birdies want Tiny Doom — and Flora herself — dead.
This was intense. This was good. This was fantastic. And I don’t say this often. Let’s be honest here. In a series, the books can’t all hold your interest. Sometimes they are better, sometimes they are worst but truly, after three books, I still love Flora as much as I loved her in the first book. It’s rare for me. The world Wilce has created is so vibrant, so alive and populated with such interesting characters that it rivals the Potter universe in terms of amazingness. We see a lot more of the world Flora lives in in this book and it is all (and more) than I expected it to be.
We are also introduced to new intriguing characters, the most intriguing of them being a bear who brings in romantic entanglements into the playing field. We see Flora raging, making decisions in split seconds, looking for answers in places she thought she wouldn’t have to and meeting the mother she thought she never would. The tension and danger in the novel is exacerbated in this novel as the stakes are much higher. The politics is rife and taut with an impending war that no one will deny is going to happen.
Flora’s relationship with the mother she grew up with goes through a series of metamorphoses and I really like where it ends up. I also liked the decisions Flora makes even though they are not always the smartest. The Bear is an intriguing love interest and though Flora’s vacillations where Udo is concerned is rather vexing, I can’t deny that some of it he brings on to himself. While it is sad how their relationship unravels, it makes me wonder who Flora will end up with considering the whole thing that happens between Udo and her. Maybe her sacrifice will make their relationship better in the end – I don’t know. But I am willing to find out.
This brings me to my other point. The series is being marketed as a trilogy. However, after the last book, I cannot see it as one as there are way too many threads left open, there are too many what-ifs and what-nows for it to have ended. So fingers crossed that the series continues. As for whether I recommend this series, do you really need to ask?
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published October 2011 by Peachtree Publishers
Skilley, an alley cat with an embarrassing secret, longs to escape his hard life dodging fishwives brooms and carriage wheels and trade his damp alley for the warmth of the Cheshire Cheese Inn. When he learns that the innkeeper is looking for a new mouser, Skilley comes up with an audacious scheme to install himself in the famous tavern. Once established in the inn, Skilley strikes a bargain with Pip, the intelligent mouse-resident, and his fellow mice. Skilley protects the mice and the mice in turn give to Skilley the delectable Cheshire cheese of the inn. Thus begins a most unlikely alliance and friendship. The cat and mouse design a plan to restore Maldwynwounded raven and faithful guard in the service of Queen Victoriato his rightful place in The Tower, but first they must contend with a tyrannical cook, a mouse-despising barmaid, and an evil tomcat named Pinch. Will the famous author suffering from serious writers block who visits the Cheshire Cheese pub each day be able to help?
The Cheshire Cheese Cat is a lovely tale about the friendship between a cat who doesn’t like the taste of mouse and prefers to each cheese instead and a mouse who can read. Set in a pub in England, the story also features Charles Dickens and several other literary figures, a raven and the Queen of England. There is something so endearing about the relationship between Skilley the Cat and Pip the Mouse that you can’t help but cheer for them to get the most of their lives. I recommend this short read for anyone who wants to read something that will put a smile on their face. It really is sweet, catfight and all.
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Seven Footer Press
Stunning in its simplicity and grace, Mirror is visual tour-de-force that requires no words to tell its universal tale. Author and illustrator Suzy Lee masterfully creates a world where a little girl explores and dances — at first cautiously, later exuberantly — with her reflection in the mirror. When discord between the girl and her reflection surfaces, Lee’s unforgettable story provides a gentle reminder that our actions have consequences. A beautiful book sure to be embraced by the many fans of Wave, Suzy Lee’s Mirror strengthens her growing reputation as one of the most exciting new authors to watch.
I found this relatively short, wordless, picture book to be amazing. The book is about a girl looking at herself in the mirror and the art is stark and somehow so earnest. It presents this fascinating concept of not just looking at yourself in the mirror but also recognizing the image in the mirror as yourself. What if the image isn’t you? Even though it looks like you, acts like you and seems like you? How do you know? And when you break the mirror, are you also shattering? Fascinating sequences and beautiful art! Check it out.
Hardcover, 448 pages
Expected publication: June 11th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Sixteen-year-old Canny Mochrie’s vacation takes a turn when she stumbles upon a mysterious and enchanting valley, occupied almost entirely by children who can perform a special type of magic that tells things how to be stronger and better than they already are. As Canny studies the magic more carefully, she realizes that she not only understands it–she can perform the magic, too, so well that it feels like it has always been a part of her. With the help of an alluring seventeen-year-old boy who is held hostage by a spell that is now more powerful than the people who first placed it, Canny figures out the secrets of this valley and of her own past.
This book is strange and wonderful. And so deliciously different.
Elizabeth Knox is a New Zealander (or as we call them, Kiwi) and Mortal Fire reflects the geographical location of the writer even though the book itself is set in a parallel world where some things are similar but others aren’t. Actually, the book is set in the same world as her Dreamhunter duology though this novel does not speak about them at all apart from a solitary mention.
There are some things I loved about this novel and other things I did not like quite as much.
I liked how dedicated Canny is to her best friend. I like that this dedication is not a mark of her flawlessness but rather her decision to be brave and visit her friend in the hospital every single day. I also really like Canny’s mother who is rather cool and very different from many of the other adults populating YA novels. I like that there is a discussion of racial discrimination even though the book is not focused wholly on that. I liked the portrayal of nature; everything seems lush and inviting, as though the seasons were stuck on later summer and harvest. I liked how peculiar Canny is. She’s different on so many levels.
I moved from Fiji to Canada when I was in grade 12 so I did most of my grade 12 here and the first thing I realized was how grown up kids here are. I re-realized this when reading Mortal Fire because even though Canny is sixteen or so, she still sounds much younger when you compare her to North American adolescents and it made me wonder, does childhood last longer on that side of the world and also, why are our children growing up so much faster? It would make an interesting paper, actually. Maybe someday.
I also really like Finn. I don’t know how much I feel about the Found One but my ambivalent feelings aside, I mostly liked Finn. The mythology is different and fascinating, rather folksy actually, and I liked how removed this is from the rest of the stuff on the market currently. The narrative unravels in interesting ways and things fit into place with an almost audible click.
However, I felt that Knox spent way more time than warranted on the mining incident. I know that it has important implications to the character of one of the main players but honestly, I think Knox delved into it at a depth that wasn’t necessary and that served to slow the pace way down and frustrate the reader at the lack of things happening in the story. Also, the Found One appears rather abruptly and I think readers and the narrative would have benefited from some gradual development where it was concerned.
That said, the book is still very readable. Not everyone will love it but for those who can sit through (or skip) the whole mining details (skim it) and read to the end, will find themselves satisfied by the denouement of the story. I recommend it.
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Harcourt Children’s Books
It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past – and hers?
Enchanted starts off well. The Woodcutter family is diverse and magical and each family member is sufficiently intriguing. The trouble with this book is that the author tried to do too many things all at once. I think she had enough material in this one novel alone for four books and if she had only focused on one story – the frog prince story, for instance – the readers would have had a chance to immerse themselves completely in the magical world she created instead of feeling like they are getting scrambled glimpses of many stories all at once.
I would have liked there to be a slower progression to the prince’s story because there is so much that could have been done with it. I would have rather the author extricated the prince and Sunday from the narrative and start with them again – developing their characters more, showing the prince in his original incarnation so we can see the man he was and we can compare it to the man he becomes after the spell is broken. We would have been able to see Sunday as her own person and not in the shadow of her sister. She seems almost objectified in the story as this paragon of virtue and beauty – maybe this is because we see her so often from the prince’s perspective but we rarely get a chance to be in her head. Why is she so angry with the prince for not telling her he was the frog? Or for that matter, why does the spell break then and not when Sunday is present to witness it breaking?
Back to Sunday’s anger, it seems unwarranted because no matter what the back story, which itself is confused and a hodgepodge, I would think that first and foremost, Sunday would be happy that the man she loves has been restored to his man-shape. Then there are the other sisters who all have their own stories going on – the most confusing one being Monday – is she a princess? Who is her husband? Why is he present only in name? What country do they rule? Or is she a princess only in name? Then again, where is her husband?
The two godmothers are their own stories and then you throw in Wednesday and her arc – argh. Then the king. Then the fae brother whom I actually really liked – another story there altogether. The book is kind of exhausting, to be honest. There are so many threads of so many potentially good separate stories. The novel is not even long enough to accommodate all the stories it is trying to tell. I don’t know you guys. I think I would like to read whatever Kontis reads next because while I don’t doubt her ability to spin a tale, I think Enchanted does not do too good of a job in giving us an accurate glimpse of her true skill.
All of these were taken by yours truly.
So far, I’ve been having a wonderful time in grad school. I’d heard that it was going to be terrible so I was initially prepared to weather the worse but I was pleasantly surprised to find that rather than the hectic classes everyone said to be ready for, I was doing fun classes – they’re not easy and they do demand quite a bit but at the most, they were all fun. So I was happy to do with all of them.
And then, ladies and gentlemen, came the summer term. The 1st summer term at UBC runs for only six weeks. It’s an accelerated course so people do in six weeks what normally you’d do in four months. I’m taking four courses though I may end up dropping one because four seems just the shade of crazy I ‘m not too keen on. This term I’m taking the foundational children’s lit, an undergrad course simply because I have to but it’s online-based and runs for the normal four months. It’s annoying since I’ve already done it once but it’s doable. Then there’s Introduction to Research Methods which is not very fun and rather dry. It’s a core class otherwise no one would have taken it, at least no one in my program. And the chairperson of our program recommended that we take this one specifically which is something I’m grappling with currently because this course is all about APA style and since we’re in a lit based program, we will only use MLA style, both for papers and for our thesis so the professor’s insistence that we learn all things APA does not make sense to me as it has little to no relevance. But that’s the little details.
This class is going to be very demanding. Something due every day of the class. However, I will probably learn enough to swing me off on my thesis which I plan to begin researching in August.
Next term is probably going to be worse since I’ll be fasting but it wasn’t meant to be easy and I’ll push that boulder when I reach it.
School stuff aside, I’m doing a whole host of other things which has a way of eating time. I’m editing for a scholarly journal which is actually more fun than I thought it would be. It’s a volunteer position and it’s teaching me a whole lot about the trade. I’m also editing stories by children which is a paid position and will be mentoring a couple of little ones from next Friday. This is a paid position so yay some money. I’m volunteering at a children’s festival on the 31st so we’ll see how that goes. I’m also working on my novel which I plan to finish at the same time as my thesis. It may sound impossible but I will do it, inshaAllah. I’m also volunteering for Teen Reading Club, an event put on each year in the summer to encourage teen reading. I’ll be a forum moderator so that ought to be fun. I’m also the official twitter person so I get to talk about books to my heart’s content.
Oh, and I’m also waiting for my niece to come to Canada from Fiji. She’s the most gorgeous little thing I’ve ever seen and I can’t wait to cuddle her.
I’m going to be reading. I mean, it’s not like I will stop aesthetic reading though I may do less of it. But I have a 1.5 hour commute to school and from school and that gives me enough time to read at least half or a quarter of a book. I don’t want my blogging to suffer and I’m hoping it won’t but my presence in the interwebs probably will decrease which may result in a decrease in my readership but eh, what can you do?
And that’s all for my grad glimpses for today. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bloody reading to do. -_-
Paperback, 368 pages
Expected publication: May 21st 2013 by HarperTeen
Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.
An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.
After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.
Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.
Natalie Whipple’s YA debut novel is quite a strong one. I enjoyed it. It certainly presents an interesting new premise. Before I started the novel, I thought the invisibility thing was something she could turn on and off so I was a happily surprised when I realized that Fiona McClean is invisible all the time. Even to herself. This may have been the first time I have encountered an invisible protagonist.
The set up is intriguing: a mob boss’s daughter in a world where “special skills” are common, running so her father cannot exploit her invisibility and use her in his war with the other mob bosses. A mother who is addicted to her father who is really satan’s spawn. Nothing soft about this man. More on this later. She finds herself in a new town, meeting new friends and two brothers. I have a soft spot for books that take time to build relationships between family members. I also like it when the romance is not the cheap kind (the insta-love, I mean) and is accorded attention and given time. Cohere. However, I have some complaints about that so more on that later.
I thought that removing the body from the girl would perhaps give us a chance to see a narrative without discussion of beauty and physicality. However, if anything, this magnified the issue and Whipple does Fiona’s desire to see herself very well. I felt her yearning to see what colour her hair is and what her eyes look like – things we take for granted but are actually impossible for her. The pacing is fast and the writing is smooth. There are no awkward transitions and I like the flow of the narrative from one scene to another.
The climax, however, could have done with more work though I appreciate that for once, there was no grand forgiveness scene; sometimes parents suck and it’s totally okay to tell them that they do and no child has to forgive a parent when the parents actions are beyond atrocious and YA novels should probably stop perpetuating that ideal of parents as flawed but ultimately redeemable. Yes, I have an issue with that but we’ll discuss it some other day.
So this book, you guys, it was fun. Entertaining. There were two things I had issues with though:
Do I recommend this book to you? Yes, I do. While it has some troubling aspects, at the heart of it, it is entertaining, fun and dude, it would make such an awesome movie but the movie would probably make the protagonist visible and that would ruin everything. Ah well. I liked the book! I hope you do too.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 1st 2002 by HarperTempest
John (“My father named me after a toilet!”) wrestles with the certainty that no one really knows him not in his miserable home, and certainly not at school. It’s true that no one can guess his hidden thoughts, which are hilarious, razor-sharp observations about lust, love, tubas, algebra, everything. And then there’s his home: his father ran off years ago, so he’s being raised by his mother, who works long hours, and by her boyfriend, whom John calls “the man who is not and never will be my father.” This man is his enemy, an abusive disciplinarian who seems to want to kill John and, in a horrible final confrontation, nearly succeeds.
I’m taking a YA Lit class this summer and the professor included this book in his suggested reading for old school YA. I went into it not knowing anything about the author or even what genre the book is about. I wanted to be surprised. And I was.
I don’t really know how to accurately articulate how wonderful this book is. As I say about so many other novels, it is not perfect by any means but the writing is so incredible it makes up and then some for the little flaws.
Usually, when I am faced with books dealing with realistic situations such as abuse, broken families and neglectful parents, I don’t feel like reading because the pain does not seem worth the payoff at the end. However, You Don’t Know Me sucks you in from the very first page and it doesn’t stop holding onto you until you have reached the very end. Then it spits you out and you are left wondering which earthquake shook your world and why you’re the only one who felt it.
John has a crappy life. A really crappy life. The way he copes with it is by retreating into himself. His observations are so flippant and that flippancy expresses the utter tragedy of his pain so much more eloquently than melodrama and angst ever could have. His sense of self, his identity, his worth, these all have been fractured so much that it is not that we don’t know him but that he doesn’t know himself. He detaches himself from his life, makes himself into this observer who is watching himself getting beaten, his mom deliberately not paying attention to what’s happening when she’s not around. This book is brilliant. It will, if you give it a chance, make you cry and then make you laugh and then make you cry all over again.
If my effusive praise does not convince you, look at these excerpts from the novel and tell me it does not make the breath catch in your throat.
“The piece you have written for us is called “The Gambol of the Caribou.” Now, Mr. Steenwilly, I don’t mean to be critical. What I know about music could be squeezed into a peanut shell, and there would still be room for the peanut. But I looked up “gambol” in the dictionary, and it means to “skip or jump about playfully.” It also means to “caper or frolic.” Caribou are large, ponderous, woolly reindeer. They do not gambol. They do not caper. They do not frolic. And they certainly do not skip. It would be an interesting sight to see a herd of caribou skipping down the tundra, but, Mr. Steenwilly, it would never happen. You could write a piece called “The Caribou Standing Still and Freezing Their Butts Off.” Or “The March of the Caribou.” Or even “The Stampede of the Caribou.” But “The Gambol of the Caribou” is not such a great image to build a piece of music around.” ― David Klass, You Don’t Know Me
“Once upon a time there was a boy who had a life that was not a life. He lived in a house that was not a house with a father who was not his father. His friends were not true friends and basically he had nothing at all going for him. On the number line of boys he was a zero, neither positive nor negative, neither whole nor fractional.
Then one day a princess agreed to go to basketball game with him. Fool that he was, he had a fleeting moment of glee. He thought he could become a musician, a scholar, a romantic figure. But something cannot be made out of nothing…”
You Don’t Know Me, David Klass