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review 2018-12-10 00:49
Compelling, with a Caveat
Gone Too Soon - Carlson, Melody

Whew. This is a tough one to review, because of the subject matter itself and because it’s difficult to discuss without giving spoilers. The first half of this book is very dark. Although there are important peripheral characters, the main characters are sixteen-year-old Kiera, her mom Moira, and her recently-deceased older sister Hannah. Kiera’s part of the story is told in the first person and Moira’s in third-person limited point of view; Hannah’s story is told through diary entries. As such, the reader is really placed into the mind of each character, and let me reiterate: it’s very dark, especially for the first half of this novel. On the one hand, this really makes the experience realistic and enables the characters to come alive and evoke sympathy, but…maybe it’s a bit too much for too long.

The target audience for “Gone Too Soon” is young adult, and as an adult reading this, I would categorize it as mature young adult or even adult. I loved that this became a story about redemption and coming to terms with grief, with all of the baggage that involves: shame, guilt, anger, depression, etc. However, I feel the need to add a major caveat here. A large percentage of this book is not a feel-good story, and it’s not meant to be. This is about a family truly coming apart at the seams, and it is anything but pretty. It is raw and real, and the first two-thirds or so of the story could be included in a manual about how not to deal with grief. There are plenty of unhealthy coping mechanisms, and for this reason I would issue a trigger warning for suicide, rape, and drug and alcohol abuse. There are no graphic details, but the mindset of the characters are described thoroughly. Given this, I would only recommend this book to those who are looking to help people who are dealing with grief and/or those who are looking for a heartfelt read but who are approaching it from a stable mental health perspective. The later part of this book, about the resolution of the plot, could be helpful as a Christian approach to grief. My main bone of contention with the book as a whole is that while I found it to be an absolutely compelling read and loved that it dealt with real-life issues and brought in a Christian perspective in a realistic, non-preachy manner, I feel that the darkness was too heavy without any whispers of hope for too long before any relief entered the narrative.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.

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review 2018-12-06 23:56
Blanca & Roja: Or, the Snow White/Swan Lake mash-up you didn't know you needed
Blanca & Roja - Anna-Marie McLemore

Everything Anna-Marie McLemore writes is gorgeous. I know that's not much of a review, but I'm tempted to just leave it at that. If you haven't read her books you should. And if you have then you know what to expect. This book is beautifully written, with characters that made my heart ache, and a story infused with dreamy surreal magic. It was lush, lovely, and worth savoring. Oh, and it's a Snow White, Rose Red, Swan Lake mash-up, if that speaks to you. And if re-tellings aren't your thing don't sweat it - this one has enough originality it stands all on its own.

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review 2018-12-03 01:56
Joan Of Arc's inspirational life story shines through in this unique novel told entirely in verse
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc - David Elliott

This book is exquisite. ‘Voices: The Final Hours Of Joan Of Arc’ has brought life once again to one of the most unforgettable and extraordinary female warrior icons. Everyone knows her name, but do they know her story?

 

Told in verse, in different medieval forms of poems, ’Voices’ is so unique (some stanzas are shaped like the subject that is ‘speaking,’ ie the sword or the crossbow). David Elliott has written such a compelling account of Joan’s short life from her beginnings in Domrémy, to her visions of the Saints, the battles she led against the English, and her eventual capture and execution. The encroaching ‘Fire’ poem that repeats throughout the novel is particularly clever and impactful.

 

Back then in 1430 France (when she was captured and put on trial), Joan was viewed with suspicion and as an affront to the Crown because she dressed in armor and wanted to ’look like a man’. She didn't believe she should have to stay at home ’to sew and mate’ when a war was being fought, simply because she didn't want to, never mind her sexuality. Her story has always been known as one of the earliest examples of a woman standing up against misogyny, against a patriarchal system that didn't make sense to her, and because her beliefs simply wouldn't allow her to sit down and accept what was happening around her.

Joan’s voice and perspective come through clearly in the novel as brave and courageous, with the right bit of stubborn. She questions the system and pursues her objectives, which give the novel an obvious ambiance of inspiration throughout. I only really wanted more from the novel when it came to the trial and perhaps the very end of her life.

Joan became a Saint after her death and was declared a martyr for everything she gave for ’God and country’. I did appreciate the epilogue and author's note at the end of the book; it seems this work was a labor of love and I enjoyed reading about its inception.

 

Joan of Arc is a historical figure who is infamous because of the brave, short life she lived, with such a tragic death, and I think Elliott has written something brilliant here that can draw many people in to learn more about her.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/40796139-voices
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review 2018-11-14 22:44
This Monstrous Thing: Or Steampunk Frankenstein
This Monstrous Thing - Mackenzi Lee

I've been putting off writing a review for this book because I still can't figure out what to say about it. It's steampunk Frankenstein, so if that sounds appealing to you then snap it up post-haste. If you're not a steampunk fan, well, know what you are getting into.

 

Lee does an excellent job evoking the past in all her books, and this one is no exception. The interesting thing is that she infuses her world with machinery and mechanical men. It almost has a cyberpunk quality in that so much of the book is concerned with the divide between machine and man, and at what point when adding machinery and subtracting flesh does a man cease being human. It's an interesting direction to take the story, and there are also some astute comments of disability and social standing.

 

Where the book flagged for me was that I went into it wanting a story about brotherhood, and to watch these two brothers grapple with one another throughout the narrative. However, much like the source of inspiration, the two spend most of the book separated and only clash at the ending. This is all well and good, it's just not the story I wanted. While the book spent lavish detail and time exploring other characters and locales I found myself frustrated that it wasn't spending its time on things that interested me more. It doesn't feel fair to be critical of a book for not being what you want it to be, especially when it does a fine job in every other respect, but here I am.

 

If you dig steampunk you will likely enjoy this book. If you like historical fiction with a twist you will likely enjoy this book. If you want to read an interesting re-telling of Frankenstein you will also likely enjoy this book. If you want a story of brothers at odds with one another, and an exploration of their relationship, this will likely not hit the mark for you.

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review 2018-11-14 02:52
Swashbuckling Adventure with an Enchanting Twist
Daughter of the Pirate King - Tricia Levenseller

 

 

Audience: Young Adult

Format: Audiobook

 

We're outnumbered. Outgunned. Seven of my men lie dead on their backs. Two more jumped overboard as soon as they saw the black flag of the Night Farer on the horizon.

 

- opening paragraph

 

Seventeen-year-old Alosa is not only the daughter of the Pirate King, but also a captain of her own ship, and a powerful fighter with more than a few tricks up her sleeve. She allows herself to be captured in order to complete a mission for her father - to find one-third of an ancient map which leads to a legendary treasure.

 

Alosa is a strong, smart, fierce fighter, and she has a secret which can bend any man to her will. I like her character, but she seems a bit cocky at times and I couldn't figure out why (until the reveal). I love that Riden (the first mate of the pirates who unwittingly take Alosa prisoner) is clever enough to see through most of Alosa's tricks. Their rivalry makes it impossible for them to even imagine liking each other, but they can't deny they are both clever and strong-willed.

 

Alosa is easy to root for. Her relationship with Riden sometimes seems a certain disaster and other times seems meant to be. This book is well-written, exciting, and filled with action and unexpected twists. Even during the last battle, things happen that you won't see coming.

 

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a high seas adventure with a strong female lead - young adults and adults too.

 

 

 

 

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