Genre: Middle Grade

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Mar 18

Forget Me Not Review

Book Reviews 4 ★★★★★

Forget Me Not ReviewForget Me Not by Ellie Terry
Published by Feiwel & Friends on March 14th 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Modern
Pages: 336
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars

A girl with Tourette syndrome starts a new school and tries to hide her quirks in this debut middle-grade novel in verse.
Calliope June has Tourette syndrome. Sometimes she can't control the noises that come out of her mouth, or even her body language. When she and her mother move yet again, she tries to hide her TS. But soon the kids in her class realize she's different. Only her neighbor, who is also the class president, sees her as she truly is—a quirky kid, and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public?
As Callie navigates school, she must also face her mother's new relationship and the fact that she might be moving again—just as she's starting to make friends and finally accept her differences. This story of being true to yourself will speak to a wide audience.

I ran across this book by reading Mishma’s author interview over on her blog, Chasing Faerytales. It’s amazing, PLEASE GO READ. I’ve been participating in the Diverse Reads 2017 challenge, hosted by Mishma and Shelley, and while I had already chosen my March book (still waiting on it to arrive), after I read the preview of this one on Amazon I simply HAD to read it. And oh, look at that! It’s also a 2017 debut novel, so I FINALLY get to add one to that challenge as well!

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Ancient Greeks called the planets

      planetoi

because it means “wanderers,”
and because planets don’t stay

in
one
fixed
place

they’re constantly moving,
wandering between the stars,

like me.

Calliope June has Tourette’s Syndrome. She also has either an extremely heartbroken or extremely immature mother, I can’t decide which. I waffled between feeling sorry for her mom, or being absolutely furious with her. Regardless, Cassie has lived in 10 different places in the past 9 years. Every time her mom breaks up with a guy, they move. With no warning. While Callie recognizes that her mom loves her, she also slowly comes to see that she is also wrong in some of the ways she “shows” her love. I was really happy when, towards the end, Cassie found the inner strength to confront her mother about some of those things.

Callie’s tics cause her a lot of embarrassment. She tries so hard to control them, but that only seems to make them worse. Her consciousness of them and yet the constant betrayal by her body were very eye-opening. I’ve never known anyone with TS and my only real media exposure is the bartender in The Boondocks Saints. It’s sad that there isn’t more education on this condition and that so much fun is made of it. The kids at Callie’s school never thought twice, and even her own mother is embarrassed by it. HER MOTHER! Callie is embarrassed enough, she certainly doesn’t need anyone telling her to try to stop, or hide her tics. Despite all that, she is such a huge-hearted person and continues to pick herself up and continue on. Sure, she has emotional moments – but we all do, and most of us don’t struggle with a health condition that has our own body backfiring on us every second of every day.

I loved the verse in this book – and I am so, SO far from being a poetry person. In fact, when I first saw that this book was written in verse I nearly didn’t look any further because of that. But I was intrigued by the concept, and I’ve never read anything that had a character with TS, so I read the excerpt on Amazon and I had to have the rest of the book RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. Turns out that there are two points of view in the story: Callie’s, the verse, and Jinsong’s, the prose. It works beautifully. The verse feels like a stream-of-consciousness narration.

The characters took me back to middle school. Callie and Jinsong are so very real. Jinsong made me angry for awhile, because even though he likes Callie at first he feels too embarrassed by her to stand up for her. It was really sickening…but he grows. He finds his backbone, and his heart, and it’s just the most adorable thing ever.

My heart broke for Callie the entire way through the book. The amount of resilience and tenacity she shows is incredible. Even when the very person who should help her and care for her the most barely gives her the time of day. Also, kids are so, so MEAN. I loved that as embarrassed and hurt as she would sometimes be though, Callie still found it in her to fight back.

“They all have friendship lockets.
Every girl at Black Ridge has one,
except you.”

I glance at Beatriz’s neck.
“And you.”

BURN, baby, burn.

This was a phenomenal book. I really felt like the author put us right into Callie’s shoes. The writing was flawless – not once did I feel jolted out of the story by any sort of author intervention, and the ending…well. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. But it’s worth it! It fits. And there is hope, because Callie is not the sort of person to let her condition or her mother stop her.

There are a lot of quotes from the book that I would love to share. I bookmarked SO many. But I really think this is one you need to go read for yourself. So please, go buy a copy or request your library to buy one!

forget me not review
five-stars

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Mar 14

Review of The Graveyard Book

Book Reviews 6 ★★★★

Review of The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean
on September 30, 2008
Genres: Middle Grade, Paranormal
Pages: 312
Goodreads four-stars

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family...
Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

Another one for my Newbery Award Reading Challenge! Somehow, I had never read anything by Neil Gaiman. The closest I had come until last week was seeing the movie Stardust. Which was…different. This is what sticks out most in my memory from that movie because for whatever reason it struck me as absolutely freaking hilarious:

Ahem. Yes, I might have the sense of humor of a 12 year old, at times. ANYWAY. This was my first foray into Gaiman’s works, and it definitely won’t be the last. I thoroughly enjoyed this middle grade novel, and hope that his adult books are just as entertaining if not more so. So without further ado, I present my review of The Graveyard Book!

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There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

Well, if that’s not a hair-raising beginning I don’t know what is! The first chapter was very creepy and just odd enough to make me suspect that something more than just a mass murder was afoot. Thankfully for the target age range, this chapter is by far the most creepy and the rest of the book is mostly adventures and Bod (the MC) growing up.

How you interpret or read this book is going to be greatly effected by how familiar you are with its inspiration, which was Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The resemblance is clear but the characters and setting are SO different and I love the way Gaiman wove in supernatural legends to the basic story of a child raised by ghosts. While all the events of Bod’s growing up years are connected, many of the chapters read like individual short stories, especially when there are jumps in time as Bod grows older.

Silas, Bod’s guardian, is a character that puzzled me right up until the very end. “Not dead but not alive” is the description given of him, along with a few other things that REALLY should have clued me in but for whatever reason I was oblivious. Even though he is Bod’s ultimate authority, Bod is mostly raised by the benevolent ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Owens, along with many other helpful specters. As it is stated in the beginning, when the ghosts decide to allow Bod the protection of their borders, “It will take a graveyard,” to raise the lost boy properly.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bod’s journey. As he moves through very young childhood towards his teen years, he meets many creatures from outside the world of the living. He talks to people centuries old. He learns things. Gradually, he comes to realize that while the graveyard has offered him protection and care in the best way its residents know how, he will have to leave in order to learn about the current world outside. Leaving though, is full of peril, because the evil that killed his parents and older sister, still seeks after him. Bod however, is not a shrinking violet.

“Well,” said Bod. “If I go outside in the world, the question isn’t, ‘who will keep me safe from him?'”

“No?”

“No. It’s ‘who will keep him safe from me?'”

A confrontation looms closer and closer, and at last Bod has his chance to avenge his family and reclaim his own life. This is the one part of the story that I really felt unsatisfactory. Though in the end, the reason for the murder of Bod’s family and the attempted murder of Bod is somewhat explained, it’s really a very murky, insubstantial reason that left me squinting at the book and thinking, “That’s it?” The ending is rather bittersweet too, as Bod realizes that, with the world safe for him at last…he must go out to seek his own fortune.

Overall, this was an entertaining coming-of-age story, with a unique twist. Bod is a very plucky little guy, and his spirit made me smile all the way through.

Bod said, “I want to see life. I want to hold it in my hands. I want to leave a footprint on the sand of a desert island. I want to play football with people. I want,” he said, and then he paused and he thought. “I want everything.”

“Good,” said Silas.

 

four-stars

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Feb 18

Review of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-4

Book Reviews 0 ★★★

review of a series of unfortunate events

I missed the boat on these books growing up. Actually, I think they were published just a little bit behind when I would have been of the age to most appreciate them (yes, I’m old…shhhh). Of course I had heard of them, but when I saw all the hype about the Netflix show I decided to pick them up and of course I had to write a review! My plan is to read all 13 books and review them in 3 posts.

Review of A Series of Unfortunate Events
Series Overview
:

This series is entertaining just for the narrative voice, if nothing else. Mr. Snicker (as narrator), is so dry and ridiculous that while yes, the books appeal to children, the tone is undeniably entertaining for adults. Are they great literature? No, I really don’t think so. Will they be remembered in 50 years? Yes, I think so, because they are so different from the vast majority of middle grade (MG) books.

The first 4 books (all I’ve read of the series, at this point) are all very similar. Set in an indeterminate time after the invention of the car and the telephone but before television and cell phones (I’m leaning towards the 1930s but not sure), the Baudelaire siblings, as we are told “lead lives filled with misery and woe” even though “they are charming and clever.” The actual location varies a bit, but adults are generally stupid and careless or cruel and cunning. The siblings stick together even as various horrible people try to hurt them or steal their fortune (or both). As their parents die in a catastrophic accident at the beginning of the first book (hence the title), the siblings have an enormous fortune, no near relatives, and no intelligent adult to help them or protect them. They fall easy prey to fortune-hunters…a theme that is repeated in all four of the first books. They go through a series of “guardians,” each seeming more horrible than the last, but at the end of the 4th book it looks like something might be changing as far as their living situation goes. To be honest, that is the main reason I’m going to continue on with the series, just because they were all so very similar.

The narrative voice in this series is as previously mentioned, very distinct. It breaks all the rules. It interjects into the story – sometimes with 3rd person omniscience, sometimes with random definitions of words. Like this:

This is one reason many lawyers make heaps of money. the money is an incentive – the word “incentive” here means “an offered reward to persuade you to do something you don’t want to do” – to read long, dull, and difficult books. The Baudelaire children had a slightly different incentive for reading these books, of course.

I think in this way, the author manages to use some words that middle grade readers wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with. It works, surprisingly – though as an adult reader I found it a bit annoying. The narrative voice is also the constant voice of doom and gloom, though with such wryness I found myself chuckling.

The series is not a realistic fiction series. I read several negative reviews that obviously took it as such, and I think that’s missing the entire point. The appeal of these books is that they use gross exaggeration to make points and to be funny. The characters are not supposed to be people you would meet on the street. They are grotesque exaggerations of people. Yes, we can all see elements of our crazy ex-boss in Count Olaf or Mr. Poe. But no one in the real world is that overtly-obtuse or evil. There are also made up creatures in these books – a dead giveaway that while they are set in a familiar world for readers, they are not in fact events that could actually happen.

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Review of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-4The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1) by Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist
on September 30th 1999
Genres: Middle Grade
Pages: 176
Goodreads three-stars

Dear Reader,
I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.
In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.
It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.
With all due respect,Lemony Snicket

The Bad Beginning as a title does not exaggerate. These poor kids, let me tell you. It starts off with introducing us to the Baudelaire siblings – Violet, Klaus, and Sunny – just as they’ve lost their parents. Their solicitor, Mr. Poe, is a well-meaning but incredibly thick man who has no idea how to care for children and truly seems unable to see past the end of his constantly dripping nose. The siblings go to live with the evil Count Olaf, who is somehow VERY distantly related to them (how is it their parents have SUCH weird distant relatives and no near ones?) and cares nothing for them except how to get his hands on their money, as their deceased parents were quite wealthy. They move into his horrid house, where there are treated as little better than slaves. There is some comic relief, and also a consistent ray of sunshine in the form of Count Olaf’s neighbor (who, despite being well-meaning, is just as dense as every other “good” adult in this book).

The siblings are far from being normal children. They are all extremely gifted in some form, even Sunny – who is still a baby but is able to both communicate and act on a much older level. Violet is an inventor, and Klaus is a devourer of books and therefore just a general compendium of knowledge. Are they believable? Hardly. But neither are the adults.

The dark, twisted tone of this book really surprised me. This is for children!?! There are elements of abuse of the Baudelaire kids on all kinds of levels, twisting of the law in the worst possible way…and yet, the siblings refuse to be put down and refuse to give up. They stick together and eventually overcome the evil…but the evil is still lurking…and Mr. Poe is just as dense as ever.

Review of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-4The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #2) by Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist
on September 30th 1999
Pages: 192
Goodreads three-stars

Dear Reader,
If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I'm afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don't be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.
In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the appearance of a person they'd hoped never to see again.
I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

The Reptile Room starts off (after the necessary doom-and-gloom letter from the narrator, of course) on a much better note for the Baudelaires. At last it seems they may be going to live with someone who genuinely cares for them and has their best interests at heart. BUT WAIT. Let’s not get too carried away. This is, after all, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and indeed they do seem to be the MOST unfortunate of children.

Soon after they arrive at their new home – another relative, this one a eccentric but lovable scientist, disaster strikes and they find themselves being hunted by the horrible Count Olaf once more. Only of course, since they are children and have been greatly traumatized, no one believes them. Because why would you? 😛 Naturally, things go from bad to worse and the children find themselves in a desperate fight to avoid being kidnapped right under the nose of the law. Sunny, the little rascal, plays a very important part in this one – eliciting a few eyerolls as somehow she manages to have the mental compact of about a 7-year-old in the body of a 15-month-old, but you know. Realism isn’t the point here. 😉 In the end, they narrowly avoid Count Olaf once more.

Review of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-4The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #3) by Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on February 25th 2000
Pages: 214
Goodreads three-half-stars

Dear Reader,
If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted; but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and this one may be the worst of them all. If you haven't got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signalling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably fill you with despair. I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

The Wide Window takes place far and away from the first two books, in a reclusive town and even more reclusive house with, you guessed it, yet another unstable distant relative as guardian for the Baudelaire children. This time their guardian, Aunt Josephine, isn’t even actually related to them, but is their “second cousin’s sister-in-law.” Who just happens to be terrified of everything. The dock. The lake. The oven. She never eats anything hot for fear of getting burned by either the oven or the food. However! She has an intense passion for grammar.

“Grammar is the greatest joy in life, don’t you find?”

Being something of a grammar freak myself, I found her constant corrections and horror at bad grammar to be quite entertaining and that in itself is the reason this book received a slightly higher rating than books 1 and 2. It really was hysterical at times, and plays an interesting part in the story.

Of course this wouldn’t be an A Series of Unfortunate Events book without, well, you know. Horrible bad luck. Of course these kids can’t catch a break and when a “Captain Sham” (hahaha ok, Lemony Snicket, you must have had such fun naming characters) shows up with an unhealthy interest in the children and all kinds of sweet words for Aunt Josephine, the terror begins. Once again (I since a recurring plot) the kids are forced to fend for themselves due to the incompetence of their adult guardians, and once again after a great deal of running around and close calls and horrible things happening to certain people, they manage to escape.

Review of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-4The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #4) by Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist
on April 15th 2000
Pages: 194
Goodreads three-stars

Dear Reader,
I hope, for your sake, that you have not chosen to read this book because you are in the mood for a pleasant experience. If this is the case, I advise you to put this book down instantaneously, because of all the books describing the unhappy lives of the Baudelaire orphans, The Miserable Mill might be the unhappiest yet. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumber mill, and they find disaster and misfortune lurking behind every log.
The pages of this book, I'm sorry to inform you, contain such unpleasantries as a giant pincher machine, a bad casserole, a man with a cloud of smoke where his head should be, a hypnotist, a terrible accident resulting in injury, and coupons.
I have promised to write down the entire history of these three poor children, but you haven't, so if you prefer stories that are more heartwarming, please feel free to make another selection.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

Whoo-boy, here we go – The Miserable Mill picks up where The Wide Window left off, with the Baudelaires going off to yet ANOTHER guardian, this one the most mysterious and incomprehensible yet. Things are getting extremely repetitive at this point, so much so that I was tempted to not read this one. But the books are so easy to get through and so FAST to get through that I persevered.

This book gives a new spin to the Baudelaires mistreatment – they actually ARE slaves in this one, for the most part! Thrown into a sweatshop/poorhouse type sawmill, they are used and abused and try to hold each other together. Hope seems to be slipping away from them as they are too exhausted to do anything at the end of the day. But then Klaus breaks his glasses and has to go see the “optometrist.” And all is not as it seems…because nothing ever is, for these kids. Of course no one believes them when they say they are being stalked. Of course no one sees anything wrong with 3 children working in a sawmill – actually, someone does, but has no guts to do anything about it, typical of the “good” adults in these stories. In the end, they of course barely escape per the usual. However, this time, the ending doesn’t have them going off to another relative, it has them going somewhere else entirely, so maybe the next book will have a change in plot. I very much hope so because I really think even most children would be bored with these by now.

three-stars

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Feb 09

Review of Waterless Mountain

Book Reviews 0 ★★½

Review of Waterless MountainWaterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 12th 1993
Genres: Historical, Middle Grade
Pages: 212
Goodreads two-half-stars

Winner of the 1931 Newbery Medal, this is an authentic novel about an eight-year-old Navaho boy's training as a medicine man. This deeply moving and accurate account of one young Navaho's childhood and spiritual journey is filled with wonder and respect for the natural world--a living record of the Navaho way of life before the influence of the white man.

This is my first Newbury Award winner of the year! I need to get on this challenge, I’m already behind! So here’s my quick little review of Waterless Mountain, by Laura Adams Arner.

My first issue: I feel like that description or blurb is very misleading. “A living record of the Navaho way of life before the influence of the white man.” Um…I don’t see how that is accurate at ALL, when several of the main incidents of the story involve a slightly condescending but kind white man who runs a general store near the Navajo family. So what exactly is that blurb about? Hmmmm? Anyway.

This book was first published in 1931. The style of writing reflects the time, as it’s very slow-paced and nothing at all like the fast moving, action packed chapter books and MG novels of today. It’s thoughtful. There isn’t very much dialogue. I think that most middle grade readers today would lose interest, sadly. The subject matter is fascinating, but it’s not really presented in the most fascinating way. :-/ There’s a brief conflict that doesn’t even begin until the book is more than halfway over, and even that is resolved almost immediately and when it is, it just happens off somewhere else and Younger Brother (the main character) isn’t even involved!

The characters are not really fleshed out very well at all. I liked Younger Brother’s way of looking at the world, of his respect for all nature, of his desire to communicate with it, but I felt like the rest of the characters were very two dimensional and rather stereotypical.

Supposedly the view on Navajo culture presented in this book is pretty accurate – according to some white scholars in the 1930s. The book is written by a white woman. Which is all fine – you don’t have to be a member of a nationality to write about it – but I think the #ownvoices movement has sensitized me somewhat to people outside a culture writing about it, and I really object to the covert racism here. For instance, when the Navajo family makes a trip with the white store owner, to another store, the narrator says that “his father was curious but dared not go outside the door.”

I think the Newbury Award judges were trying to expand children’s view of the world by even selecting a book that portrayed Navajo culture in a positive light. I really do. However. Most white people at the time weren’t even…aware isn’t the right word. Racism at that time wasn’t looked at as anything particularly wrong, it just WAS. That doesn’t make it any more excusable, but from the point of view of a white intellectual in the 1930s, this book was probably a shining example of equal opportunity. So that said, I wouldn’t really recommend this for modern classes or kids, except as maybe an example of how racism creeps into even well-intentioned (?) writing. With all that going on I found it a little difficult to find things I liked about the writing, even if there was nothing particularly wrong with the style.

“I know this much, Little Singer. There are secrets we cannot name, songs we cannot hear, and words we must not speak.”

I did really enjoy how Younger Brother has such a respectful connection with nature. It’s not just him, but the rest of his family as well. At one point the narration mentions how even the youngest child isn’t afraid of bees, because she has never learned to be afraid of them. This was a real lightbulb for me. How many times are we afraid of something because we have seen someone else express fear?

Overall, 2.5/5 stars. When I initially finished I felt a little more forgiving, but the longer I think about it the more irritated I become by all the issues, especially the racism masquerading as not racism.

two-half-stars

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Jan 21

Mini Review of Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper

Book Reviews 0 ★★★

Mini Review of Silver on the Tree by Susan CooperSilver on the Tree (The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Book Five) by Susan Cooper
Published by Listening Library on February 26th 2002
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Goodreads three-stars

The final volume of Susan Cooper's brilliant and absorbing fantasy sequence known as The Dark Is Rising.
The Dark is rising in its last and greatest bid to control the world. And Will Stanton--last-born of the immortal Old Ones, dedicated to keeping the world free--must join forces with his ageless master Merriman and Bran, the Welsh boy whose destiny ties him to the Light. Drawn in with them are the three Drew children, who are mortal, but have their own vital part in the story. These six fight fear and death in the darkly brooding Welsh hills, in a quest through time and space that touches the most ancient myths of the British Isles and that brings Susan Cooper's masterful sequence of novels to a satisfying close.

Notes on the audio version:

Alex Jennings narrates the last of this 5 book series, and I was very glad to have him back as a narrator! I’m not sure why they switched on book 4, and while that narrator was fine, I like continuity. That said, the audio QUALITY on this version was ATROCIOUS. It’s been digitized from cassette tape, I’m almost positive, and it was absolutely horrible. As soon as I started it I knew I was going to struggle through it because it just sounded old and a bit crackly. Ugh.

The book – short review:

I’ve read this entire series by audiobook, and while I enjoyed it, I really think I need to go back and read them as books. Sometimes I would have gaps of days in between my listening within a book, and gaps of weeks or even months between the books themselves, so I got a little confused. The whole series seems a bit un-explained, to me, and I’m really kind of perplexed that I couldn’t get as into it as so many other people. I didn’t like the way the point of view jumped back and forth between the Drew kids and Will, I didn’t like the way the “magic” was never fully explained (at least not to my satisfaction), and I didn’t like the characters themselves much! I was especially affronted by how the female characters are either air headed (Jane) or magical. Why is this series considered to be so brilliant? I really feel like I’m missing something.

Despite that, I stuck it out for the entire series and was fascinated by the setting of Wales and England. I think that, given how short the books are, I will go back and re-read them at some point. I think maybe all my gaps in reading effected my comprehension of the plot. I really don’t think anything can rescue the characters though.

Challenges:

This one counts into my Audiobook Challenge 2017, my 75 in 2017 GoodReads challenge, and my Beat the Backlist Challenge! 😀

three-stars

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Dec 27

Book Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Book Reviews 7 ★★★★

Book Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer DonnellyDeep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
Series: Waterfire Saga #1
Published by Scholastic Inc. on May 6th 2014
Genres: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 340
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads four-stars

Serafina, daughter of Isabella, Queen of Miromara, has been raised with the expectation - and burden - that she will someday become ruler of the oldest civilization of the merfolk. On the eve of the Dokimí ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Sera is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil. But her nightmare is forgotten the next day as she diligently practices her songspell; eagerly anticipates a reunion with her best friend, Neela; and anxiously worries about Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali, and whether his feelings toward her and their future betrothal have changed. Most of all, she worries about not living up to her mother's hopes.
The Dokimí proceeds, a dazzling display of majesty and might, until a shocking turn of events interrupts it: an assassin's arrow wounds Isabella. The realm falls into chaos, and Serafina's darkest premonitions are confirmed. Now she and Neela must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the mer nations. Their search will lead them to other mermaid heriones scattered across the six seas. Together they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.

The Waterfire Saga was brought to my attention by Sara over at Freadom Library! I was intrigued by the mermaid aspect, and they sounded like fun, quick reads with enough substance to keep me from rolling my eyes the entire time. She did say that it was more on the towards-middle-grade side of YA, and after finishing this first book I whole-heartedly agree. I’m not sure why these are even in the YA category other than the age of the characters. Anyway, without further ado, I present my review of Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly!

“You fear you will fail at the very thing you were born for. And your fear torments you…instead of shunning your fear, you must let it speak and listen carefully to what it’s trying to tell you. It will give you good counsel.”

Feels:

Well, to start off with I got a serious case of deja vu.

Thankfully it moves past that pretty quickly. There are some similarities throughout but I think that’s to be expected given the mermaid subject and the intended audience. I loved the emphasis on friendship and sisterhood that is this story. There is no prince on a white horse and these princesses have to save themselves.  In the end that was what really increased the rating for me.

Characters:

The main character is Serafina, the princess of one of several underwater merl realms. While I feel for her as she goes through the massive trauma that is the first several chapters…I never quite connected with her. Her best friend is Neela, the princess of another realm – and I adore Neela. She’s so funny, and warm, and her obsession with sweets is SO relatable. I mean who doesn’t try to distract people from hard things by giving them delicious food?

The other princesses that they collect in their quest aren’t drawn out as fully, but they’re interesting and I want to know more! Ling, Becca, Ava, even cranky Astrid – they all obviously have stories of their own and they are all so beautifully different in backgrounds, their skills, even their appearances. I really like the fact that the sisterhood between them all is the main emphasis of the story. While, yes, there is a prince, and at first it seems like a romance is going to be a main part of the book – it’s not. Several times I thanked all the stars that Sera was not one of those heroines who got completely distracted by her crush from the rest of the world.

Plot:

The plot was all very dramatic…there’s a prophesy, there’s a dream, there’s magic…nothing all that new in the fantasy world. Again, at first I was about to throw the book across the room because it seemed all Little Mermaid-ish…but then people started dying and there was blood and spells and I was ok. Because every mermaid needs a little trauma to grow her up, am I right?

Please excuse my desire for bad things to happen to characters. It’s called PERSONAL GROWTH, ok?

The romance completely takes a backseat after the first few chapters. I have a couple of theories on what happens to Prince Mahdi. I’m really looking forward to seeing if I’m correct in the next book(s)!

Worldbuilding/Description:

Donnelly does an excellent job of creating an underwater world that we can almost see and touch. It sounds lovely and enchanting! Once all the explosions and stuff have died down, naturally. She has invented words and at least part of a language for these books, I believe. There are at least words in another language that I don’t recognize and that is only identified as an “age-old tongue.” So that’s AWESOME.

I didn’t enjoy the constant puns. I’m not entertained by puns in general, so maybe they’re really not that bad. But between the puns and just some awkward turns of phrase, I did a fair bit of eye-rolling.

  • Money = currensea.
  • “Getting our wrasses kicked!”
  • “We don’t swim on ceremony.”

Just stop. No one is going to forget that mermaids live underwater. Seriously. Also, there are several instances where we are told what the characters are feeling. Such as “Serafina was so excited, she was talking a million words a minute,” and “Serafina, frustrated by Astrid’s unwillingness to talk…” I find that style of writing extremely irritating, but it wasn’t so pervasive that I couldn’t skim over it.

Rating:

Overall, 4 stars. Until the last chapter I was pretty sure it was going to be a 3.5 star book, but then that cliffhanger…I’m sold. I’m excited to see what happens in the next book!

four-stars

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