The Beginning of Everything by...1
Between the Devil and the Deep...2
Miss Peregrine’s Home fo...3
Summary: Ezra was the most popular kid in school until one fateful night: a black sedan smashed into his car, permanently injuring Ezra and destroying his tennis career. As senior year starts, Ezra realizes that he doesn’t know who he is anymore; tennis was his identity. So he joins a group of misfits who end up being the best group of friends he’s ever had.
My thoughts: Having watched Robyn Schneider’s YouTube channel for quite some time, I can say that this book is totally her. Or perhaps her channel is a reflection of what she’s been researching and thinking about while writing The Beginning of Everything. She’s made a video about insults that only exist in foreign languages, for instance, and Cassidy uses them frequently. It’s interesting to see these two different mediums blend together. It’s like Robyn’s channel is a little bonus The Beginning of Everything that you can watch in tandem with reading the book.
Anyway, let’s talk about the book! The Beginning of Everything is all I expected from Robyn and more. I can see why reviewers have compared her to John Green: both writers are fond of fast-talking, sharp-witted teen characters, but more importantly both writers give readers smart stories that evoke questions. But Schneider does have a distinct style. Her voice is direct and observant, noting and punning upon little things that another writer might ignore.
There’s this bit at the end when Cassidy throws Ezra a total curveball, and it completely changes the way you read the entire novel. You ask yourself if you hadn’t fallen into the same trap Ezra did, and why.
As for Ezra and Cassidy, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with them. I fell for them individually, rather than as a unit. Both are intelligent, but Ezra uses his smarts for humor, while Cassidy uses hers to relate reality to literature. I loved the insightfulness of them both, and how their differences seemed to sort of work together rather than against each other.
If you’re a fan of realistic fiction, you’ll absolutely adore Severed Heads, Broken Hearts. If the stellar opening pages don’t draw you in instantly, I don’t think we can be friends.Read More
Summary: Violet and Luke are twin siblings living alone in a mansion. Their parents left for Europe a long time ago, and the twins aren’t sure if they’re ever coming back. Money is running out, so Vi and Luke decide to rent out their guest home for extra cash. They have one taker: a boy named River, who looks to be their age. As soon as River comes to town, things start going awry. Children claim to see the devil in the night; people inexplicably start dying. Is there a connection between River and the chaos?
My thoughts: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was a big surprise to me. It sounded like it might conform to the trope of a good girl falling for a bad boy, and loving him obsessively no matter what he’s done wrong. Thankfully, Tucholke plays with this trope a bit. She doesn’t completely subvert it, but she makes it her own.
There’s a growing sense of unease throughout the whole novel, and the reader isn’t the only one feeling it. Vi, the protagonist, feels it too. She knows something’s wrong: she has instincts that kick in and keep her level-headed, for the most part. That’s the biggest way in which Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea avoids falling into the trope trap: the protagonist has common sense, and she pays attention to it.
Speaking of the unease within the book, though—it’s positively excellent. The tension is so strong and worrying that you might acquire an odd feeling in the pit of your stomach (I know I did). It builds to a tremendous moment of complete and utter terror. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea has one of the darkest endings I’ve read in a while. Horror fans, you might want to keep that in mind when considering purchasing the book.
On the whole, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a solid novel. I wasn’t too sold on the romance, nor the development of some of the minor characters, but the creepy atmosphere sucked me in and didn’t let go.Read More
Summary: Jacob grew up on his grandfather’s stories of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children—a house on an island where kids with strange abilities find a haven. When Jacob’s grandfather is suddenly killed, Jacob ventures to the island to see if the stories were true.
My thoughts: I’m fascinated by Ransom Riggs’ use of the word peculiar. It seems very purposeful: he uses this word to describe what others would call superpowers or “awesome abilities.” Riggs uses peculiar to highlight the strangeness of the children in the story, but still ground them in humanity. They’re not gods, they’re not saving the world—they’re just weird kids. And I think by doing this Riggs connects us with the children: everyone has their odd bits, only some are more obvious.
I think a large part of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is about really seeing. We’re so used to seeing what we want to see—in other people, in the events that occur around us—that sometimes we miss out on what’s really there. Jacob is so close to submitting to rationality, but something inside causes him to push through. And what he discovers is fantastic.
This theme of seeing beyond is highlighted through Riggs’ use of photographs: if you look at them through a skeptical lens, then yes, they’ve obviously been double-exposed, tampered with or staged. But Riggs digs deeper and finds a fantastical story within each photo. The way that the photos fit into the story and are tied together is brilliant.
If you’re looking for something that’s absolutely unlike anything you’ve ever read before, pick up Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Ransom Riggs is a master storyteller, both in the fluidity of his writing and in the connectedness of his narrative to the found photographs.Read More
Summary: Liam leads an unhappy life. Everyone in his small town thinks he’s a demon because one of his arms is paralyzed. The only thing that keeps Liam sane is his memory of a girl—Anna—that he met when he was a kid. When Anna returns to Liam’s hometown, the two meet up again and fall in love. But their love is tested by the supernatural creatures that haunt the land.
My thoughts: Ashes on the Waves, unfortunately, falls into the “not for me” category. I enjoyed the first half of the novel, with its focus on the island’s mythical creatures and the town’s history. Mary Lindsey develops the island itself quite well: the politics of the people within the town—their superstitions and their cruelty to anomalies—is vivid. I was actually more interested in the supernatural creatures than the romance between Liam and Anna.
That’s what Ashes on the Waves is, really—an idealized version of romance, in which love overcomes all and survives the test of time. If you take Ashes on the Waves with a grain of salt, keeping its highly romanticized version of love in mind, then it’s a little less of a disappointment. Otherwise, you’ll find it a little strange that a six-year-old boy could spend a day with a similarly aged girl and hold on to the idea of her for years. I couldn’t get past Liam’s obsession—because that’s what it is, at first—and I couldn’t believe in how quickly his relationship with Anna developed.
Ashes on the Waves, it seems, is attempting to create a romance for the ages. But unlike Romeo and Juliet, it takes itself seriously: it really believes that a quickly-developed love is worth dying for. That’s just not my cup of tea.
Another issue I had with Ashes on the Waves was its lack of substance in Anna. She’s the second protagonist, but she’s flat as a board. Her only function is to sweep in and make Liam’s life infinitely better. She doesn’t seem to have any traits that don’t directly relate to Liam. Sure, she has her past, but she’s trying to forget it in favor of her new life with Liam. I wanted more from Anna—I wanted to have something for herself.
So clearly Ashes on the Waves wasn’t my favorite book. But if you’re into epic, tragic romances, you might like it! Like I said earlier, the setting is pretty cool. To each her own, right?Read More
Today I’m part of the Half Lives blog tour! If you haven’t heard about Sara Grant’s latest novel, here’s the scoop:
Seventeen-year-old Icie’s parents have given her $10,000 in cash, a map of a top-secret bunker, and instructions to get there by any means necessary. They have news of an imminent viral attack and know that the bunker is Icie’s only hope for survival. Along with three other teens, she lives locked away for months, not knowing what’s happening in the outside world or who has survived. But one day, Icie discovers a shocking secret deep in the bunker. Are they safe up there after all?
Generations in the future, a mysterious cult worships the very mountain where Icie’s secret bunker was built. They never leave the mountain, they’re ruled by a teenager…and they have surprising ties to Icie.
This high-stakes, original, and thought-provoking adventure from Sara Grant follows two unlikely heroes, hundreds of years apart, as they fight to survive.
Half Lives is grounded in a real scientific quandary Sara read about in Slate, how to communicate the dangers of nuclear waste to future civilizations. Sara said, “The article sparked something in my brain and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The idea that we are creating a substance that will be deadly for tens of thousands of years definitely seemed like science fiction, something right out of a superhero comic book. And then there was the added conundrum of how to communicate with future generations, which most likely will not speak the same language or understand our symbols. Fascinating!”
If you’d like to read the first chapter of Half Lives, click the link below! If you like what you read, you can enter to win a hardcover copy!
Click here to enter to win a copy!
Summary: Canny and her brother venture to a small, remote town in order to interview people who survived a coal mining explosion. As they approach the area, Canny notices things that her brother doesn’t—like the sigils scribbled on every surface. Canny’s perceptiveness stirs up trouble within the town, especially when she begins experimenting with the sigils herself.
My thoughts: Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter books were my absolute favorite in high school, and are still close to my heart today. Imagine my excitement when I found out that her new book was set in the same world! For those who have read Dreamhunter, you’ll notice little Easter eggs here and there. Though the era of the dreamhunters is over, they are still a large part of the Southland’s history.
History itself is a huge theme in Mortal Fire: whether it should bind our current practices to tradition; whether history can be rewritten; and how small town politics are very much imbued with the past. Mortal Fire is also set in the 1950’s, and although it takes place in an alternate reality, some things remain the same, like the stigma attached to having darker skin (Canny is a person of color).
Knox’s writing has a fairytale feel to it, but Mortal Fire isn’t a whimsical book: there is hardness beneath the surface. The darkness of Mortal Fire is more thematic than blatant, which makes for a complex read.
The fairytale-ness of Mortal Fire is, I think, furthered by Canny’s naiveté. She’s sixteen, but she almost reads as if she’s twelve. This contributes to a major theme—being stuck, whether forcibly or by choice—and it also gives Canny a great deal of growing to do throughout the story. Everything in Knox’s books seems to be purposeful, including Canny’s extra-juvenile portrayal.
Mortal Fire is an excellent choice for fantasy readers, especially those fond of complex storylines and devious plot twists. Highly recommended!Read More
I love when a sequel lives up to the greatness of book one! Siege and Storm is just as, if not more, exciting than Shadow and Bone. The story is a bit darker this time around, but the movement of the novel is just as steady as Leigh Bardugo’s debut.
As is common with my reviews of sequels, I’m heading into bullet-point land.
So what did I like about Siege and Storm?
The introduction of a new character. Introducing a new character never fails to help spice up a sequel. Luckily, this new character doesn’t quite start a love triangle with Alina. He stands on his own as a complex and somewhat unpredictable character. When you read the book, you’ll know who I’m talking about. I loved this character’s duality.
The doom and gloom. Second books in a trilogy are often imbued with a sense of hopelessness. Siege and Storm is definitely darker than its predecessor, and it does introduce some major potential obstacles for Alina. But somehow, all this doom and gloom actually helps make the novel more compelling. It sparks curiosity, rather than leaving the reader disappointed.
Alina’s personal growth. This ties into the “doom and gloom” section above. Alina struggles quite a bit in Siege and Storm, and every obstacle causes infinitesimal change within her. I think continued growth (or change) throughout a series is of the utmost importance. Bardugo does this very well.
If you enjoyed Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm will not disappoint. It ends with a game-changing cliffhanger, though, so prepare yourself!Read More
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