2 stars · fiction · young adult

The Radius of Us: a unique contemporary

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the radius of us

author : marie marquardt

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : phoenix

summary :

What happens when you fall in love with someone everyone seems determined to fear?

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground. When a car sped toward them and Gretchen’s attacker told her to run, she recognized a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognize herself.

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores-Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention. But Phoenix didn’t just trade a perilous barrio in El Salvador for a leafy suburb in Atlanta. He became that person — the one his new neighbors crossed the street to avoid.

Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?

Told in alternating first person points of view, The Radius of Us is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over. Most importantly, Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us shows how people struggling to overcome trauma can find healing in love.

review :

The Radius of Us is an important book and an interesting book, but not an entertaining book. By that I mean in a contemporary novel, I usually expect a more gripping plot. Unfortunately this one kept the characters at the distance and didn’t delve as deeply into its themes as I thought it might.

I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it. That’s how I find some of my favorites. But I have to admit that contemporary has always been a hit or miss genre for me; you have to have some speculator writing, characters, and themes for me to read about life as I already know it. Usually I don’t really need someone else to tell me about the world.

But books like The Radius of Us are usually the exception, because this book presents a viewpoint I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in YA literature. The book is told in alternating points of view. Half of the book is told by Gretchen, a teen from Georgia who has a myriad of issues after experiencing something horrible, and Phoenix, a year or two older than her, having run from El Salvador to seek asylum in the US.

Honestly, I might have liked this book better if it was gold only from Phoenix’s POV. So young, having been through so much, and having to face so much more still in Georgia. I understand Gretchen as a counterpoint–a reference US readers might relate to more easily–but her character felt so flat compared to Phoenix. I rooted for him, hoped for him, felt sympathy for him–and Gretchen could only fail as a comparison.

The Radius of Us did succeed in making me determined to read more books from diverse POV, because these different experiences are so important to try to understand through literature. It discusses privilege, racism, gang activity, immigration, and more. All amazing, important themes that the writing just falls flat on supporting.

2/5 stars

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interview

An interview with Yellow Taxi Press

I’m very excited to bring an interview to you all today from the founders of a new and exciting press. What’s so unique about Yellow Taxi Press is its examination of the publishing world and the lack of ‘new adult’ content to bridge the gap between YA and Adult Lit. Co-creators Alyssa and Madeline agreed to answer a few questions about publishing, presses, and what they’ve most recently read.

~~~

  1. Tell us a little background info on Yellow Taxi Press.

YTP actually came out of a class project. We’re both graduate students, and the final project for one of our classes was to come up with some kind of company that fills a void in the publishing industry. As big fans of Young Adult literature, we’ve always wished there was something like YA that dealt with experiences of twentysomethings. There’s of course New Adult, but a lot of current New Adult narratives tend to be very based in romance–while plenty of readers love those stories, they weren’t the kinds of stories Madeline and I were interested in reading.

Yellow Taxi Press was created to kind of bridge the gap between Young Adult, New Adult, and general literature. Months after the class was over, we still found ourselves wishing YTP existed. Readers are craving these kinds of stories, and writers are creating them; we’re just trying to bring those people together.

  1. Why do you think there is such a gap in the publishing industry when it comes to publishing narratives about coming into adulthood (i.e. ‘new adult’)?

I think a lot of that unfilled need has to do with the way more people are “staying young” long. By that we mean that–on average–people are getting married later, staying in school longer, renting apartments instead of buying homes, etc. A lot of the themes of general fiction used to be really applicable to those twentysomething years, but now that time has become kind of a between for a lot of people: not quite “young adults” but not really settled into adulthood yet either.

The way we define young adult and general in publishing hasn’t really gotten around to reflecting that. New Adult was of course meant to, but as I mentioned, a lot of New Adult is really based in romantic plots. While that is certainly a significant part of some people’s twentysomething life, it’s certainly not the only part. With YTP, we’re hoping to explore things like self-discovery, changing family and friend relationships, figuring out how to interact with current events.

  1. What does the Press hope to accomplish by filling this gap?

Young adult books were so important to us in our teenage years. We could see our own struggles reflected in those narratives. With YTP, we’re really hoping to publish stories that readers can enjoy, find companionship in, and see their own lives in.

  1. What do you think readers anticipate from this untold new adult works, both fiction and nonfiction?

One of the great powers of literature is that it lets you into the mind of another person. It’s such a diverse and big world, and there are so many writers telling incredible, difficult, important, stories about this time of life. Hopefully readers anticipate stories that they can both see themselves in and also stories that give them insight into the lives of others.

  1. What are you looking for in your submissions?

A strong voice and good storytelling. Make it unique, and make us keep wanting to turn the page.

  1. What was the last book you read?

I just read I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez and Madeline just read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

~~~

Thank you for joining us here on Caught Between the Pages and sharing more about the press!

For anyone who would like to learn more, you can find all info on the press website, https://www.yellowtaxi.press/.

2 stars · Fantasy · young adult

Monstrous Beauty: a gruesome but disappointing mermaid tale

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Monstrous Beauty

author : elizabeth fama

pages : [hardcover] 295

favorite character : ezra

summary :

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

review :

I love mermaids, and I’m forever searching for my perfect mermaid book. I’m still searching, because Monstrous Beauty turned into a monstrous disappointment.

I went into the book only knowing it would involve mermaids in some way–my favorite way to dive into a book involves knowing as little as possible in advance. In the first fifty of so pages, I was in love. The story alternated between two points of view, Syrenka (a mermaid in the 19th century) and Hester (the typical ‘normal’ girl in a contemporary setting). I liked the disparity between the two POVs, though was more invested in the past (because MERMAID). The prose was good, though tight and plain as sometimes happens with contemporary, even contemporary fantasy.

And then.

Things began to go downhill with the dialogue, when I soon came to realize that no one was saying anything that a normal person would ever say. In the chapters from the past, the language choices could be more forgiving, but Hester and her friends in the present didn’t talk at all like teenagers or . . . Actually, anyone that I can think of. For example, she continuously refers to her love interest as her “lover”, and I can’t think of any teenager who’d do so and wouldn’t immediately burst into laughter afterward.

Then the insta-love. Why must mermaid novels ALWAYS include insta-love? It painfully exists here and even then, it can’t seem to remain consistent. On one page Hester claims she’ll never love anyone else again if she loses her beloved. On the next she muses about whether she’ll live to see her grandchildren. Then again, if she falls in love so quickly, perhaps she falls out of love just as fast.

Then the ghosts. Why were there ghosts? Somehow they fit into this version of mermaid lore that we’re never really given clear parameters on. I love ghost stories (and, contrary to my love of mermaids, have indeed found ghost stories I love). But the mermaid mythology here was complicated enough without introducing the spirits, most of whom seemed completely irrelevant apart from adding a few extra pages of attention and making Hester seem like a bit of an idiot. I mean, she wonders why no one else seems able to see or hear these things, and knows about people who died in those exact spots, AND knows mermaids exist . . So can’t put two and two together to decide ghosts are real as well.

I did like how dark this story went with the mermaid myth and the tone it took in the chapters from the past. But that initial attraction wasn’t enough to save it from all of the problems thrown in there.

I can’t recommend this book.

2/5 stars

 

discussion · Fantasy · fiction

Feminism and Pirates: How Dead Men Tell No Tales leaves no room for women

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(image source)

Let me start by stating that I am not a casual Pirates of the Caribbean fan. I’ve loved the movies from the start and, yes, I even loved the fourth movie no one else ever seems to like.

Please don’t read that and immediately question my taste.

I’ve been waiting years for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Not this film, specifically, but any pirates film in which all three of the main cast members would return and fulfill all of my expectations–

Well. At least one expectation was fulfilled, and–can anything be considered a spoiler so many months after the film’s release?–that scene at the end with those two characters reuniting sort of made me feel like it made my spent money worthwhile, when I saw this in theaters.

As it was recently added to Netflix, I decided it was about time for round two.

So. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is what happens in the film industry when people know they could cobble together literally anything and other people will flood the theaters with their dollar bills. (Like Star Wars, and that last horrible Indiana Jones movie, but . . . those are beside the point.) Who needs a script that makes sense in the greater context of the film arc and general setting of the story, when you can settle for cheap laughs, Johnny Depp’s antics, and the general bad-assery of a pirate story?

DMTNT (this title is too long) follows Henry Turner (the new Will Tuner), Carina Smyth (the new Elizabeth Swann), and Jack Sparrow (the less quirky, more drunk and sad version) on a quest for the Trident of Poseidon. Basically, it’s meant to break every curse of the sea. There’s a ship of ghosts sailing after Jack Sparrow and it’s never really clear how they became cursed ghosts. There’s some witch involved for all of two scenes and they can’t even give her the benefit of fleshing her into an actual character rather than a plot device. Barbossa shows up and somehow they managed to even mess up his character.

DMTNT doesn’t really add to the mythology of the greater world of Pirates, because it’s only attempting to break down those barriers–one can only assume, so they can be rebuilt in some future planned film.

It really doesn’t do anything for the women, either.

Carina Smyth is arguably the only woman in the film. (I refuse to count the deus ex machina witch and the cameo by you know who). This kind of places a lot of pressure on her, as somehow seemingly the Pirates world can fathom ghosts, curses, krackens, tridents, and Davy Jones, but not the introduction of more women to the film. Because that would be historically inaccurate, I’m assuming they’d defend themselves by saying.

So, as a lady who really likes the Pirates franchise, it was very exciting to see the singular woman . . . pretty much play out the same role Elizabeth Swann did four films ago. Every joke and plotline seems to revolve around sexism. About how they might see her ankles beneath the dresses she needs to wear because of sexism. About how everyone believes she’s a witch because of sexism. How she’s bad luck on a ship. How she’s questioned about everything because she’s a woman, but isn’t it so great that she’s right, and smarter than all of these other men? And that makes up for her being the only woman, surely, because it isn’t so terrible if she’s the one who comes up with the plan. Which can only be executed by–you guessed it!–men.

I mean, Elizabeth ended up as pirate lord and pirate king two films previous. You’d think some of that would have rubbed off and we wouldn’t be headed backward.

Ah, but I’ve remembered two entire other women in the film! One who had no lines at all, who was presumed to have been sleeping with Jack Sparrow, and another who seemed to have been made revolting in every way possible to make it hilarious that she might be marrying Jack Sparrow . . .

Hang on a minute. And Carina Smyth . . . so much of her character arc not only focused on the sexism, but the search for her father/the final revelation of her father’s identity. So it’s almost like . . .

Almost like these women only existed to further the stories of the men surrounding them, allow for more cheap laughs, and solidify the heterosexual love interest that throws in the necessary undertones of romance.

Seems like the makings for a great, epic adventure, doesn’t it?

I’m disappointed in Pirates. I’m angry, because I had so many expectations.

Well, maybe now that I have none, I might enjoy the next movie that will inevitably be released.

5 stars · series · young adult

Reread Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone is still one of my favorite books

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daughter of smoke and bone

author : laini taylor

reread review :

Yep. Still love it.

Because Goodreads only all too recently added the reread option, I’m not sure what read this really is for me. Fourth? Fifth? I love it anyway. There’s always some new detail that I find I’ve forgotten or never noticed before– a new line that helps me remember why I fell in love with these books in the first place. Hard enough that as soon as I finished renting it from the library, I needed to buy my own copy!

Akiva is still one of my favorite love interests of all time. I love how flawed he is and can’t wait for my reread of book two for more of him!

Karol is as always a gripping main character. She is completely unique. I love how she can go from teenage angst to trying to save the world and still feel like a realistic, flawed character.

I recommend this book to everyone possible. You absolutely must give it a try!

 

original rating : 5/5 stars

reread rating : 5/5 stars

 

how I feel when I read this book :

ahwg

5 stars · series · young adult

A Gathering of Shadows: suffering from sequel syndrome


A Gathering of Shadows Final

A Gathering of Shadows

Shades of Magic #2
Book 1: A Darker Shade of Magic

author : v. e. schwab

pages : [hardcover] 512

memorable quote :

Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.

favorite character : holland (& kell’s coat)

summary :

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

review :

I went into the Shades of Magic trilogy knowing absolutely nothing, because sometimes that’s the best way to let yourself slip into a book. To fall into the world headfirst alongside the characters. Book one immediately drew me in, with the inventive and captivating writing, array of interesting characters, and a plot that held back nothing.

Book two was . . . different. The tone was different, the setup of the story was different. My reaction was different.

I didn’t hate it. I still loved the characters, and some of their actions made me love them even more. I still loved the world and the world-building skills of V.E. Schwab. If this had been a standalone novel or the first book in a different series I would have loved the book itself.

But we go from book one, A Darker Shade of Magic, in which entire worlds are at stake and people are dying, to book two, where the main characters participate in a magical tournament. Sort of like the Olympics of magical sparring. And all of the important, life-altering, terrible things that could shatter the world at any moment happen only in the background.

It’s hard to take the plot very seriously when it sort of reads like a fanfiction. As if someone saw the overall plot and thought it would be interesting to throw in some entertaining gladiator fighting in the middle of it.

To be honest, it’s great fanfiction. The descriptions are so astounding the visuals pop off of the page. The feats of magic are entertaining and the characters get in several quotable quips. But I can’t help but feel as if the series would be better as a duology.

It feels odd to like a book and the writing, but feel as if the entire plot line has been misplaced.

I would still recommend this book, because it’s a fun read and the ending is a great bridge to book three.

5/5 stars

4 stars · adult · mystery

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: loved it as much as the movie

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gone girl

author : gillian flynn

pages : [paperback] 415

memorable quote :

There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.

favorite character : amy

summary :

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

review :

I really enjoyed this book. I’m not one for thrillers, or mysteries, or the like. On top of that, I watched the movie before ever picking up the book, so I knew what all of the twists would be before page one.

And I still enjoyed it.

Gone Girl is . . . Well, I’m sure almost all of you have heard of it, even if you haven’t seen or watched it. At its core it’s a crime novel, following the timeline of an investigation and considering the impact that modern TV and film has had on police work. Not to mention how public perception tends to warp opinions long before anything goes to trial.

I loved that the book has alternating points of view. We hear from Nick, husband of the missing woman. We hear from Amy, who disappeared with hardly any clues left behind, through her past diary entries. The disparity between the written word and the first person account of Nick’s POV was surprisingly compelling. Flynn doesn’t underestimate a reader’s intelligence. She isn’t one of those authors who feels the need to hold the audience’s hand and walk them through step by step what is happening. Instead she trusts them with the mystery and the suspense, leaving them the pieces to draw their own conclusions. It works well.

I think another thing I loved about this book, that would perhaps turn off others, is how realistic and flawed all of the characters are. None of them are very likable. None are portrayed as perfect. Sure, it makes it easy to hate all of them, but by then you’re so wrapped up in the story you don’t care. You don’t know who to root for. You don’t know how you want it to end!

I will definitely read more by this author. I love that she’s unexpectedly won me over and who knows? Maybe I’ll love this genre a little more because of her.

4/5 stars