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

 

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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 · Fantasy · series

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is all I want in fantasy

A Darker Shade final for Irene

a darker shade of magic

shades of magic #1

author : v.e. schwab

pages : [hardcover] 400

memorable quote :

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”

favorite character : holland

summary :

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

review :

This book is truly a rollercoaster and, wow, I can’t believe I waited so long to read it.

There are some books I know I’ve been hyped too much about and can’t enjoy. Then there are some that live up to the hype, exceed it–maybe deserve more of it. A Darker Shade of Magic is certainly the latter.

And, yes, I’d heard a lot of good things about this book. But I dove into it without even reading the summary–without knowing much about the plot really. Apart from assuming it had something to do with magic. (Yes. There is plenty of magic in this book. What. A. Shock.) I loved not knowing what I was getting myself into. What the world was, what the plot was going to be, what the characters goals and motivations were. I wanted to find out within the story and it truly delivered.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I already know I need more to devour. The writing is just captivating. I love the way that the world was built. And there was absolutely no info-dumping! I hate that more than almost anything else in fantasy novels. The characters were so nicely fleshed out that you came to feel for even the most minor of them. I wanted more of some who only appeared on a few pages!

That said, some of the main characters were a little predictable in their little heroic roles. I’m excited because the way this book left off leaves more room for interesting and unexpected things to happen. For these characters to really branch out and flex their wills and abilities in this world.

Basically I need book two like yesterday.

This is a book I’ll recommend and reread. It’s a book with characters I love and a world I can immerse myself in and a story that hooks me in. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · Fantasy · fiction

Teen Titans Volume 1: an interesting reboot series

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Teen Titans: Volume 1

Damian Knows Best

author : benjamin percy

illustrator : jonboy meyers

pages : [paperback] 144

summary :

As a part of DC Universe: Rebirth, the son of Batman, Damian Wayne, joins the Teen Titans!

The Teen Titans are further apart than ever before…until Damian Wayne recruits Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and the new Kid Flash to join him in a fight against his own grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul! But true leadership is more than just calling the shots–is Robin really up to the task? Or will the Teen Titans dismiss this diminutive dictator?

The team will have to figure this out fast, as a great evil from Damian’s past is lurking around the corner, ready to strike at the team’s newest leader and destroy the new Teen Titans before they even begin!

The newest era of one of DC’s greatest super-teams begins here in Teen Titans, Volume 1: Damian Knows Best! Written by Benjamin Percy (Green Arrow) with spectacular art by newcomer Jonboy Meyers.

CollectingTeen Titans 1-5, Rebirth

review :

I love Teen Titans. I love the DC Rebirth event. I love this volume.

Damian Knows Best kicks off with a nice kidnapping of all of the team members and only gets better and more complex from there. Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Kid Flash are all older (though not necessarily more mature) than thirteen year old Damian. He knows what he wants, and maybe not necessarily what he needs. With a team put together, he’s determined to keep all of them alive–knowing that big enemies are coming toward them, both because of and in spite of them.

I loved the character arc throughout this volume for Damian, aka Robin, aka the son of Batman. He really grew on me, from this obnoxious, egotistical little kid to a strong, brave (still really short) kid. He’s put up with so much in life. I love how glimpses into his upbringing are given without the typical info-dumping that typically happens in comics. Instead, it’s introduced gradually and seamlessly into the plot.

Apart from that, I love how every version of Teen Titans I read involves its own take of the team members. Not only stylistically with the character sketches but little tweaks with how they hold themselves, present themselves, though the core of their personalities and who they are always remains the same.

This volume also has amazing, complex, and a little bit terrifying villains. I love how nothing was simple. I loved the big battles. I love that the Titans aren’t all-powerful and still have a few things to work out between themselves to become an even greater team.

I’d definitely recommend this volume, both to fans of the Titans and those who’d never been introduced to them at all. This is one you can read with no background info and absolutely fall into. The universe and plot set themselves up so nicely, the art is amazing, and the characters are addictive. I need more!

5/5 stars

5 stars · Fantasy · fiction

if you love Peter Pan, you’ll LOVE hook’s tale

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hook’s tale: being an account of an unjust villainized pirate written by himself

author : john leonard pielmeier

pages : [hardcover] 288

favorite characters : tiger lily & james

summary :

A rollicking debut novel from award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Pielmeier reimagines the childhood of the much maligned Captain Hook: his quest for buried treasure, his friendship with Peter Pan, and the story behind the swashbuckling world of Neverland.

Long defamed as a vicious pirate, Captain James Cook (a.k.a Hook) was in fact a dazzling wordsmith who left behind a vibrant, wildly entertaining, and entirely truthful memoir. His chronicle offers a counter narrative to the works of J.M. Barrie, a “dour Scotsman” whose spurious accounts got it all wrong. Now, award-winning playwright John Pielmeier is proud to present this crucial historic artifact in its entirety for the first time.

Cook’s story begins in London, where he lives with his widowed mother. At thirteen, he runs away from home, but is kidnapped and pressed into naval service as an unlikely cabin boy. Soon he discovers a treasure map that leads to a mysterious archipelago called the “Never-Isles” from which there appears to be no escape. In the course of his adventures he meets the pirates Smee and Starkey, falls in love with the enchanting Tiger Lily, adopts an oddly affectionate crocodile, and befriends a charming boy named Peter—who teaches him to fly. He battles monsters, fights in mutinies, swims with mermaids, and eventually learns both the sad and terrible tale of his mother’s life and the true story of his father’s disappearance.

Like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, Hook’s Tale offers a radical new version of a classic story, bringing readers into a much richer, darker, and enchanting version of Neverland than ever before. The characters that our hero meets—including the terrible Doctor Uriah Slinque and a little girl named Wendy—lead him to the most difficult decision of his life: whether to submit to the temptation of eternal youth, or to embrace the responsibilities of maturity and the inevitability of his own mortality. His choice, like his story, is not what you might expect.

review :

I received a copy of Hook’s Tale from the publisher for review in exchange for my honest opinion.

If you know me at all, you know I have a love for Peter Pan that will never grow up. Also, that I tell terrible jokes. If you don’t know me, then you know fairy tale retellings have only been growing in popularity–not all of them good. Hook’s Tales is one of those books you would say isn’t good. It’s great.

Hook’s Tale is narrated by the man himself, or rather, the real version of the villain. James Cook is rather offended by the nickname, though having a hook for a hand is quite useful. I absolutely loved that this book plays with the idea that Cook told his story to the author of the original Peter Pan play, who of course got all of the details horribly wrong. Hook wasn’t quite a villain, and Peter wasn’t quite innocent, and that ticking crocodile wasn’t quite out to devour him, either.

James Cook travels to Neverland quite accidentally, and the story begins with Cook as a child, with both hands intact, around Peter’s age. I loved that we were allowed this dynamic interaction between classic hero and villain, because the roles are often switched between the two of them. Cook can be sensible, and cunning, and brave, whereas Peter can also be these things, as well as vindictive, and cruel, and childish. Sometimes a deadly combination.

Throughout Hook’s Tales, Cook returns to England several times through a route he discovers for himself, that inevitably lead to the events of the classic story that everyone knows well. However, thingsstill aren’t quite the way they are told in that narrative. Cook is out to set the truth down, once and for all, about what happened in Neverland and the role he played in this story.

I loved it, I devoured it, and I want more of it even though I know there can’t be any more of it. Cook was a fascinating character and his book is written in journal entries, giving the reader a perfect view into his mindset in this world. He experiences fantastical things, like flying and fairies and mermaids, as well as tragic things, like the loss of innocence and death. There, written for anyone to see, is his truth, a contradiction to whatever else history will know of him.

This book is perfect for fans of the original because there are so many references to it that are renewed here in the way the plot twists. Basically, take everything you thought you knew about Peter Pan and prepare to leave it all behind for Cook’s version of events. Keeping a sharp eye out, you’ll read all of the classic elements of the original.

The text reads like a curious mix between historical fantasy and fairy tale, because it’s written to be just lingering at the edge of belief. Cook travels from a real place, in a real time period, to this fantastical Neverland. And who’s to say this island doesn’t exist, somewhere, waiting to be found? That Cook’s side of the story isn’t the real one?

I can’t recommend this book enough. Fans will fly through the pages, particularly if they head toward the second star on the right and go straight on to morning.

I had to at least get one more joke in there.

As a person who reads fairy tale retellings above all else, and Peter Panbooks very often, Hook’s Tale stands out as a fantastically written, wonderfully reimagined story I’ll read over and over again.

5/5 stars

 

4 stars · dystopia · Fantasy · reread review

Reread Reflection: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

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How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

I absolutely loved The Darkest Minds which was the first book in this trilogy. When I finally got my hands on book three, I remembered pretty clearly what happened in that book and was less certain about Never Fade. That calls for a reread!

First of all, I have to admit Never Fade suffers from the second book slump. I like it, but nowhere near with the passion of how I loved book one. This involves more of the political intrigue, a lot less of the action. There’s a lot happening but it’s all verbal plot twists, not exactly action scenes, except for probably the very first and last scenes of the book. Ruby shuts down so much when she’s around the League that it’s hard to get a read on her for . . kind of anything, which leads to an unfortunate monotone in places when she’s trying not to feel and all.

There are some pretty good plot twists in here, though, and those easily kept me reading. I mean, it’s kind of like you’re thinking nothing else could go worse, and then everything goes much worse than you could ever think possible.

Before this reread, I couldn’t remember too much about Never Fade apart from pieces of the end of the book. And then I kept thinking, no, that couldn’t possibly be how it ends . . . but it does, and it still makes me a mixture of sad and angry. All in all, it made me unsure if this is a trilogy I’ll reread in its entirety again. I still have a special place in my heart for The Darkest Minds, because when I read that it felt so clever and unlike anything else I’d ever read. Never Fade brings in more dystopian tropes, and, well, I’ll be putting up my review of book three in a few days.

So, while I really liked this book, I don’t feel like I absolutely need this book.

 

 

3 stars · Fantasy · fiction · young adult

GLASS SWORD by Victoria Aveyard — are all trilogies the same nowadays?

glass-sword

Glass Sword

#2

author : victoria aveyard

pages : [hardcover] 444

memorable quote :

No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone.

favorite character : shade

summary :

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

review :

Oh Glass Sword, how I wanted to love you!

Red Queen was the kind of book where as soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to buy a copy for myself because the one I’d been reading was from the library and I needed one for my own collection. So, when I heard Victoria Aveyard would be touring near me for the sequel, I hopped on the chance to meet her, get some signed copies, and hear her speak. It was a really fun event, and I wouldn’t mind going to one of hers again. Glass Sword sat aside for a while, waiting to be read. I finally picked it up, read about half of it, and then had to take a break because I ended up moving and forgot about it for a short while. When I picked it up again, I flew through the rest of it, but . . . Maybe it goes to show just how nonexistent the plot was, for how easily I could piece it all together again after such a long time away from the middle of the book. And I’m an exceptionally forgetful person.

Glass Sword suffers from the worst of second book in a trilogy syndrome. It’s ALL about setting up for book three and dealing with the aftermath from book one. There were some cool, world-building moments in here that I liked. Hints that we’ll get to see actual involvement from other countries and places in this world–such a rare thing in YA when these catastrophic events seem to take place in one country while all of the others casually ignore what’s going down. There are even some hints that we might find out more about what made the world come to this, Silvers ruling over the Reds, and usually in these fantasy/dystopian type stories, the world is plopped in front of us with little explanation. So if Aveyard can deal out all of this in book three, that would be awesome.

Unfortunately, I’ve pretty much decided that I’ll get book three out of the library, if I end up deciding to read it at all.

Glass Sword follows Mare as she builds up the resistance that will change everything, raise up the Reds who’ve been oppressed, and . . . Well. I’m still not entirely certain what her end goals will be. She clearly doesn’t consider Reds and Silvers equal, so it isn’t that she’s fighting for equality (even though she’s in a curiously unhealthy relationship with Cal when they snuggle when neither of them want to deal with their emotions). But she also doesn’t want to be put up as some ‘Red Queen’ to be a new ruling class of Reds. I understand that maybe she hasn’t figured it all out for herself yet, but she hasn’t really thought it through. Because we’re reading it all from her perspective, I would like to know her mind a little better, and I find it hard enough to fathom why she makes some of the decisions she does.

I really like the world of this book. I think I might like the direction in which it will be moving. I’m just not sure I’ll stick with it long enough to get to that point.

3/5 stars