Monthly Archives: December 2015

Daughter of Deep Silence

Unknown-1

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

The Persephone has burned up while at sea, and gone to the ocean floor. Four people managed to escape the devastation that killed hundreds. Two of them are complicit in the mass murder, and lie to the world about the events. Unbeknownst to them, however, two others escape in a life boat. One dies after drifting at sea for seven days awaiting rescue. Only one, 14 year old Frances, is left to speak for the dead, but who will believe her?

Her best friend Libby died just hours before rescuers found them. Libby’s father, Cecil, crushed by his loss, believes Frances’ story and convinces her to become Libby, so that he can protect her.  Orphaned by the tragic events, she agrees, and switches identities with her best friend.  “Frances” is buried and mourned.

Four years later, her adopted father dies, and Frances/Libby makes her move.  She will avenge her parents’ and friend’s deaths.

I enjoyed this book, start to finish. It was a LOT of fun to read, but it was not the revenge story promised. In YA fiction, you expect more. There should have been more anger, more hatred, more desire for revenge, more cliffhangers and plot twists.  Instead it was less that, and more “I still want the boy I wanted four years ago, even though he might have had a hand in killing my parents.” So, not entirely believable.

Frances is an inconsistent character, and not really likeable, even though you would think she would be incredibly sympathetic. I never got the feeling that she connected with anyone, including the man who had saved her. The inconsistencies stood out far too much for me; she spent four years studying Libby’s life, becoming her, and then made obvious errors of behaviour, showing glaring omissions from what was supposed to be meticulous research.

The pacing is good, the flashbacks a bit repetitive but still work in the story. There is always action, with no lags or long periods where the reader has to wait for something to happen.  There is a twist, which is expected in a revenge/thriller type novel, but it is, unfortunately, ordinary.  It did not grab me and throw me against the back of my seat and make me reread pages, searching for clues.

With all that, it was a fun book to read.  Carrie Ryan is a gorgeous writer.  Her use of the language, her structure, everything is so well done that any flaws the plot might have are hidden by her ability to take you deep into her story.  The novel just did not challenge me the way I had hoped or expected.

So read it for fun. It is a fast one, good for an afternoon curled up with a cup of tea, when you have no desire to step foot outside the house. Although there is death and a bit of graphic description, it is appropriate for the entire age range of YA.

Daughter of Deep Silence is published Dutton Books for Young Readers.

Advertisements

Five Children on the Western Front

Unknown

What a lovely, wonderful, delightful, heartbreaking novel. Sequel to E. Nesbit’s classic Five Children and It, first published in 1904 and never out of print in the 110 years since, Five Children on the Western Front contains all the wit and charm of the first, while moving the story along to its heart-wrenching conclusion.

The Five have become Six, and The Great War has started. Cyril joined the Army originally to go to India, but will now go to France to fight. Anthea is at art college, Robert is a Cambridge scholar and Jane is at high school, dreaming of going to the Medical College for Women. The Lamb is no longer the baby the family; at 11 years old, he has been joined by a little sister, Edith. The Lamb and Edie have grown up listening to stories of the millennia-old sand fairy, the Psammead (sammy-ad), never sure what was truth and what was fiction.

Until he suddenly reappears. But he has changed, as they have. The Psammead is here for a reason, a reason that remains unclear as the war rages on and the years pass. But hints of his magic lead slowly to a purpose and a gift. 

The Lamb and Edie become the Psammead’s constant companions over the war years; his unpredictable magic takes them on ghostly adventures to the front, helping them gain an understanding of the blight that has settled across their world.

You do NOT have to read Five Children and It first to read or understand this book.  In fact, I read it years and years ago, had totally forgotten until I picked this one up, and realized the story felt familiar. Author Kate Saunders’ prologue quickly gives a background to bring the reader up to speed, then jumps feet first into this delightful sequel.

The characters are beautiful. The changes the family goes through during the war years are relatable and believable. Cyril, young and eager for battle, becomes tired and worn, no longer optimistic for the end. Robert learns that he is capable of much more than study. Anthea finds that she can handle pain and suffering if it means she is contributing to the effort, and Jane embraces the new society that the war brings.

The Psammead is gruff, rude, selfish, and yet capable of generosity and love. His millennia of existence has given him very specific views on the world; while some opinions are ancient and violent and out of touch with reality, he has a clear understanding of humanity that many humans themselves lack. “You humans are always going on about peace – but if you liked it that much, you’d have more of it.”

England in wartime, with a stiff upper lip to cover the agony of the loss of a generation of young men, the thick mud and horror of the trenches, and the overall optimism and joy of young children that embrace the rising of the sun as the start of a new adventure are depicted true to the time in history.

Saunders keeps the language and writing style incredibly close to that of Nesbit.  It is, indeed, the writing of a specific time, yet she manages to effortlessly continue the story while modernizing the feel.

There is some description of the horrors of wartime, of injuries and death, but as needed to move the narrative along.  Any age can read this novel, but I feel like it might appeal to the older YA demographic, due to the time period, the language and the lessons in the story.

Five Children on the Western Front is published by Faber & Faber.

Kane Chronicles (series)

images

This series is really good. But it is the only series by Rick Riordan that I can’t fall over myself gushing about. The problem? It is good, and with Riordan, I expect GREAT.  After writing the Percy Jackson series, everything else is held to that standard.

Brother and sister Carter and Sadie Kane are strangers to each other.  After their mother’s death, Carter travelled the world and studied with their Egyptologist father Julius Kane, while Sadie lived with her grandparents in England. On a visit to that country, Dr Kane treats the teens to night research visit to the British Museum, to see the Rosetta Stone. Except he accidentally releases the Egyptian god Set, who in turn banishes him to oblivion, and forces the children to flee for their lives. 

Just to add insult to injury, the gods of Egypt are ALL waking and Set has decided that Kanes have to be destroyed. As the siblings embark on a quest to save themselves and their family, they discover their association to a secret ancient order reaching back to the time of the pharaohs.

The good:  Riordan has a fabulous talent for resurrecting the myths and gods of ancient lands, while sneakily educating the reader. While he does, on occasion, take liberties with the actual myths, these books should be required reading in the school system. They are a great introduction to the different mythologies, and encourage the reader to learn more.

Riordan’s mix of mythology and reality makes the magic believable. He is a rare storyteller.

His trademark humour is evident throughout the novels, with hilarious chapter titles, witty sarcasm and spot-on observations. “I mean, when someone says I forbid it, that’s a good sign it’s worth doing.”  What teen doesn’t know that?! His sly references to the Percy Jackson universe are hilarious, with crossover characters popping up at the most unlikely times.

The not-as-good:  the second and third books, The Throne of Fire and The Serpent’s Shadow, were not as solid as the first book of the series, The Red Pyramid. By far the strongest of the three, it carried the day with a gripping set up, detailed character description, action, and fascinating mythology. After that, however, the story slowed, and it seemed that the author was careless with it in places.

I didn’t find that the character development advanced as it usually does with Riordan’s other books, maybe due to the fact the story takes place over a much shorter period of time. Mind you, Riordan’s portrayals of the gods are hilarious. And I do think Sadie carries the story much more than Carter; she has the best lines and the more interesting story arc, and the more intriguing love interest. Carter is a bit of a snooze.

While I didn’t fall in love with this series as I did with Percy Jackson, it is still Riordan. Which means good storytelling, very enjoyable, and can be read by any age. If nothing else, you and your children will have an adventure, maybe spark an interest in Egyptian mythology, and have a good time doing so. And if you haven’t yet read any Riordan, start with this series, then move on to the Greeks.

The Kane Chronicles series is published by Disney Hyperion.

The Raven Cycle (series)

Unknown

The first three books of The Raven Cycle are excellent, but it took me a lot longer to get through them than I expected. It is an amazing series, but is not a quick read. A lot happens, and while the books aren’t easy to put down, you have to pay attention.

Every year, 16 year old Blue Sargent visits the corpse road with her psychic mother. There, she learns the names of the soon-to-be dead, and passes on the information to those who wish to set their affairs in order.  But she has never seen the spirits herself. Until now. She sees one. And learns its name: Gansey.

Blue is an amplifier, the only non-psychic in a house full of psychic women.  Her job is to make the powers that exist louder, and easier to read. Her whole life, she has been told by the women that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. So she doesn’t kiss, she doesn’t date, she doesn’t even have friends. And she avoids problems, like the Raven Boys of Aglionby Academy. Until, one day, they come to her. For the first time in her life, she becomes part of a group. She has friends. That just happen to be looking for a long dead Welsh king, Glendower. Who might not really be dead, just sleeping. Whew. That’s not complicated.

Did I mention that this all takes place in Henrietta, Virginia?

Gansey, from a wealthy, established family, expects and commands attention. Obsessed with Glendower, he is the group’s defacto leader, appearing invulnerable. But he is going to die. Ronan is a Lynch brother, with so many secrets fighting for a place inside him. He is a hard teen, loyal, dangerous, with, he believes, little to lose. But he holds a power that none can imagine. Adam is an outsider. Born and bred in Henrietta, he is dragging himself out of poverty and abuse, working three jobs to afford Aglionby, and reap the benefits the prestigious school will give him. His sacrifice will change everything. Noah is on the outside. Always there, steady, but unknowable.

The character development is unparalleled. Throughout the series, each teen grows and changes and lets people get closer and shuts others out and loves and hates and has stupid tantrums and clings to the familiar. They fight with parents and siblings and talk back to teachers, they are vulnerable then strong, betray each other one day, and are brave and loyal the next. They are real teens.

Interestingly, given the whole “kiss your true love and he dies” subplot, romance is not the biggest thing in this series. It is nicely touched upon, and hinted at (please let Ronan get together with who I think he should! Please!), but it is not the main storyline.

This series is about friendship and commitment, to each other and to an ideal.

The pacing is fabulous. There is cliffhanger after cliffhanger throughout the books, as well as the expected one at the end. I started each book with certain expectations about the plot and characters, but I was constantly surprised by the bearings they took.  Author Maggie Stiefvater does an incredible job of taking everything you think you know, and twisting and turning it and just outright manipulating your brain in another direction.

And, sadly, the fourth and final book isn’t due out until spring of 2016, so I have to wait. It’s painful. But it will be worth it.

Any teen can read this series, and it will appeal to boys and girls alike.

The Raven Cycle is published by Scholastic Press.