Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Insidious Insta-classic

Gather the Daughters, Jennie Melamed
This novel has been described as a combination of The Giver and Never Let Me Go.  Neither of those comes anywhere near being as insidious, haunting or dark as Gather the Daughters.  I would say it is more accurate to describe it as what The Giver would have been had it been penned by Margaret Atwood; which is to say Gather the Daughters is beautifully told, grand in scope, unforgettably bleak, and exceptionally disturbing.   And so darn compelling.  Like reading The Wasp Factory, Lord of the Flies, and A Handmaid's Tale -- I recognised early that familiar flavour; I was consuming critic-candy.  This at once sends a jolt of respect and wave of mourning through me.  This is Melamed's debut, and she's produced something unforgettable that will be talked about and circulated!  Buuuut my hands still before giving applause because the subject matter of that talk circulating is so horrifying.  Spoilers follow in the next sentence.  While the commentary is exquisitely handled and undeniably memorable, it features institutionalised incest, rape and pubescent orgies.  I felt the tug to drop this book unfinished over and over, but wanted desperately to know how it would play out.  I'll be haunted for having read it and I'll never  recommend it.  However...my reaction to it will be precisely what will be what draws would-be fans to its pages.  "Ange found it horrifying?  I need me a copy."  You know who you are.

Officially out today.
Review copy received from Hachette.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Fenn Halflin: Much better than I expected

Fenn Halflin and the Seaborn, Francesca Armour-Chelu
Because this is being compared to Percy Jackson all over the place, I was dubious going in.  The Percy Jackson books don't do it for me.  Fenn Halflin?  Now that's a young hero I can rally behind.  Because this arrived with other review copy for July (not on request), I dipped in without knowing a thing (when I request a book, it's almost always based on a synopsis);  I love when I can go in knowing nothing, it's my favourite.  I was met with dense and careful writing that wowed me!  This was not like other books I've read marketed to the younger YA market.  The world is a lot to take in, but then...it's a sequel! *forehead slap*  Yes, in my diving in, I didn't realise I'd missed an entire first book.  So I can tell you: this reads well as a stand-alone, but yeah, that world be A LOT to process.  I've since requested the first title, having learned of its existence -- because I think Fenn rocks (and Armour-Chelu? Good hands to be in).  So forget comparisons to the corny lightning thief who's of our world and yet angering Greek Gods...and think truly other-worldly, gritty, compelling narrative.  I think comparisons to The Golden Compass and Mortal Engines are more appropriate.  If there is any flaw, is that some things are resolved too neatly...but for younger YA, this is a very small offense.  Overall it is more vivid, confident and appealing to me than any read-alikes its being compared to. 

Review copy received from Walker.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Orson Scott Card's Women of Genesis: Sarah

Sarah, Orson Scott Card
I remain a serious fan of Card's work.  He's so good. Nothing anytime soon is going to make me comfortable with what Sarai did for Abraham, nothing.  Buuuuut...it isn't every day that historical fiction gives me the same feeling as epic fantasy.  I fell into Sarah's ancient world like another world and delighted in the intelligence and depth Card granted all his characters, especially the women.  I was surprised to find so much Sodom coverage, but it turned out to be a genius balancing act.  I cared deeply for the characters, and was thrilled to see such an experienced author's lens tighten its focus on a true, enduring love story (I hadn't read Card write love like this ever, and he surprised me).  I will definitely be reading more of his Women in Genesis books.

Heads up: If you're battling infertility, this could go either way for you -- it could let you cry it out in a way that leaves you breathless but empowered, or it could just be agony.  Proceed with caution.  Also: I'm so sorry, that sucks.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Do you think I've tired of Beauty and the Beast Retellings? Yes? You're wrong.

Hunted, Meagan Spooner
I haven't tired of them.  Nope.
  • And in this one the writing is above average.  
  • It being a retelling, there isn't a lot of room for surprise (so when Beauty isn't seeing things for what they are, and I am, I forgive, because...I know how this ends).  I pretty much saw everything coming. 
  • I like that the sisters in this tale aren't like Beauty, but are still likable.  
  • No sex or swearing, but plenty of romanticised Stockholm Syndrome.  I am convinced she belongs with him.  Go, Spooner!
  • The magical elements are beautiful.
Yes, it's predictable -- it's a retelling -- but I enjoyed it for its crafting and was grateful nothing nasty detracted from it (misogyny, stereotyping, swearing, sex, plot holes etc.).  This was nice to snuggle up with.  For fans of Barefoot on the Wind and Cruel Beauty.

Monday, June 26, 2017

"I wouldn't go out with you if you were the last person left on this planet."

These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
"I wouldn't go out with you if you were the last person left on this planet."  But another planet?  *eyebrow raise*

That's the premise.  I dove in.

It is overdone and obvious, and yet I stuck with it because it was clear I was in for a 180 in the love department.  And guess what!  The answer to "But another planet?" + *eyebrow raise* is:
"YES, goodness yes, then I will love you forever!"

I was disappointed the narrative voices weren't more different and that the dialogue and relationship always felt a little off.

BUT...this really picked up at the end!  It started to have LOTS in common with Spinning Starlight and a little with Orson Scott Card, in a most delightful way.

NB: Sex is alluded to but not described.  There's lots of sleeping next to each other.

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