Category Archives: Fantasy

Emma Maree Reviews: Teeth

teeth

Book: Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

Be careful what you believe in.

Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family’s rickety house.

Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything. Rudy can’t remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being friends with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life..

I’ve never read Hannah Moskowitz’s work before, though I’d heard great things about her contemporary writing. She’s also a regular contributor to the AbsoluteWrite forum’s YA sections (and an advocate of never holding back when it comes to language or content in YA — her post on ‘edgy YA’ is well worth a read).

So when I heard she had a fantasy novel coming out nicknamed the “magic gay fish” story, I added it straight onto my preorder list. I wanted to try out her work, and that nickname sounded like it would be strange, shameless and right up my street.

Hannah’s style is easy to read, dialogue-heavy and snappily paced. The dialogue feels very honest, which means very profane, and while some readers may find that off-putting I enjoy it. It makes for the most realistic teenage male narrator I’ve read in YA fiction.

There’s only a small cast of main characters in this story, and they’re all flawed and dysfunctional in one way or another. Rudy is a lonely boy, worrying about his future and his little brother, and Teeth is an ugly, angry fishboy who learned most of his words from the local fishermen and can barely construct a sentence without a f-bomb in it.

The secondary characters are less fleshed-out, which is a shame as I’d like to know more about some of the parents struggling on the island.

Trigger warning: There’s also some very frank, bleak scenes of repetitive sexual abuse. This whole book is dark to the extreme, and though the abuse is portrayed extremely negatively I think it would be just too difficult and depressing for some readers.

The ending really caught me off-guard. The twist that led to it was brilliant, completely shocking me, but the actual closing chapter left me feeling disappointed. I wanted more of a sense of closure, and instead I got quite an abrupt cut-off.

I think the ending is supposed to tie into the underlying metaphors and hidden meanings in the story, but I wasn’t reading this book for the metaphors about the environment or government — they were nice elements, but not what drove me to pick this book up. Also (and I fully acknowledge that this is an issue with my personal tastes and expectations as a reader, not the writer’s fault) I really wanted things to turn out differently.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the ending, I really loved Moskowitz’s style and her way with describing characters. I hope to check out her contemporary YA very soon.

This book was a personal purchase. I have no connection to the writer or publishers involved.

Emma Maree Reviews: Seraphina

seraphinaBook: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Series: Seraphina, Book 1

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Why is it that the books I really loved are always the hardest to review?

I usually try to keep my reviews balanced with the good and the bad, but it’s so difficult for books like “Seraphina” when there really isn’t anything to fault with it.

The dialogue was snappy, true-to-life and very quotable. The plot twists were great. The usual issues I get twitchy about (gender equality and representation of different sexualities and races) were comfortingly absent. As for the world building… oh boy, I could gush about the world building for hours.  Every aspect of this book is richly written, from the background religions and cultures to the draconian species.

“Seraphina” is set in a world where, after a massive war between humans and dragons, a shaky treaty has brought peace and dragons now walk among humans in almost-human bodies. But when a member of the royal family is murdered in a draconic style, Seraphina (court musician, secret half-dragon, and generally awesome young lady) decides to help the young Prince investigate and find the murderer before the treaty falls apart.

It’s no secret that I love dragons, and this book handles dragons with style and grace. You won’t ever mix up a dragon character with a human one. They’re inhuman even in their human disguises, lovers of maths, and they avoid our confusing human emotions at all costs along with pointless niceties like saying “hello” or “goodbye”.

If you like dragons, pick this book up. If you like flawless high fantasy, pick this up. This is definitely one of the best YA books to come out of 2012.

A review copy of this novel was provided by Random House in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Random House!

Emma Maree Reviews: Angelfall


Book: 
Angelfall by Susan Ee

Series: Penryn & the End of Days, Book 1

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Urban Fantasy

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

Six weeks after humans gunned down the angel Gabriel, the Earth has been torn apart by an apocalypse brought down by God’s own soldiers.

Now, how’s that for a hook?

Angelfall’s post-apocalyptic San Francisco setting is wonderfully fresh, setting it apart from all the other angel YA out there. There were a few points where I would have loved some meatier worldbuilding about the angels, as Ee is very vague on their mythology.

But it was Penryn that sold the book for me. Here are a few reasons why Penryn is one of the most badass lady main characters in YA:

  • She’s trained for years in combat and martial arts, and it shows. The research put into her fight scenes is solid and works brilliantly.
  • She values her family — her schizophrenic, violent mum and her wheelchair-bound sister — above everything else.
  • She doesn’t let falling for the enemy, an angel, get in the way of her own goals and her need to protect her family.

I originally picked this book up because it was on sale at Amazon, and I can heartily recommend it for YA fans looking for a fresh new story and a genuinely awesome protagonist.

Emma Maree Reviews: The Raven Boys

Book: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvate

Series: The Raven Cycle, Book 1

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

After receiving the advanced review copy of this book, I had a flick through the
first pages to get a glimpse of what I had to look forward to. Then I abandoned
the other books I was reading (sorry, Insurgent) and kept reading.

This book is the peak of Maggie’s writing so far: beautiful scenery, fast-paced
scenes, smooth action, and above all… the characters. She’s always been a strong
character writer, but The Raven Boys takes this all to a new level.

Every one of the characters is a crucial, fascinating part of the story. There’s
level-headed psychic’s daughter Blue and The Raven Boys, a motley crew of
private school students and best friends: obsessive researcher and richest of the
rich Gansey; trailer park kid on a scholarship Adam, Irish hot-blooded scrapper
Ronan and smudge-faced loner Noah.

I adored all of these kids, and I kept on loving them straight through. They made
this story for me: their voices, their backstories, and how flesh-and-blood-and-
bones real they felt. I read this book for them, and for their world (a strange, off-
kilter place that keeps on getting stranger as the story continues).

It also gave me some of the best fighting advice I’ve ever gotten from a novel, on
how to throw a good hook:

Hit with your body, not just your fist.

Look where you’re punching.

Elbow at ninety degrees.

Don’t think about how much it will hurt.

I told you. Don’t think about how much it will hurt.

But I do need to have a brief, spoiler-free word about the ending: I hated it. Everything was ticking along smoothly, action and adventure and rapid page turning, and then it ended. Right when everything was at it’s
most exciting it veered to a halt and started hastily trying to wrap up even though exciting things were still going on.

I know The Raven Boys is supposed to be part of a series, but I still feel
like I’ve been left asking a million and one questions and the book is blatantly
ignoring them all and I’m a little disappointed by that.

….But I’m still going to buy the next book.

This review was based on an advanced review copy supplied by Scholastic. Some parts of the story may
change in the final novel.

Laini Taylor’s DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT UK Cover Reveal!

The cover for the UK hardback of Laini Taylor’s “Days of Blood and Starlight” (sequel to “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”) has been revealed:

I really enjoyed “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”, which has had some interesting cover redesigns.

But honestly, I’m not really feeling it with this cover. I much prefer the US cover set:

It’s not going to stop me picking this book up, because DoS&B was one of my favourite reads last year.

Readers, I’m curious — what do you think of the cover?

Emma Maree Reviews: Good Omens

Book: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

An angel (who owns a bookstore) and a demon (who owns a Bentley) work together to try and stop Armageddon, while a witch hunter and a witch do the same, using prophecies that are hundreds of years old. The Anti-Christ grows up in a small English village. That’s about the size of it.

Just in case you’re new to this blog: Hi, I’m Emma. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are two of my favourite authors. My review of this book is unlikely to surprise you. Okay, now that’s over with…

I loved this book.

The entire cast is amazing, from the Horsemen of the Apocalypse (with a badass, redheaded journalist starting wars everywhere she steps), the book-loving angel Aziraphale (“gayer than a treeful of monkeys on nitrous oxide”) and the demon Crowley (“An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards”).

Strangely enough, my favourite character wasn’t the dark-humored but kind-hearted demon Crowley. It was a much more minor character, the humble package delivery man who loyally brings packages to help bring about the end of the World.

If you’re a fan of either or both author, pick this up ASAP and find out what you’ve been missing.

 

Emma Maree Reviews: The Graveyard Book

Book: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Childrens/Paranormal/Horror

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

If you’ve ever read Gaiman’s “American Gods” (and you should) you’ll have an idea of what to expect here. Neil Gaiman is a goldmine of mythology and history, and his knowledge leaks into the pages. Everything is infused with accuracy and research, everything is referencing old gods and famous moments in history. They call it a kids book, but as an adult reader you can get so much more out of all his subtle little nods to history.

The story starts out with each chapter being a self-contained ‘snippet’ from the main character Nobody’s life in the graveyard, following him as he grows up and makes friends with witches, steps through portals into other worlds, and deals with a teacher who might not be all that she seems.  Towards the end of the story, all the individual sections start to come together as the man named Jack picks up Nobody’s trail once again…

Neil has a real gift with characters. The Graveyard residents are made memorable with only a few lines of text, and they’re all so likeable. I didn’t even realise how attached I was to these characters, until 2am on Christmas Day rolled around and I was still reading, still desperate to know what happened next and what these poor characters were going to have to go through.

This is a great fantasy novel – an easy, fast-paced read with a lot of depth and appeal to all ages.

What Books Were You Obsessed With When You Were Young?

YA Highway asked, for their regular Road Trip Wednesday feature, what books you were obsessed with when you were a kid.

For me, three series stand out. Two of them, notably, were the books that helped me take that step from  children’s fiction to adult fiction – up until then I’d been sticking dutifully to the appropriate section of the library.

Goosebumps! I sped through every one of these horror novels when I was young, and watched the TV Show every chance I could. My favourite involved a colourless world and a girl’sl lipstick tube, I think it was The Haunted School.

Harry Potter! I caught onto this series on my best friend’s recommendation, just before it became a huge thing in school. After doing a parade for the Girls Brigade, I think it was, I got to pick up ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban‘ from the supermarket. I remember reading the jacket copy and thinking ‘it’s about serial killers is this really a children’s book SERIAL KILLERS should I buy it IT LOOKS SO DARK’. After I convinced myself to buy and read it it, and thought it was the most amazing thing ever, especially the hippogriff and the time travel.

It’s still my favourite book out of the seven, and I was gutted when the Harry/Hermione relationship didn’t work out. Romantic hippogriff flights! It was meant to be.

Discworld! Again thanks to my best friend’s savvy recommendations, I picked up my first Discworld book, The Truth, out of the local W.H.Smith and felt a little guilty every time Sir Terry mentioned unusually shaped vegetables, because this was A Book For Adults and they were making Jokes For Adults.

Other books I loved: Malorie Blackman novels (especially Hackers, and Pig-Heart Boy), The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, anything by Eoin Colfer (especially The Wish List and the Artemis Fowl series), The Saga of Darren Shan, and Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy.

What books did you love when you were young? Drop me a comment, or join in the blog road trip yourself. =)

Emma Maree Reviews “I Shall Wear Midnight”

I recently read Terry Pratchett’s latest Tiffany Aching/The Wee Free Men series book, “I Shall Wear Midnight”.

I love Sir Terry Pratchett’s writing, and I wasn’t disappointed at all here – the same wonderful mix of humor and wordplay was abundant, alongside the detailed worldbuilding that surrounds the Discworld novels.

It was a lot darker than previous books, though – the story opens with a village riot, and Tiffany helping out a village girl who’s been beaten up by her father and lost a child because of it. Tiffany is trying to take care of the locals in her home, The Chalk, but with rumors spreading and fear rising against witches, her job is becoming not just unglamorous, but dangerous.  She’s determined to find out the cause, knowing that her home and her life both hang in the balance.

Some of the descriptions were more graphic than usual for this series, and while the previous books were suitable for young readers this one definitely leans more towards the female YA reader crowd.