Friday, November 07, 2014

Hero--Alethea Kontis

Title: Hero
Author: Alethea Kontis
Publisher: Harcourt, 2013.
Pages: 277 (ebook)
Source: Library ebook
Compensation: None

A while back I came across a book at the library that jumped out at me: Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. It was a delightful mash-up of fairy tales that I thoroughly enjoyed. One night while searching my library's ebook collection another book jumped out at me: Hero by the same author. This is not a sequel and knowledge of Enchanted is not necessary to read it, but the reader's experience is definitely enhanced by it. 

Saturday is the sixth sister in her rather large and odd family. All of the other sisters have been granted some kind of power by their fairy-aunt Joy, except for Saturday. Saturday is the most "normal" of the sisters and concentrates on helping her father and brother cut wood and help maintain the house. When a visitor arrives with a message that her mother's older sister has died, things start to change for Saturday. She mysteriously summons an ocean--and her older sister the pirate queen Thursday--and manages to get kidnapped by a powerful witch who thinks she is her older brother Jack. Saturday is not the only one held captive by the witch. A young man cursed to appear as the witch's daughter (who escaped years earlier) and a shape shifting chimera are also residents of the mountain above the world. The young man Peregrine just happened to have been having visions of Saturday all of his life and naturally falls in love with her. 

Hero has just as many fairy tale references and the framework that fairy tale readers love with a bit of a twist. Instead of a "damsel" in distress, Saturday is the hero and she saves Peregrine. Although she is posing as her older brother and he is pretending to be the witch's daughter, it's still pretty girl power strong. I loved Saturday and her strength. She is not a weak helpless maiden waiting for someone to rescue her. As we expect from fairy tales there is romance and instalove, but it wouldn't be a fairy tale without it. Hero was just as entertaining as Enchanted and I can't wait to share it with my daughters someday. I look forward to reading more companion books about the other sisters. 

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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Saving Francesca--Melina Marchetta

Title: Saving Francesca
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.
Pages: 244 p (ebook)
Source: Library ebook
Compensation: None

I have a thing for Australian authors (Garth Nix) and Melina Marchetta is definitely on that list. She is quickly becoming one of those "must read everything they write" authors for me.

Francesca is used to her somewhat overbearing mom Mia starting the day with a feel good song and a pep talk and encouraging Francesca to chase her dreams and stand up to the man. But one day Francesca's mom doesn't get out of bed. That one day turns into two which turns into four which turns into months and Francesca's life is turned upside down. Although Francesca liked to complain about her mom controlling her life and trying to turn her into a mini version of herself, when her mom is hit with a bout of severe depression and cannot continue running the house and family, Francesca doesn't know how they'll survive. No one knows how to help her mom and they all blame each other. Their once very close-knit family starts falling apart at the seams. On top of it all Francesca is in a new school (one of the few girls in a former all-boys school) with no friends and confusing feelings for her new male classmates.

There is something about Marchetta's writing that just pulls me in and makes me forget everything else. She has the unique ability to make me sympathize and become each of her characters. While Francesca is definitely the main character and protagonist, I also felt myself drawn to her mother and putting myself in her shoes as well. It's a mark of good writing when the reader can understand everybody's perceptions and motivations. It's a hard book to read because of FEELINGS, but so very worth it. It's a good look at depression and what happens when someone who is always doing the "taking care of" and "fixing" needs to be taken care of and fixed. There isn't a simple fix to Mia's depression, but with a little time and patience, Francesca discovers just listening can go a long way. I truly enjoyed this book for both teens and adult fans of YA literature.

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Monday, November 03, 2014

Salvage--Alexandra Duncan

Title: Salvage
Author: Alexandra Duncan
Publisher: Greenwillow Books, 2014.
Pages: 396 (ebook)
Source: Library ebook
Compensation: None

I wanted to love this book. It's science fiction, it's a stand alone and not the "first in a trilogy," it talks about feminist issues, the author is a librarian. The ingredients were there for a truly great book. But, I didn't love it.

Ava is a young girl aboard a space ship that is both technologically advanced and socially primitive. Men are in control of the ship and given the responsibility of flying it and fixing it. Women exist to cook and clean for them and provide babies. It is a polygamist patriarchal society. Ava doesn't know any better because women are never allowed off the ship. When the ship docks at stations for supplies, only men are allowed to leave. The claim is that women's bodies cannot handle the gravity of the stations or Earth, but in reality it is another method men use to control women. If they don't see alternatives, they won't complain about how they are treated. Ava's father arranges Ava to be married to a man on another crewe ship. She has hope that it will be her childhood friend, Luck, and makes a terrible mistake based on that hope. When her father discovers what she has done, she is cast out. They intend on killing her but she is able to escape and make her way to Earth where she discovers a completely different way to live.

The book is very long and very dense and very slow. There is a lot of description and even the action seems somewhat drawn-out. I should have been outraged for Ava and invested in her journey, but I found myself not really caring all that much. I felt detached from her. I'm glad I stuck with it and it ended on a good strong girl-power note, but it didn't grab me as much as I had hoped.

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