Friday May 24, 2013
Brigid Kemmerer's short novella Breathless actually kind of did take my breath away. I hadn't read any of her full-length novels, but I think I got a copy of Breathless free. And it did exactly what giveaway novellas are supposed to do: it made me want to run out and buy the whole series. You can read my "In Short" review of Breathless here.
I didn't manage to get to the rest of the series right away, because my review queue is a little out of hand and I've been playing catch-up. But there's a new book in the Elemental series coming out next week, and I have an e-galley, and I really want to read them in order (I'm weird like that). So this week one of the things I'll be reading is as many of the Elemental books as I can fit in, starting with the prequel novella, also called Elemental.
Elemental is the story of the oldest of the Merrick brothers, Michael. He's a full elemental, which means he can use the full power of his element, earth, and that makes him dangerous. It also makes the other elementals in the community nervous. They have a pact with Michael's parents to leave him and his family alone as long as he doesn't lose control. But there are people who wish he would lose control, particularly the Morgan family, so they can turn him in. Or deal with him themselves.
Michael copes with these unfair pressures by working out his frustrations in the batting cage. But one day when he shows up to get his tokens, none other than Emily Morgan, daughter of the man who most wants to see him "dealt with," is working at the sports shop.
What really astounds me about Kemmerer's work (or the two novellas I've read so far), is that she can take plot elements that seems pretty run of the mill -- teens with powers, family rivalry (shades of Romeo and Juliet), young love, rebellion -- and make them into utterly riveting stories. There isn't really anything groundbreaking (er, sorry, that was a pun; read the story if you don't get it) about the plot, and it's even pretty predictable.
But the characters are so compelling I couldn't put my iPad down until I finished the story. I guessed what was going to happen, but seeing the characters deal with events kept me eagerly flipping pages. And somehow, this story, like Breathless, is so packed with emotion it's almost indescribable. I don't know how Kemmerer can make her characters feel so much without ending up writing melodrama. But she does, and it's amazing.
Stay tuned for my upcoming reviews of the rest of the series.
Elemental is available only in e-book format. Cover image © Kensington.
Thursday May 23, 2013
I became a fan of Kady Cross' Steampunk Chronicles with the first book, The Girl in the Steel Corset. Although it's published by Harlequin Teen, the emphasis is more on the characters and their adventures. There is romance, but its not the focus of the story, so folks who don't like "kissing books" (to borrow a phrase from the excellent The Princess Bride) can still enjoy it.
Book 3 of the series is due to come out at the end of the month, so I figured I'd better get caught up and read book 2, The Girl in the Clockwork Collar. I found it lacked some unnamable thing that book 1 had, but it was still an excellent read.
I have an e-galley of The Girl With the Iron Touch, so watch for a review of that very soon.
Cover image © Harlequin Teen.
Thursday May 23, 2013
Some sharp-eyed readers may know that I live in the small Canadian province of Nova Scotia (we're that bit that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean). It's a place with a rich storytelling tradition, both from the original Native inhabitants, and from Scottish, French, and other immigrant populations. It's also a place that not a lot of people know much about, so I was delighted when not one, but two of the graphic novels I picked up from the library recently featured Nova Scotia settings. And so does a series of charming novels for younger teens I read not too long ago.
The most recent of those is Mercury, a magical realist graphic novel by Eisner-Award-winning cartoonist Hope Larson. It's a lovely book that I hope readers will seek out, even if they don't usually read comics.
You may also have seen my review of Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, which I quite fell in love with a few weeks ago. I especially recommend reading Friends With Boys and Mercury together, though they are both great separately.
And that prose fiction series I mentioned above is the Real Mermaids series by Canadian writer Hélène Boudreau. It's aimed at younger teens, but the main character is so charming I think even older teens will enjoy these books. Plus, each one has a recipe for a chocolatey snack at the end. Nothing wins me over like chocolate and books.
Cover image © Atheneum, art by Hope Larson.
Wednesday May 15, 2013
Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a distinct lack of science fiction on the YA shelves these days. When I was a teen (let me just adjust my cane, here), I devoured SF, but then it seemed to fall out of favour. If this new book from publisher Strange Chemistry is anything to go by, the genre could soon be making a comeback.
It's a strange fact that I almost always know what star rating I'm going to give a book within the first few pages. Sometimes I waffle back and forth as I read, but I generally have a pretty good idea. If I change my mind, it's almost always to knock the score down a notch for a disappointing ending. Neither of those happened with this book. Well, I had a good idea of what I thought I'd give it, but instead of taking points off when I got to the end, I decided to bump it up. Why? The book was flawed, but I loved it anyway.
Cover image © Strange Chemistry.