Buy Hidden Among Us
Special Price: $9.00 (Regular price: $10.97)
Publisher: Walker Books (in UK; not yet available in North America)
Reviewer: Melissa on May 4, 2013
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
When 14-year-old Lizzy travels on the train alone to Hopesay Edge, she’s expecting to arrive to find her mother furious at her. (It was the first time that she ever traveled on her own and her mother has always been overly protective of her. Or so Lizzy thinks.) However, when the train passes her destination and Lizzy comes face-to-face with a boy who seems familiar, but she’s sure she’s never met, she finds herself feeling deeply unsettled. The boy, Larkspur, is a member of the Hidden, an ancient fairy people, with secrets tied up with her uncle’s manor home, Hopesay Reach. And before she knows it, Lizzy and her brother Rafe are caught up in the Hidden’s powerful magic, trying to escape an inescapable bargain. With Hidden Among Us, Katy Moran has created a fae story that combines traditional folklore with aspects of a fast-paced thriller: all in all, it’s a combination the likes of which you’ve never seen before now.
Told in three parts: “The Covenant,” “The Cheat,” and “The Hidden,” and from the perspectives of four characters: Lizzy, her brother Rafe, her mother Miriam, and Joe, the son of her mother’s boyfriend, Moran tells a multi-layered tale that is steeped in traditional folklore about the fae, or elven people, in England. Even the divisions in the novel seem to be derived from the stories passed down and transcribed about faeries, but readers quickly realize that Hidden Among Us isn’t just a verboten reiteration of English mythology through Rafe’s perspective. You see, something happens in the first few chapters that traumatized Rafe as a child and for which he’s still seeking answers fourteen years later and that has driven Miriam to be overly protective of her children, especially Lizzy. Then of course, there is Joe, who, when I find myself describing who he is in relation to Lizzy and her family, seems like an odd choice of narrators, but is important to give readers an outside perspective of the other characters and the setting initially and to play important roles in the plot as the novel continues. Finally, while the novel’s description highlights Lizzy, and rightfully so since she is the central figure around which the actions of other characters stem, it isn’t until the fifth chapter that readers get inside her head. Similarly, the last three chapters are written from perspectives other than Lizzy’s, suggesting that the characters are literally protecting Lizzy through the novel’s enveloping structure. At the same time, Moran adds unexpected threats, car chases, and other plot points that lend an action-packed aspect to what would otherwise be a traditional young adult fantasy novel.
Moran paints realistic emotions and reactions through the multiple, first person narrators and develops a weighty history that is increasingly relevant to explain the various narrative threads. Miriam’s actions fourteen years ago have made her an overprotective mother – at least when it comes to Lizzy – who is more than she may initially seem and who has to make some hard choices. Lizzy, understandably, feels the constraints that her mother has put on her and feels the need to show her independence without thinking of the consequences. Over the course of the novel, she grows into a young woman who may be vulnerable to the same mistakes as her mother, in true Gothic fantasy fashion. Finally, both Rafe and Joe feel the need to protect Lizzy as well, though for different reasons, which become obvious throughout the novel as more information is revealed. Similarly, Moran meticulously depicts how each of the novel’s characters reacts upon meeting the Hidden in consistent ways, giving the latter a power that would otherwise be unbelievable. At the beginning, readers get just enough back story to become interested in the story, but as the book progresses the history of Miriam’s early marriage and the history of Hopesay Reach to give both the humans and the Hidden a history fit for their perspective ages and imbuing the fae with an epic quality that has been missing in some of the other faerie YA novels I’ve read.
While largely positive, I felt that small details and symbolism in Hidden Among Us were, at times, a little too much close to hammering the point home. For example, not only one, but three of the four narrators point out the fact that there appears to be a crucifix removed from the walls of Hopesay Reach. If only one of them had seen it, then it may not have seemed so important, but would still be used as evidence to prove that Moran had set up some of the reveals that happen later in the book, but as it stands, it is something that readers will immediately recognize as important. If these characters, including siblings and outsiders to the family, notice this detail, it made me wonder why the men chasing after Rafe don’t. It’s a small plot hole or maybe just one other thing that could be cleared up in, what I hope, will be a series of at least two books.
Readers of traditional faerie stories and those looking for a fast-paced plot will enjoy Hidden Among Us.
Buy Hidden Among Us today and save 17% off the regular price!
Buy A Corner Of White
Special Price: $13.61 (Regular price: $17.99)
Publisher: Waldon Pond Press
Reviewer: Melissa on April 25, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In the first book in The Colors of Madeleine series, A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty, readers are in for a delightful tale of missing persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life of luxury and travel under mysterious circumstances, settling into a rainy corner in Cambridge, England (in our world), while Elliot is searching for his father, who disappeared in the Kingdom of Cello on the same night that his uncle was found dead. Could Elliot’s dead have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher? Elliot refuses to believe this, even as the evidence to the contrary keeps piling up. As Madeleine and Elliot become closer to solving their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across a crack that exists between their two worlds. As the narrator and reader watch, helplessly, greater mysteries unfold on either side of the gap, including everything from “color storms” and a fascination with Isaac Newton to the “butterfly child” mythology and some unexpected kisses.
If my experience of A Corner of White is any indication of the general consensus about this book, then the character of Madeleine will draw you in and keep pulling you along through the story’s narrative arc. It didn’t take long – approximately 50 pages – before I found myself falling in love with her character and invested in determining what this corner of white business could be about. (Again, it wasn’t long before I found myself thinking…wow, so THAT’S what the corner of white means.) Madeleine’s propensity for both all-encompassing fantasy explanations for everything that happens and the difficult problems that both she and Elliot must come to terms with demonstrate the mutable division between high fantasy and contemporary YA in this book. Madeleine retains and recounts the facts of Isaac Newton’s, Lord Byron’s, and Charles Babbage’s lives, and her understanding of their legacies helps Elliot shape his knowledge of the fantasy world. In other words, the things that happen or are learned in the real world are equally relevant in the alternate world that Moriarty creates and vice versa.
While there is a lot to delight about in Moriarty’s writing, there is one thing that dampened the experience of reading this novel and which may cause some readers to give up. The complex fantasy world that Moriarty creates means that the first third of the novel or so seems rather slow. In fact, if I didn’t already think that there was something brilliant and charming about the way Madeleine interprets and criticizes Elliot’s “fantasy world” through the letters they share, I might have been tempted to give up before I really had a chance to fall in love with the story. I, for one, am so glad that I stuck through the slow, world building moments because I can say without any hesitation that it was well worth the wait. The further one gets into this story, the more closely does Moriarty bring together what seem to be loose threads between the two worlds. If you enjoy either fantasy or contemporary YA novels, then there will be something to love about this book.
While this book is the first in a series, which means that the story has a long way to go before it’s complete, A Corner of White deftly ties up many of the questions readers will have upon reading while offering up possibilities for the subsequent books that are sure to keep readers interested.
Buy A Corner Of White today and save 24% off the regular price!
Whether they’re a full-time mom, a busy executive, or an around the clock teen, they might just need a little rest and relaxation during the holiday season and beyond. While a trip to the spa might be a nice gesture, the stress relief it permits doesn’t really last that long…or at least not in my experience. With that and a great article by Melissa Taylor in mind, I think that rather than get the people on my shopping list a professional massage, I’m going to get them a great YA novel or two.
Personally, I think that when something in one’s life is stressing you out, there are two different ways that books can help. One, they can take you to a far off world of adventure, romance, or magic to take you away from the present moment, or two, they can help you realize that you aren’t alone…that other people have gone through the same things as you and have reached the other side. Depending on the taste of the person on your shopping list, you can pick either one of these options, but today, I’m going to give you a run down of some of my favorite adventure, fantasy, and dystopian YA novels that you should consider picking up for the special reader on your list. These are all middle grade or YA novels, but once the teen or adult on your list starts reading them, I’m pretty certain they’ll be a convert just like I was.
I haven’t read many adventure/fantasy novels this year, but these are some of my favorites:
As for dystopian novels, which happen to be one of my favorite YA genres, why not pick up one of these for your favorite reader:
Finally, if your favorite reader likes a little bit of romance thrown in to their reading, then maybe one of these paranormal novels will do the trick:
One thing is for sure – if escape is what they need this holiday season, then escape is what they’ll get with these great gift ideas!
Buy Plain Kate
Special $13.49 (Regular price: $17.99)
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Reviewer: Melissa on September 17, 2010
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Have you been looking for a fantasy novel that explores not only magic and mystery, but also what it means to be an artist? If so, then you have to give Plain Kate a chance. Her ability to carve wood in such lifelike ways sets Plain Kate apart from everyone else in her community, and in a time of famine and plague, being set apart is a very dangerous thing. When it comes time to point and crook fingers, Plain Kate proves to be the easiest scapegoat for their troubles, so as a very young girl, she makes a deal with a stranger named Linay – her shadow in exchange for the means to leave the town and to find a new group of people to live among. Of course, no one can live without a shadow forever and she soon realizes that Linay’s plans have a much darker tinge than she could ever have imagined.
“A long time ago, in a market town by a looping river, there lived an orphan girl called Plain Kate” is the opening sentence of Erin Bow‘s enchanting fairy tale PlainKate. Set in an unspecified, but very rich Eastern European world and inspired by a collection of Russian fairy tales, teen and adult readers alike will be put under it’s spell immediately. What is it that is so enthralling about his tale? It’s the mixture of the familiar in the unfamiliar stories of Russia, of the way that you recognize the story, even when you can’t quite predict the way it’s going to turn out.
Like many of the original 19th century fairy tales that Western readers are familiar with, this novel doesn’t shy away from either the magic or dark Gothic underbelly of a real, non-Disney censored story. You’ll not only bask in the rich gift that the main character has with a carving knife, but also feel a slight chill in your spine at both by Linay’s dark magic and the actions of those who interact with Plain Kate at times. It’s a story that explores what it means to be an artist, to be an outsider in a world where people only trust those who they know and fear those that they can’t understand or explain fully. It is for this reason that this fantasy novel might be magical like fairy tales you are accustomed to, but also it has a realness with which anyone who has ever felt like an outsider will identify.
Some people might relegate this novel to the realm of middle grade fiction because one of the main characters is a talking cat named, Taggle. In fact, I’ve even read other reviews that have done so. However, when juxtaposed with some of the darkest moments in this novel, you realize that there is something more here. Perhaps you too will see that Taggle is really the desire to belong to someone or something when Plain Kate is really, truly alone, which isn’t a middle grade specific desire. If anything, it is this aspect of the novel which makes it a universal story in the same way that most fairy tales have a universal appeal.
Come by tomorrow and check out my interview with Erin Bow, ask her a question (because she is taking and responding to them through my comments), and ave a chance to win your own hardcover copy of this novel (if you’re Canadian that is). In the meantime, add Plain Kate your to read pile!
Buy Plain Kate today!