Trisha’s June-September roundup
Or, some comments on a few noteworthy books I’ve read but haven’t reviewed since May.
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Between my lukewarm reaction to Impossible and my review of Perfect Chemistry, I won’t be surprised if people start to think I have really bad taste. Because as over-the-top as Perfect Chemistry is, I adored it. And though I can see why people liked, or even loved, Impossible, it didn’t do much for me.
Lucy is seventeen when she discovers that the women of her family have been cursed through the generations, forced to attempt three seemingly impossible tasks or to fall into madness upon their child’s birth. But Lucy is the first girl who won’t be alone as she tackles the list. She has her fiercely protective foster parents and her childhood friend Zach beside her. Do they have love and strength enough to overcome an age-old evil?
So here’s my big problem with Impossible: I could believe Lucy and Zach loved each other, but Werlin didn’t have me believing that they were both actually *in* love until there were only about 50 pages left in the book. That was far, far too long after we were first told that they had feelings for each other, especially considering how essential their romantic relationship is in completing the quests to overcome the curse. And all that telling—about how Zach was in love with Lucy or how Lucy saw Zach without his shirt on and suddenly realized he was hot—did not make me believe they were in love. I think it’s partly due to the third-person omniscient narration (which can be done successfully in romance; see Joan Wolf‘s A London Season) as Werlin used it in Impossible, which I felt detracted from the romance. Maybe it’s because when it comes to romances in YA lit, I’m so used to first-person narratives and all the intimacy and emotion it entails, but I just didn’t believe that Lucy and Zach were truly in love for a long time.
Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling
Claire Voyante has long had dreams in which the images she saw “were usually stupid and meaningless, like Henry holding a green umbrella with a frog on it or, say, a bright pink lock—things that I’d see later in front of me but that never lead me to anything groundbreaking.” Call them premonitions, call them extremely vivid dreams, but lately they’ve started to take over her life. Claire’s been dreaming every night only to wake up still exhausted, distracting her from school. Although the things she’s seeing in her dreams are becoming stranger, they might just be what she needs to help a friend.
The mystery aspect was predictable, yet it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. Dream Girl has an appropriately dreamy quality, particularly when it comes to the setting, and I actually wouldn’t mind if we end up seeing another book starring Claire.
Death By Bikini by Linda Gerber
For some reason, when i started reading Death By Bikini, I was under the impression that it took place on a Caribbean island. So when Aphra and Hisako started talking about noni, kava, and kukui nuts, I said, huh, that’s interesting. Then when Junior, the resort’s head of security, started talking in pidgin (excuse me, Hawaii Creole English, for the linguistic sticklers), I got even more confused. I had to flip through the first couple of chapters to see if Aphra mentioned where, exactly, the island is. And she never did.
Anyway, the story is about Aphra Behn Connolly, who lives with her father at the luxury island resort he manages. A family appears at the resort in the middle of the night with no reservations and Aphra’s father begins acting strangely. When the girlfriend of a rock star is strangled, Aphra is determined to solve the crime and discover the truth about their mysterious visitors.
Aside from my initial confusion, Death by Bikini was a pretty entertaining read. Not outstanding, but I have no problem recommending it. Plus, it’s the start of a mystery series for teens, which is nice to see since there’s a dearth of teen mysteries.
Unspoken by Thomas Fahy
Allison receives an email one day, a forwarded newspaper article about the death of a boy she knew. Harold Crawley drowned and was found dead in Meridian, North Carolina. Some people might see it simply as a tragedy that a person died so young. Not Allison. She knows that what Harold feared more than anything else was drowning. Because Allison and the five other children had lived with their parents at Jacob Crowley’s Divine Path cult, and Jacob had warned Allison that in five years, “Your greatest fear will consume you.” After Allison and the other children burned the cult’s compound down, killing all the adults, the kids are separated and taken in by foster families in different states. And five years later they each receive the same email as Allison. Allison worries that Jacob Crowley’s prophecy is coming true, but how can she convince the others, and how can they save themselves?
Unspoken has one abrupt ending. There are a few rather gruesome scenes, but overall, the horror is more psychological. I didn’t find it particularly scary, but it did keep my interest long enough to finish the book in one sitting.
The Mystery of the Fool & the Vanisher by David and Ruth Ellwand
I love Fairie-ality, so I have to admit to being a bit disappointed that this was not like Fairie-ality. It’s darker, atmospheric, more moody. A man is walking in the woods one day when he finds a stone with a hole in the center of it. Looking through it, he sees a ball of light and follows it to a clearing. He finds a chest with unusual things in it, left by a photographer who was trying to prove the existence of fairies. I think it would appeal more to fans of the –ology books than Fairie-ality fans.
The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson
To start with, I LOVE the cover! It’s perfect for the book, an alternate history set in Scotland. Alfred Nobel still invented dynamite, but Napoleon won at Waterloo, and European powers are engaged in a constant power struggle. In order to support Scotland’s security, IRYLNS (the Institute for the Recruitment of Young Ladies for National Security, pronounced “irons”) takes the best and brightest of Scotland’s female students to “supply Scotland’s leaders (members of parliament, captains of industry, doctors, ministers, and so on) with the highly competent assistants they needed.”
Sophie lives with her great-aunt Tabitha, who helped found the program and has considerable power of her own. Sophie supposes she’ll enter IRYLNS after her schooling is complete, but for some reason great-aunt Tabitha doesn’t want that to happen. Meanwhile, an unknown person or group sets off a bomb outside Sophie’s boarding school, and the psychic hired for great-aunt Tabitha’s recent seance is murdered.
As I said, I loved the cover, and the story is great, too. Sophie is believably awkward and the intrigue is actually intriguing. The tone is suitably foreboding and the worldbuilding excellent. First in a trilogy, I believe, which makes me happily impatient, if such a thing is possible. (Or should that be impatiently happy?) I’m looking forward to the next book, at any rate.