Lost Boy isn’t your childhood Peter Pan

32828538On the worst night of Jamie’s young life, he leaves behind a devastating loss and follows a strange, mysterious boy into a tunnel under a tree and arrives in a magical, strange land where boys never grow up. Jamie and Peter spend their days having great adventures, fighting pirates, and swimming with mermaids. Everything from Jamie’s world before Peter and his island is forgotten, except for the nightmare that haunts him every night and the song he sings but doesn’t remember how he knows it. Despite those things, it’s a glorious, wonderful life and eventually other boys are brought to the island to share in eternal boyhood.

Except it isn’t eternal and as the decades pass and more boys die at the hands of pirates, crocodiles, and the Many-Eyed, Jamie begins to realize that living on the island with Peter is far from paradise, and Peter isn’t at all the wonderful boy Jamie thought he was.

Christina Henry takes a classic child’s tale of magic and enchantment and turns it into a horror story full of blood, gore, murder, and deception. Lost Boy is Peter Pan, a dark and twisted Peter Pan, from the point of view of a young Captain Hook.

Henry’s take on Neverland and its inhabitants is sinister and far more violent than J.M. Barrie’s original tale ever was. There is bloodshed galore, and Peter Pan isn’t the innocent, fun-seeking boy that we readers grew up with. In Henry’s Neverland, he is a cunning, deceptive, manipulative narcissist who values himself above all others. As Jamie tells us from the very beginning, “Peter will say I’m a villain, that I wronged him, that I never was his friend. But I told you already. Peter lies. This is what really happened.”

Meet the boy who will grow up to be Captain James Hook and immerse yourself in the loss, grief, and betrayal that drove him to a life of piracy and vengeance. Delightful in its uniqueness and gripping in its mystery and violence, Lost Boy is a thrilling tale that can’t be reconciled with the Peter Pan of childhood. Henry’s Neverland is a whole new world where nothing is as it seems, and boys can become men when they trade belief for truth.

Kathy Kacer’s To Look a Nazi in the Eye, reviewed for Netgalley

To me, this book is divided into two parts: the good and the bad, so I will divide my review into two parts.

The Good…

To Look a Nazi in the Eye is a very important book for young people to read. The horror of the Holocaust cannot be adequately described in a book review, but it stands as the most atrocious act of genocide in the history of the human race. Our younger generations need to understand the level of cruelty, hate, and inhumanity that fed into the Holocaust. They need to know about the Nazi extermination campaign and the amount of planning that went into trying to wipe out entire populations for not fitting Hitler’s “preferred profile” of an acceptable human being.

The chapters that contain testimony and personal statements from both the perpetrator and the victims of the Holocaust are very important. I found myself examining Oskar Groening’s testimony, dissecting every sentence and trying to find an ounce of remorse or shame. I saw no evidence of either, but readers will have to reach their own conclusions on that just as the survivors who listened made theirs.

Testimonies from the victims are the most important part of the book. It is essential that younger generations understand the brutality and suffering endured by Holocaust survivors. They were beaten, starved, experimented on. Some lost every living relative. The suffering did not end when the war did, and trials such as Groening’s are their only chance for even the tiniest slice of justice. The book could have been much improved with the inclusion of more survivor testimonies and input.

The Bad…

Jordana. Everything having to do with that self-serving narcissist was intolerable.

I found her to be overdramatic, overly emotional, and selfish. Instead of coming off as an intelligent young woman in college, she came across as a bratty teen getting something she didn’t deserve. I see no purpose in her attending the trial. All I could think as I read was that she had taken a seat at the trial that should have gone to someone who had survived a concentration camp or lost a loved one to the Holocaust.  Someone who had a true purpose and right to be there.

She was terribly naïve and her reactions to the people around her were childish and ridiculous. She admits to being bored at the trial, as if the entire affair is for her entertainment purposes. With her inflated sense of self-importance, she somehow managed to make the trial all about herself instead of the real focus: a Nazi who helped murder hundreds of thousands of people and the survivors who came in the hope of seeing justice done. Her personality was a distraction to the important court case and overshadowed the bigger message of this book.

So, my advice is read the book for the survivors. Read the book for the trial and its outcome, but skip as much of Jordana as possible.

McCullough’s “Flood” is rich with history and detail

On Memorial Day in 1889, the South Fork dam, overburdened by monsoon-like rains and years of neglect, gave way and a disastrous flood ripped through the working-class town of Johnstown, PA. The town was wiped out and over 2,200 people lost their lives.

While much has been written, and embellished, about the flood and its aftermath, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough’s work on the subject is the best and most factual to date. The Johnstown Flood overflows with information that is well-written and engaging. The meticulousness of McCullough’s research comes through in the many journals, diaries, newspapers, and personal accounts that he cites throughout.

McCullough spends several chapters building up the image of the town prior to the flood, giving the reader a portrait of Johnstown and its people. It was an industrial place with iron works, steel mills, and railroads providing most of the employment. The population was a diverse one, drawing immigrants from Europe and Great Britain. Life was hard and the people were poor, but the town was booming and employment was steady. On May 31st, the townspeople were preparing for the Memorial Day parade and lamenting another rainy day.

The author also introduces readers to the men of The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, the same men who owned and failed to maintain the South Fork Dam. Most were Pittsburgh magnates of steel mills and railroads. Many were or would become millionaires. The club was their rural retreat, a means of getting out of the hot city during the warm summer months. The South Fork Dam was their key to ensuring that members had a lake full of fish to catch and a body of water large enough to sail on. Unfortunately, none of them ensured that the old dam was sound. By the time the club members acknowledged that it wasn’t, it was too late.

Unlike the sensationalized accounts written by journalists who traveled by train, horse, or foot to reach Johnstown just days after the disastrous flood, McCullough’s Flood conveys the horror of the aftermath without unnecessary embellishments. Human bodies damaged beyond recognition, bloated animal carcasses washing ashore, a debris pile made up of smashed houses, train cars, lumber, barbed wire, mattresses, and stranded survivors that caught on fire. The threat of disease. None of these things required dramatization, and The Johnstown Flood is much more poignant without such manipulations.

The book is an enticing and informative account of social injustice. The homes, livelihoods, and families of the working class residents of Johnstown were destroyed by the cavalier and indifferent attitudes of the wealthy. Not a single club member was ever held accountable for a disaster that caused $17 million (the equivalent of $460 million today) in damages and destroyed an entire town. Perhaps the most evocative part of the book is the 17 pages it takes to list the names of the 2,200 people who died in the flood. Gripping and factual even 50 years after its initial publication, this book is well worth reading.

Glaser’s The Book Jumper doesn’t stick the landing

Major Spoilers…

Mechthild Glaser’s The Book Jumper has a very promising start. The plot is fresh, the location is an island off the coast of gorgeous Scotland, and the main character has the ability to jump into the plot of any book (though all those written about seem to be Classics) and walk through the stories and even interact with the characters as long as she doesn’t interfere with the plot or change the story in any way. Which probably would have worked out just fine for Amy Lennox if someone else hadn’t been jumping into the book world and stealing ideas from the books. The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. The cyclone from Wizard of Oz. A monster from The Odyssey.

It’s up to Amy and fellow book jumper Will to solve the mystery of the thefts, which should all be very compelling reading except the story moves so bloody slowly that I felt as though I was dogpaddling through treacle.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Say I am Amy. I come from this awesome Scottish Isle called Stormsay. My people are sooooo special because we can jump into any book we want. Pardon me while I derail, but personally, I would have chosen something a little more modern. Hello, Song of Fire and Ice. Psst, Ned. Hey Ned, don’t go to King’s Landing, man. Trust me on this one, dude. Heads will roll, mainly yours, if you leave the North. Okay, jumping back on track here. So, I’m traipsing through the jungle with Shere Khan, watching some poor sop get drunk on ink, breaking all the carefully laid out rules, and I come to the revelation that all is not well in Booklandia. Do I immediately hatch a plan to catch whoever is stealing story ideas? No. Instead, I drag my feet through almost 200 pages of drudgery, name a whole bunch of people as the definite perp without actually solving anything, and then end up trapped in the book world with my possessed boyfriend and a psycho princess hell-bent on getting what she wants.

And instead of paddling through treacle, the action suddenly speeds up like the log flume ride at Busch Gardens. And a whole bunch of stuff which could have been spread out to make the rest of the book less boring, instead practically trips over itself to make it onto the page before the book ends. And we readers are left with this vague, half-assed resolution that doesn’t quite make sense. Okay, so Amy’s pedigree is half-human, half-book character, which we’ve known for quite a few chapters now, but all of a sudden she is going to lose her book jumping ability? Since when and how does she know this? As far as we readers know, Amy is the only person of this pedigree in existence, so I just can’t imagine how she jumped to that conclusion. And how nice that her boyfriend is left forever in the pages of his favorite book, not dead, but not really alive. And she’ll never see him again when she mysteriously loses her ability to book jump, but she seems fairly okay with that.

I, however, am not okay with that because I invested a lot of time in reading these disappointing 373 pages and, in the end, all I am left with is disappointment and quite a bit of anger at such a waste of an idea. What could have been a fascinating adventure in the land of literature ends in a poorly executed tome that missed the mark entirely.

 

The Dark Artifices Two: The Lord of Shadows is not my favorite Shadowhunter tale

Spoilers….

Well, that was a lot to take in, and that ending was certainly a killer. Literally.LoS

Cassandra Clare, you can’t just drop the Clary-is-going-to-die-soon bomb on us, and then not mention it again in the remaining near 700 pages. Because once that exploded in my face, I couldn’t be bothered to care about Emma and Julian and their relationship woes. All I could focus on was that a member of one of my all-time favorite YA couples had portended her death. Clary and Jace, a couple who overcame pure evil multiple times to get their HEA, aren’t going to get it now? And you just drop that little doozy, send them on an impossible and highly dangerous mission into Faerie, and then don’t mention it again? WTF, Cassandra Clare?

Since I have many months to ponder and wonder over that, I guess I might as well get on with this review. I didn’t love Lord of Shadows. In fact, of all the Shadowhunter books I have read (and that would be all of them) this is my least favorite. The day this book was released, I eagerly opened it up and began reading with an intensity that few authors can elicit from me, but Clare did…for about 450 pages, which was about the time that I realized my reading pace had become glacial. I was bored with it. There was simply too much relationship drama and not enough momentum with the overall storyline. There was too much Christina and all her potential suitors. And who can forget the endless, angst-ridden saga of the Emma/Julian forbidden love? Their relationship doesn’t hold my attention. I said this when I read Lady Midnight and the second Dark Artifices book only enforced my opinion: I do not like Julian. I find him completely untrustworthy. There isn’t anything he won’t do for his family. From anyone else, it seems like a cliché, but there really isn’t anything he won’t do to get what he wants, which is one big happy family and his Emma. He doesn’t care who else might get hurt in the process. Kieran says that Julian has a ruthless heart, and he’s right. In his desire to get what he wants, Julian has found a way to break his parabatai bond with Emma even if it means destroying every parabatai bond in the Shadowhunter world. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he goes through with it. Of course, with an ending like that, it might be a moot point.

I also didn’t care for all of the jumping about from one storyline to another. In most of Clare’s books, this method works well to move the story along and provide multiple points of view, but in Lord of Shadows, it happened so frequently that it bogged down the momentum. In some instances, the new viewpoint was so brief that it didn’t serve much of a purpose. I’d rather keep the story going than interrupt it.

And was it just me or was anyone else astounded that The Cohort didn’t elicit a single comparison to Valentine? Here is a hate group that is calling for a registry of Downworlders – think Hitler’s Germany – and thrives on their belief that Shadowhunters are better than faeries, vampires, werewolves, and warlocks, yet not a single character who fought Valentine or survived the Dark War brought on by Valentine’s son compares The Cohort to The Circle. Seriously? How does that not get a mention?

The ending, which was tragic and abrupt, seemed to come out of nowhere and wasted characters who had the potential to be amazing and instead were just fodder for shock value. The conclusion certainly leaves a lot of questions. What’s up with Cortana? Why are the universe’s oldest faeries afraid of it? Why can it destroy the Mortal Sword? Who is Mark eventually going to end up with? What is really wrong with Magnus? Will any of our beloved Shadowhunters and Downworlders ever get a happily ever after? We’re in for a long wait to find out. And despite not loving Lord of Shadows, I still can’t wait for the next Dark Artifices release….which according to Goodreads won’t be published until 2019. WTF, Cassandra Clare?!?!?!?!

 

The Chosen is the final nail in the BDB coffin

Holy nonexistent Scribe Virgin, this book sucked so hard I don’t even have the words for it. Ward is clearly just churning out the same old garbage in order to make money. She has no fresh ideas, and what she does waste ink on is so freaking ridiculous that, as I reader, I am gagging on all the mush she is trying to force down our throats.

She’s returned to the whole, I don’t have anywhere new to go, so I’ll just put an established couple on the rocks and spend a few chapters destroying their relationship. She did it with Butch and Marissa previously and to some extent Rhage and Mary, and now she has Mr. Oh So Much Gray Matter deciding to cheat on his wife, instead of just sitting down and having a conversation with Jane about their stagnant relationship. And she has turned Qhuinn into a raging asshole psychopath who shoots up a room with his children in it while trying to kill the mother of said children and subsequently destroying his relationship with Blay. The couple spends yet another book angry and fighting only to have a make-up scene at the end that comes out of nowhere and is utterly unbelievable. The resolution between Qhuinn, Layla, and Xcor is so Disney cartoonish that I had to wonder what the hell Ward was smoking when she wrote that shit.

Trez and that whole Therese thing? WTH was that? And, really, who cares?

If Ward had hashtagged one more stupid thing, I would have been forced to pour kerosene on the book and light it on fire.

I am done. I just can’t take another one of these shitty, half-assed books with their redundant story lines and their mushy, all-is-well, Kumbaya endings. The Brotherhood, after many near misses and a number of resuscitations, is finally dead to me. No defibrillator is going to bring this series back to life.

Letters may be Kemmerer’s best work yet

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I love the work of Brigid Kemmerer. Her characters have depth, intrigue, and angst without falling into lttlclichéd patterns that can seem repetitive and dull in a genre that has so many offerings. They also have something a little paranormal in them. The Merrick Brothers in The Elementals Series have their control of the elements. Thomas in Thicker Than Water has a secret ability that he wishes had stayed hidden.

So what does Letters to the Lost‘s Declan Murphy have?

Nothing.

No super powers, no spidey sense tingles, no witchcrafty spells, no fangs, no shifter problems.

Just a juvie record and some community service.

Wait. What? Brigid Kemmerer wrote a book that wasn’t a paranormal?

Huh? How do I feel about that? What will her characters be like without some kind of paranormal element?

I’ll tell you what they are like: BLOODY FREAKING FANTASTIC, that’s what!

Oh my God, these characters are amazing! Two teenagers who have suffered a tremendous loss and who are lost in a mix of guilt and grief and isolation, find each other through letters left in a cemetery and learn that maybe they aren’t as alone as they’d thought. As they exchange letters, their painful pasts unfold and lead them on a path that has the potential for either healing their hurt or revealing a truth more agonizing than either could have imagined.

The way Kemmerer writes Declan and Juliet’s pain is so real, so gripping, that the pain is its own character. It’s so sharp and so agonizing that it feels solid, like an object you could pick up and hold in your hand or throw against a wall. She takes fictional storylines and interweaves them with very real issues that young people face every day, such as bullying, something that has been addressed in the YA genre many times; however, Kemmerer brings a unique point about bullying to the surface in Letters to the Lost, and I think readers will walk away a little more aware of their preconceived notions about other people, and I love that Kemmerer is able to do that so subtly.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I am not going to say any more about the story other than READ IT. You will love Letters to the Lost. It just might be Brigid Kemmerer’s best book yet.

Oh, and Rev’s book is up next.

Let the anticipation begin!