Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Top Ten: Favorite Book Covers (May 21st)

This week's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish ) features an aspect of books which, I'm definitely not too much of a book snob to admit, I do care about and pay attention to: book covers and cover design.  I love looking at the different editions of books, especially older books which have been out there for a while and re-published with lots of different covers, and comparing them.

Some of my favorites are the new Penguin Classics with the art by Ruben Toledo-- these are all so beautiful, though only a few have been published by Penguin so far.  Getting those out of the way, here are ten covers I really adore, because they represent the book so well or are just plain amazing to look at:

The Chronicles of Narnia omnibus by CS Lewis
I haven't re-read these books in ages, but seeing this beautiful (and gigantic) Barnes & Noble edition makes me want to revisit The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe at the very least.

The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
Pretties is my favorite cover of the trilogy+1 spin-off series, but all these books have beautiful covers of beautiful models.  This series is a few years old, and I have a suspicion these covers helped inspire the current "close-up of beautiful girl" trend for YA covers.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This newer Penguin cover is soo gorgeous-- I love covers with silhouettes, and this edition with Elizabeth and Darcy is one I badly wish I owned.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
I just love this Sorcerer's Stone cover, the first of the new set of seven which will be released in August.  Hopefully, these fun, artistic covers will appeal to a new generation of young Harry Potter fans.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This is a Penguin Threads edition (yep, I'm definitely Penguin-partial).  I love the amazing thread texture and the myriad of little illustrations in the string-- especially the quotes from the book in the inside jacket.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
I have a cheaper paperback edition of The Hobbit, and I actually really like it.  The art is unique and whimsical; the different illustrations feature scenes from the story and fit the book so well.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
This book has the feel of the 18th-century journal which Andi finds in the story-- the pages are rough-cut and there's a cool red ribbon as a built-in bookmark.  I love the juxtaposition of the cover model and the painting.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Looking at this cover, you just somehow know the story within will be fantastic (which it is).

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I've already talked about my love for this cover in a separate Jane Eyre Cover VS Cover post.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
It's easy to see why this edition of The Great Gatsby is so popular.  Beautiful, haunting, and mysterious, this is also a nod to the new movie-- which I haven't seen yet,  but really want to.

I'd love to check out your favorite book covers, so leave a link to your Top Ten!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Genre: Gothic/Victorian
Pages: 172 (paperback)
Published: 1898

Henry James, a master of haunting atmosphere and riveting tension, presents one of the most famous ghost stories of all time. A young governess is sent to a country home to take charge of two orphans, and unsettled by a sense of intense evil within the house, becomes obsessed with the belief that malevolent forces are stalking the children in her care. Growing increasingly uneasy, she becomes drawn into a frightening battle against an unspeakable evil that may or may not be real.
 I was almost entirely unfamiliar with this admittedly well-known classic ghost story before reading The Turn of the Screw. I've seen the Nicole Kidman movie it inspired, The Others, but otherwise came into this not knowing what to expect.  The Woman in Black (which I someday might review) is one of my favorite short horror novels.  It isn't Victorian, but it is set in that time period and shares some of the same eerie psychological horror with Turn of the Screw-- but this little book turned out to be far better.

So, the story is a story within a story-- a guy at a party tells a story about a ghost story which he has written down by a woman he once knew to someone, presumably Henry James.  So, metafiction-- and for the rest of the book this doesn't come up again.  The protagonist and first-person narrator after the prologue is a young governess, the daughter of a parish priest.  She goes to the country estate of Bly (and how might one pronounce this??) to take care of two children at the behest of their always-absent-on-business uncle.  We never learn this governess's name or much about her, already evoking a sense of mystery and, well, vagueness. 

The two children, Flora and Miles, who the governess must look after fit the Victorian ideal of children: they are angelic in both appearance and behavior, bright and determined to please.  Our narrator is happy in her new position-- until she begins to see a strange man, a man who she instinctively feels to be evil, around the grounds of Bly. 
When she tells the housekeeper what she has seen, the terrified woman identifies the man by the governess's description: he is Peter Quint, a man who once worked for the estate and who apparently spent a lot of time with young Miles.  Soon after the terrifying appearance of Quint, a second ghost-- the ghost of the governess's predecessor at Bly-- appears.  The governess, never once doubting her instinctual feeling that these apparitions want nothing more than to hurt her innocent young charges, seeks a way to protect them from the spectors and the corruption she associates them with.  

I don't think it is much of a spoiler to add that there are two main readings of The Turn of the Screw, as you might guess from just reading the synopsis: A. this is a true ghost story, and the governess, having perfectly identified the ghosts of people she had never met, is correct in that these spectors are trying to lead the children to their own deaths (and possibly corrupt them as well).  Reading B: the governess is paranoid, to the point of halluncinating the apparitions, and possibly insane; she creates malevolent figures where in fact there are none, for various psychological reasons.  I lean towards reading B, though I don't have a satisfying explanation for how the governess knew what Quint and Miss Jessel, the other ghost, looked like.  The character of Mrs. Grose-- the housekeeper-- seems suspect in this: maybe she matched the governess's vague descriptions of the apparitions to those of Quint and Jessel because she had always thought them to have sinister intentions.  The thing is, there are several occasions when the governess sees the ghosts and points them out hysterically to the children or to Mrs. Grose, and nobody else sees anything.  Maybe a "meeting point" between the two readings is that Jessel and Quint did corrupt the two children-- the boy and the girl-- before their deaths, and their dark influence lingers, though they are not ghosts, in the sometimes bizarre behavior of the children.  Miles in particular turns out to be much less angelic than he first appears to be...

The governess's conviction towards the nature of the ghosts has the reverse effect of causing the reader to be skeptical of their existence.  Anyway, so I really enjoyed this book.  And yet, halluncinations or not, these ghosts are more frightening to me than the ones which populate 21st century horror movies.  The description of the "pale face" of the ghost of Quint looking in through the window at the children having dinner is beyond eerie-- oh, that scene beat out only by the one with Miss Jessel by the governess's writing desk!  And I feel like I'm spewing spoilers again, but point being, there are some truly eerie scenes.  

The Turn of the Screw succeeds as a ghost story and as an interesting character study...the ambiguity of the supernatural elements and the governess's identity is great and, actually, a little bit maddening.  The ending came as a shock to me, to say the least.  Not sure how I missed the million BBC adaptations of this, but I'm glad I did-- this thin pageturner packed with heavy ambiguity and a great deal of creepiness was a unique reading experience.

My rating:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 288 (paperback)
Published: 2013 by Simon Pulse

Be careful what you believe in...Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family’s rickety house.

Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything. Rudy can’t remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being friends with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life.


Seeing as I had heard Teeth blurbed as both "another edgy teen contemp" and as a story about "gay magic fish", it's a surprise that I gave this book a try-- but in this case, taking a chance on a new author and an unknown story definitely payed off.  Hannah Moskowitz has a "bare bones" writing style which really captures a reader's attention and, in the case of Teeth, makes the story so much more raw and real.  This book defies genre trends, with a few elements of the ever-popular mermaid paranormal romance (ie boy meets girl; boy meets fish), a few from the "edgy" teen novel, some from the modern fairy tale novels like those by Holly Black, and some which are all its own.

Our MC Rudy was a typical enough teenage boy before his family moved to an island with a tiny population, an island whose local fish are rumored to make whoever eats them healthy, even to ward off terminal diseases like the one Rudy's little brother suffers from.  Rudy meets beautiful Diana, who is the only other teenager on the island: she grew up on the isolated island and learned most everything she knows from books.  And then he meets the boy who calls himself Teeth: a boy with a fish tail and a scaly upper body who lives near the island's docks.  Teeth insists he is more fish than human, but as Rudy discovers as he begins to get to know Teeth and his murky origins, Teeth is more human and more vulnerable than he would ever admit.

Teeth is a simply told story, part-contemporary and part-fairy tale, with simple, powerful themes.  However, its complex and beautifully realized characters mean that you will likely be thinking about this short novel long after you finish reading it.  What has stayed with me most strongly are the characters of Rudy and Teeth, the strength and uncertainty of their friendship, and the ending-- which was not, as I definitely feared it was going to be while reading the book, tragic.  I really loved this amazingly original novel and really recommend that anyone just try reading it with no expectations or prejudices, because Teeth defies both.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Genre: children's/ MG fantasy
Pages: 312 (hardcover edition)
Published: 2008 by HarperCollins

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.  Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . .

Well, I am one of those people who likes Neil Gaiman.  It seems like about half of readers love this guy's books to death from the first page-- they say things like he's an ultra-imaginative, clever genius, one of the most enchanting writers of our age.  The other half tend to come to the conclusion that he's a little overrated, or that his stories are too confusing to follow, a little dark, and just plain weird.  I totally agree with Gaiman's critics: his short stories more than his novels can lean towards bizarre, but I think he's a genius anyway.  What I like most about his novels is how he takes a fantastical plot or setting (in this case, a graveyard) filled with unusual and often mysterious characters (here, a whole host of ghostly inhabitants and Bod's guardian Silas, a man who is neither alive nor dead) and weaves a brilliant, entertaining, and surprisingly believable story about human values and life.  Yep, he is a genius in my eyes.

The Graveyard Book is a coming-of-age story whose premise is loosely based on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.  After an assassin called the man Jack murders his parents and sister, Bod is taken in by a long-dead couple who live in the cemetery by his old house.  Bod learns to read from the engravings on tombstones, sleeps in a crypt, and his guardian is kind of a vampire-- but in all the important ways, he's still an ordinary boy, meaning that he really can't stay out of trouble.  He befriends a dead teenage witch from unconsecrated ground, goes into town to attend school (and gives the local bullies a little hell), and steals an ancient artifact from an ancient tomb where even the oldest ghosts don't dare to venture.  But when the man Jack, along with a shadowy league of assassins who have wanted Bod dead since he first disappeared into the graveyard, return to finish the job of murdering Bod's family, Bod will be forced to use every supernatural trick and bit of uncanny knowledge he has learned from growing up among the tombstones to defeat them.

The Graveyard Book is actually a somewhat cheerier tale than Coraline, Gaiman's other middle-grade-type book.  The premise of a boy whose family is murdered and grows up in a graveyard sounds darker than one about a girl who finds another world and another mother through a door in her apartment-- but it isn't.  The Graveyard Book is far lighter in tone and far less slightly disturbing than Coraline, because the ghosts and strange beings Bod meets are more well-developed, likeable, and generally benevolent characters than the creepy Other Mother and the denizens of Coraline.  My favorite part of the book-- other than the climactic and amazing ending-- is the story about the young girl Bod meets who was accused of being a witch and killed back in medieval times.  This dead girl, Liza Hempstock, was the first character Gaiman wrote about for the story besides Bod, and she is definitely one of the most memorable: she has a great sassy personality despite the way she died, yet her story is so sad.  Bod's quest to find a proper headstone for this girl is a bittersweet and amazing sub-plot in the story. 

The Graveyard Book, along with all of other Neil Gaiman's other books for children and middle-grade readers, is definitely one I would want my future daughter read.  The story is also subtle enough that adults can read it and enjoy the nostalgic feelings of childhood which are strong in Bod's story despite the unusual nature of his childhood.  Fascination with a strange and sinister-seeming neighbor, being babysat by unlikely and ill-qualified candidates, spending the day with a new, quickly-made friend and having to say goodbye too soon, sneaking off to forbidden places... like Mowgli's, Bod's story is one we can relate to despite the strangeness of his circumstances.  I can't recommend this book enough, for children, teens, and adults.  Now, I want Neil Gaiman to hurry up and release his next novel The Ocean At the End of the Lane-- which comes out on my birthday!

Book Rating:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top Ten Series I Want to Start But Haven't Yet

In this week's Top Ten Tuesday (a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers of The Broke and Bookish), we're lamenting the truthfulness behind that ancient saying "So many books, so little time".  Like a lot of avid readers, I have literally hundreds of books on my Goodreads to-read shelf and probably a dozen on my physical shelf waiting to be read.  But here are the top ten series I am very excited to start reading... sometime.  Hopefully.

 Ashfall (Ashfall series) by Mike Mullin
In my Geology class, we're always talking about the possibility of the Yellowstone volcano exploding and pretty much wrecking havoc on the North American continent, and how it actually is long overdue for an eruption.  Really cheerful stuff.  The Ashfall series takes place in a post-apocalyptic North America where exactly this happens.  

 Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters series) by Juliet Marillier
I really like this author and really hope I will like this ultra-popular, slightly older fantasy series.  You know, whenever I get around to reading it.

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna series) by Kendare Blake

The Walking Dead graphic novels by Robert Kirkman
So I love the TV series and now want to try the graphic novels.  (Even though Daryl Dixon is apparently not in them?!)  I don't usually read American-style graphic novels, being a manga addict, but in this case I'll probably make an exception. 

 Clockwork Angel (Infernal Devices series) by Cassandra Clare
 I technically have read the first book, but feel like I should give it another try and refresh my memory.  I know some people love the Infernal Devices even more than the original Mortal Instruments, but I don't remember this one being very memorable-- maybe a re-read will help!

 The Diviners by Libba Bray
The first book in a planned YA series.  I loved Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, not so much Beauty Queens.  I think this one is about flappers and black magic.  Yay.

 The Name of the Wind (King-killer Chronicles) by Patrick Rothfuss
I started this first book and actually really did like it-- I just haven't had time to pick up where I left off yet.  The writing in this book is seriously amazing; it is definitely well-crafted fantasy.

Birthmarked (Birthmarked series) by Caragh M. O'Brien
A pretty good-sounding YA dystopia series with a confusing synopsis I won't even try to paraphrase.

The Way of Shadows (Night Angel Trilogy) by Brent Weeks
 I've kinda wanted to read this epic-urban fantasy series for a long time.  Just not enough to pick up the first book; maybe it will happen some slow day at the library.

 Enclave (Razorland series) by Ann Aguirre
Another popular dystopia seris I've yet to start reading.  I literally had never noticed the creepy hand in the bottom right corner of the cover until now.

Leave the links to your Top Ten posts and I'll be sure to visit and comment back!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 424 (hardcover)
Published: 2012 by Margaret K. McElderberry


Liyana has always held a unique position within the nomadic desert tribe which are her family and her world: she is a vessel, marked as special by the goddess of her tribe from birth.  As a vessel, Liyana knows and accepts that she is destined to die so that her goddess may inhabit her body and bring peace and all-important rain to her people.  But when the goddess Bayla fails to come during the long-awaited summoning ceremony, Liyana despairs that she must not be worthy-- and her tribe, despairing over the famine which will surely destroy them, abandons the would-be goddess girl in the desert to fend or die for herself.  

Joined by Korbyn, a powerful trickster god in the body of a handsome young vessel who promises to help Liyana save her tribe by sacrificing herself, Liyana sets off across the desert in search of those other vessels whose gods failed to show up.  But as she discovers her own strength, bravery, and a tentative romance with Korbyn, Liyana begins to have rebellious thoughts: she isn't so sure she wants to die so that her goddess can live, or that any desert teenager should have to make such a sacrifice.  

This is the first book I've read by Sarah Beth Durst, but I will definitely be interested to check out the (apparently numerous) other novels she has out there.  Vessel has a really unique premise and world setting-- the desert lands of Liyana's and the other tribes make for a harsh and forbidding lifestyle.  The tribes tell stories of gods and goddesses who are very human-- they fight and love and even inhabit the bodies of young humans called vessels.  Without the help of their gods, the clans would perish from drought and famine.  Meanwhile, the more "civilized" Crescent Empire is also in the midst of a great famine and their young emperor has a vision that the empire's salvation might be found in the unlikely locale of the barren desert.  Durst does a really excellent job introducing us to Liyana's life and world, where magic is as real as the deadly sand wolves which stalk tribal camps and family is everything.

Moving onto the characters... Liyana is that rare female YA protagonist who I didn't have any major peeves with.  She is sort of indoctrinated with the belief that her life is meant to be given to her goddess and that she is a failure when the goddess does not come to inhabit her body, but in the context it totally makes sense that she would have this kind of calm acceptance towards the sacrifice she must make.  Her family and clan are everything to her and vessels are so much a part of her culture that she knows her intended role very well.  As she meets Korbyn and they go off in search of the other vessels, it becomes clear that Liyana is more than the girl chosen for her "flawless" prettiness so that the goddess would be pleased with her.  Here we have a strong heroine who is not afraid to take action or reckless chances when she must-- oh, very good!
For the longest time, lifeless female protagonists who don't/won't act or think for themselves has been a major pet peeve of mine with fiction, on the list with the mandatory love triangle and constant recycling of the same descriptive words (typically words like "rippling" and "glimmering", also typically words found in paranormal romance).  But I really do think authors are getting much, much better at creating heroines who are somewhere between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, you know, Bella Swan-- believably likeable and inspiring fictional women.  (Recent female characters in books I've read have even somewhat helped me to forget the nightmare that was Aurorarama.)

The other vessels in the novel besides Liyana are all very different from one another, in how they react to their gods' not showing up: one girl dreams of running away to the empire, where she will not be forced to give up her life for her goddess's, while another peacefully accepts her fate.  Korbyn, the trickster god inhabiting a desert boy's body, is the stand-out character apart from Liyana.  He is not just a supernatural pretty boy thrown in as a love interest (yay, for divergent YA!), and is definitely not your conventional love interest.  I was very surprised, but basically happy, with the way the romantic sub-plot turned out in this book. But yeah, Korbyn was pretty awesome.

The pacing of Vessel was not so fast-- probably just quick enough to keep a reader's interest, but my growing love for the characters was enough to make me read on despite some occasional slooow moments.  All in all, my consensus is just that Sarah Beth Durst clearly has a spectacular imagination.  She has taken a completely unique story in an unconventional setting, created a whole huge mythology for this world, and then created lovable and strong characters to interact with a intriguing plot.  This is how one crafts a great YA fantasy novel-- 5 stars!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

In My Mailbox #29: The Post-Hiatus Edition

I really (hopefully) mean it when I say "post-hiatus"!  The reality is that I just don't have as much time to read and blog as I did during high school, but I'm determined to post and participate more.  In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, in which bloggers show off all the fantastic, shiny-new (or library-borrowed) books we received over the past week.  I didn't get as many new books as usual, despite the blog's short hiatus, but there are a few exciting new books waiting on my shelves:

 Here's what I got:

Books-- YA & Adult:

I've already ripped my way through the pages of the amazing read that is Hannah Moskowitz's Teeth.   I read Fire, too, a long time back, but don't really remember it as well as Graceling other than that it is very good.

 Throne of the Crescent Moon is an adult fantasy set in a world resembling the Middle East in the earlier days of Islam, maybe around the Arabian Nights era.  It's a relatively little-known compared to some other fantasy epics-- even though it was nominated for the Nebula-- but I do like... lots of ghul-hunters, desert shapeshifters, and alchemy.

Manga & Graphic Novels:

Blue Exorcist is a shonen manga series which I think is so far pretty great-- it's really exciting with cool, vague concepts (typical for guys' manga) and pretti-ful art (not as typical for guys' manga). I will probably do a series review for it after I read a few more volumes, like with Library Wars, 'cause I don't like to review manga volume-by-volume.  Darker Than Black is a manga based off a popular anime series which I've never seen...but the art is very easy on the eyes (I am a sucker for eye-candy art) and the story seems interesting.
What did you get in your mailbox this week?  I'd love to check out your posts-- just leave me a link and I'll be sure to visit back!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Classically Readable #3: Treasure Island

 Genre: classics/ historical adventure
Pages: around 250 pages, depending on the edition
Published: first published 1883


I can't honestly say that Treasure Island wasn't exactly what I expected it to be, but that's by no means a bad thing.  It is the classic adventure story, beloved by children and adults for over a century.  This is the book which more or less gave birth to the modern image of the swashbuckling, peg-legged/one-eyed pirate-- plot-wise, I saw some major fodder for modern pirate films like Cutthroat Island and Pirates of the Caribbean.  All in all, Treasure Island is far from a timeless thought-provoker, but it is a classic worth reading all the same.

Our protagonist Jim Hawkins is a young innkeeper's son who is half-fascinated and half-terrified by the little English inn's long-time resident, an intimidating, seafaring drunk who prefers to be known only as "The Captain".  Following the Captain's exciting demise and the arrival of a band of loathsome pirates (with various physical disfigurements), Jim chances to find a treasure map hidden away in the dead Captain's chest.  Having recruited the game Dr. Livesey and some of his noble friends to sail to this mysterious treasure island, Jim joins the schooner crew as a cabin boy.  Enter Long John Silver, one of the most infamous and ambiguous of all literary villains.  Silver, a ship's cook who charms both Livesey and Jim, gets together a crew of his sailing buddies to join in on the treasure-hunting adventure.  The fabled island is discovered amidst a mutiny at sea and there is a battle for the treasure booty between Jim and Livesey's party and Silver's mutineering ex-pirates.

There are two interesting characters in Treasure Island: Jim Hawkins, our narrator, and Long John Silver.  Jim struggles to decide what and who to believe, as the seemingly charming and honest John Silver reassures him time and time again that sticking with Silver is his best chance at surviving the deadly conflicts between the two parties which rage over sea and land.  He's a clever, likeable protagonist from humble beginnings, and he's a really great narrator.  (Stevenson's writing style is not what you would call old-fashioned, either-- this book is one of the easiest 19th century novels I've ever read).  Silver definitely has the reputation of being one of fiction's greatest villains, but I also think he must be one of the most interesting.  After years at sea, during which he lost a leg and served as a quartermaster and ship's cook, John Silver has the strange twin reputation of being both a friendly, helpful man and a cunning, brutal one, depending on who one asks.  His seemingly morally ambiguous character and his unexpected fate at the novel's end both totally defy villain conventions which are still standard today, and were even more standard in the 1800s when Stevenson wrote Treasure Island.

Treasure Island was not originally published as a novel, surprisingly enough, but as a serial in a children's magazine titled The Mutiny of the Hispaniola.  On one level, the book can be considered a pretty typical, if especially exciting, adventure story of the era in the tradition of the ever-popular Robinson Crusoe.  Having read it, I think that it must be Stevenson's fantastic prose which has made the novel so immortal in children's literature and literature as a whole, along with the characters of John Silver and Jim.  The story itself has as many twists and scallywag characters as your typical Pirates of the Caribbean movie, except that Treasure Island's story actually makes sense and, you know, there aren't any skeletal pirates or vicious, man-eating mermaids hanging around.  In the end, this book is by no means a mind-blowing read, but it is fun, influential, and fast-paced classic which is still deserving of its classic status.

Book Rating:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Genre: YA fantasy & romance
Pages: 292 (hardcover)
Published: 2012 by Harper Teen

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything--her family, her future--to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

My Review:

Tiger Lily is a story perhaps more bittersweet even than the original classic tale of Peter Pan.  As a reader with a meh opinion of the original Peter Pan, I found Jodi Lynn Anderson's clever and heartbreaking retelling to be much more readable.  It's always a nice surprise when fanfiction turns out to be wonderful, even "published fanfiction".  I love the fresh perspective of Tiger Lily, and the way Anderson delves deep into the background of both the previously silent main character and the whole multi-layered world of Neverland. 

The story is narrated not by Tiger Lily, but by Tinkerbell (as Peter comes to call the little faery who trails after him and Tiger Lily).  The sparkly, blond faery Tink with her jealous hissy fits who we're familiar with from the Disney adaptation is a far cry from the narrator of this book, though.  Readers will definitely come to appreciate Tink's better qualities: her headstrong personality, her loyalty (again, forget the Disney version where she sells Peter out to Captain Hook), and most of all, her engaging first person voice.  The novel reads as if it's narrated by a really close friend, one who sees all the happenings in Neverland and never withholds her opinions on them.

The world of Neverland is incredibly well-drawn and leads to such a good suspension-of-disbelief that I never once questioned mute faeries sleeping on windowsills, dinosaurs inhabiting a corner of the island, or man-eating mermaids.  By giving not-so-subtle hints that Neverland is actually the North American continent prior to the mass arrival of Europeans, the author gives Tiger Lily's tribe a sense of dignity and tradition-- which is sooo necessary after what sorta-racist '50s Disney did with "What Made the Red Man Red?"  

Tiger Lily herself is an outcast among her close-knit tribe, having been born in another and adopted by Tik Tok, the tribe's shaman and the closest thing they have to a leader.  She is a wild girl, different from the other young women in her village, quiet but fierce.  Her character is one who we come to care about, sympathizing with her for her outcast status and, as Tink does, her love for Peter Pan.  The Lost Boys do not immediately come into the novel, but Peter becomes a major player quite suddenly, when we least expect it.  

The Lost Boys of Tiger Lily are indeed somewhat lost: they have no family and have never known girls other than Peter's mermaid friends; some of them remember being shipwrecked from England.  In this novel, Peter Pan is an interesting character, though I was disappointed to see, one without a true back story.  He is truly a wild boy, and apparently has always been, moving silently through the jungle with his tribe of Lost Boys and, of course, evading the persistent Captain James Hook.  Hook appears pretty rarely in Tiger Lily, this being Tiger Lily's story, but he does have a intriguing backstory.  Surprisingly, the pirate who has the most shining moments is Smee, also known as Hook's big-bellied sidekick in the striped shirt.  I won't give away any spoilers as to how Anderson interprets the character of Smee, but it's pretty wild.   

Tiger Lily is a captivating read, with vividly re-interpreted characters.  The ending is not exactly a happy one, as the very first line of the novel proclaims, but there is a great deal of bitter-sweetness throughout the whole story.  I was surprised by how much I loved this book, and I think those who are on the fence about it should give Tiger Lily a read.

Book Rating:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...