Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3) by Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3) by Seanan McGuire

sugarskyBeneath the Sugar Sky takes readers back to the world of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, but not to a moment in time before the events of the first book. It is a sequel rather than a prequel.

I found it strangely satisfying in a way that Down Among the Sticks and Bones was not.

“They can be hard for their families to understand, those returned, used-up miracle children. They sound like liars to people who never had a doorway of their own.” pg 7, ebook.

And instead of just one world other than our own, readers get to experience a couple in Beneath the Sugar Sky.

The trouble begins when someone from a different world shows up in the everyday world and asks to see her mother. The thing is, her mother died in the real world some time ago.

The world that the girl comes from doesn’t pretend to follow time the normal way- it’s a nonsense world. Now, this visitor is disappearing and needs help from some of the residents of Eleanor West’s Home before she vanishes altogether.

“That makes no sense at all,” she said. “That means it may well work. Go, my darlings, and bring your lost and shattered sister home.” pg 29, ebook.

A new character in this book is Cora, a girl who went to a water world. She has an insightful way of viewing reality and seems able to see to the heart of people with little trouble: “They always had their shoes, their scissors, whatever talisman they wanted to have to hand when their doorways reappeared and they had to make the choice to stay or go.” pg 19, ebook.

Kade, Christopher and Nancy are in this book as well. “So many different doors, and yet here you are, all of you together, trying to accomplish the impossible.” pg 40, ebook.

I recommend reading Every Heart a Doorway before this book, to get the most enjoyment out of it. It’s perfect for young adults or readers who like fairy tales.

Thanks for reading!

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Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn

Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn

whisperWhisper has a cleft palate. In this young adult dystopian tale, she and other deformed children are cast out of society because of their abnormalities.

This story is about how she survives and holds her new family, made up of other rejected children, together despite obstacles at every turn.

Whisper was a far darker story than I expected.

Terrible things kept happening to Whisper and I kept telling myself that it would turn around soon. And it didn’t.

If she wasn’t running from someone who was trying to harm her, she was freezing or starving. She’d get a modicum of security and then lose it.

I was really cheering for Whisper to embrace her special abilities, but she never seems to manage it.

Honestly, I was disappointed by the heroine’s decisions at multiple times in this story.

As one of the children tells Whisper: “You will never go far in this world if you don’t know how to rescue yourself.” And, in my opinion, she never did what was best for her own survival.

The author describes the setting as “near future” but if she had taken out the cars, refrigerators, and indoor plumbing, it could just as easily have been the recent past.

It wasn’t too long ago that superstitious people believed birth defects marked someone who would ruin the crops, bring bad luck, or comets shooting across the sky spelled misfortune. In fact, in some parts of the world, this type of thinking still reigns.

I think it’s human nature to try to explain the unexplained and to condemn others for their differences, the physical differences being the easiest to pick out. That doesn’t make it right.

My main complaint about this read was the repetitiousness. After short bursts of frantic activity, Whisper’s life would settle into a routine that was really uninteresting.

If I had to read about her messing up the homemade bread one more time, I was going to put the book down.

Maybe the author was trying to get the reader invested in the process, but I simply wanted the story to move on. I was already interested in Whisper- I was just over the baking and cleaning.

The same feeling hit me during the multiple music lessons and the days spent playing violin on the streets for change. I guess I prefer my dystopian novels with more explosive action and less daily slogging.

Fans of How I Live Now or Gated may enjoy the pacing and story line of Whisper. As for me, I’m headed back to more action-oriented dystopian reads.

I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. Thanks for reading!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2) by Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2) by Seanan McGuire

downamongDown Among the Sticks and Bones is the back story of the twins, Jack and Jill, and the dark world they wandered through.

It takes place before the events of the first book in the series, Every Heart A Doorway.

The reader learns why the twins are so different and how their strange and disturbing other world opened its door to them in the first place.

The majority of the problem was Jack and Jill’s parents. They had children for reasons other than love.

The father wanted to children to move up in his career. The mother wanted to improve her status with her group of female friends: “A person may look at someone else’s child and see only the surface, the shiny shoes or the perfect curls. They do not see the tears and the tantrums, the late nights, the sleepless hours, the worry. They do not even see the love, not really.” pg 13.

So, instead of loving Jack and Jill for themselves, their parents instead seek to mold them into a perfect of ideal of what they thought their children should be.

The one bright spot in the twin’s childhood is their grandmother, Louise Wolcott. Chester and Serena, Jack and Jill’s parents, call her in desperation after the birth of the children because they have no idea what they’re doing or how to balance their careers while raising children.

Louise steps in without complaint. She is quite easily my favorite character in the book: “There’s nothing tiring about caring for children you love like your own,” said Louise… pg 34.

Despite Grandmother Louise’s best efforts, Jack and Jill end up fairly emotionally stunted from their parents’ dysfunction. The twin’s discovery of another world leads to some hard lessons about love, belonging and consequences.

“The Moors were beautiful in their own way, and if their beauty was the quiet sort that required time and introspection to be seen, well, there was nothing wrong with that. The best beauty was the sort that took some seeking.” pg 171.

I enjoyed this story. But, I think it should have been combined with Every Heart A Doorway.

I felt like so much of the plot of this book was given away in the first, by what happens. It would have been more enjoyable to learn about Jack and Jill’s Moors in flashbacks rather than a separate story.

That being said, it is a good enough young adult tale for what it is. The fairy tale quality to it is undeniable.

Recommended for readers who like a dark undercurrent of emotion, coming-of-age and self knowledge in their fairy tales. If you liked this book, you may also enjoy A Monster Calls.

One may be better served reading this book before Every Heart A Doorway. I think, if I had read this first, I may have enjoyed it more.

Thanks for reading!

Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

wheretherockWhere the Rock Splits the Sky is the story of Megan, a girl who has lost both her father and mother and who lives on the edge of a strange, haunted area called “The Zone.” In this part of the world, people are driven mad by unknown forces and the world doesn’t follow the normal rules of physics.

The Earth itself has stopped spinning because it was invaded by an alien species that the surviving humans call “Visitors.” One day, Megan is told that her father is still alive and that he is in the Zone.

She has no choice but to go find him. And the adventure begins.

This story was a surreal, heart-pounding adventure from start to finish.

I loved the dystopian aspect of it- the aliens are truly terrifying because the reader isn’t sure what they can or can’t do. It’s not even clear from the start who is or isn’t an alien.

The guessing game makes for some exciting tension. That same unknown quality is extended to the “Zone” itself so that the story at any moment could pass from normal to totally bonkers.

That uncertainty makes this a great read, in my mind.

I did have some complaints- I wanted more to happen during the final, climatic scene. It felt like after such a great build up that things ended too quickly and neatly. But I suppose one can’t have it all.

Also, this book required a great deal of suspension of belief. I mean, for goodness sake, the world has stopped spinning. That’s some fairly serious physics law breaking. And that is assumed from the start.

This novel reminded me of The Gunslinger in that both have western themes and some horror elements to it. This is definitely a more young adult version while Stephen King’s novel was written for adults. It’s also a lot shorter

With those caveats in mind, fans of that series may enjoy this one.

Also, anyone who likes to read young adult, dystopian books might enjoy Where the Rock Splits the Sky. It’s an interesting addition to the genre.

I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.

Thanks for reading!

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

everyheartWhat if children actually fell into other worlds, like Alice in Wonderland or the Pevensies into Narnia, far more often than anyone realized? What if those worlds were superior in every way to the normal, mundane world- not in that they were in heaven, but the child felt finally at home?

And what if those worlds cast the children out, to live in the “real world” again? It might not be a pretty picture.

That is why Eleanor West started a home for children who went away, came back and didn’t belong anymore. All of those reasons, but also, because she went away once too.

“Eleanor West spent her days giving them what she had never had, and hoped that someday, it would be enough to pay her passage back to the place where she belonged.” pg 13.

I loved the basic premise of this story. All of the worlds the children went to were so different, but the fact that the worlds were “other,” tied them altogether.

“‘Real’ is a four-letter world, and I’ll thank you to use it as little as possible while you live under my roof.” pg 20

This story has the drama of a bunch of misfit children all trying to get along, but also the mystery of these other worlds. There’s also a deeper mystery that develops when one of the children seems determined to find a way home- at any cost.

“You will not all find your doors again. Some doors really do appear only once, the consequence of some strange convergence that we can’t predict or re-create. They’re drawn by need and by sympathy. Not the emotion- the resonance of one thing to another. There’s a reason you were all pulled into the worlds that suited you so well.” pg 97

I was concerned when I started this book that it would be too much like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. That was a needless concern.

They are similar in that both contain orphanages for extraordinary children and fantasy has a large part in the story. But that was where I felt the similarities ended.

I also found myself wishing that Every Heart a Doorway was written for adults rather than young adults. This was a fairytale that could have used some darker twists to it.

Seanan McGuire didn’t make this story all rainbows and gumdrops, but I would have liked it to be edgier.

I loved the “longing to belong” feeling McGuire wove into the book. It seems to me to be a quintessential teenage feeling, but I suppose everyone wants to feel completely at home- whatever that might mean.

For some people, that longing is attached to a place, another person, or to the drug addict, it’s the next hit. Other people crave a moment in time, or a particular period in their life.

I would say, on second consideration, “longing to belong” is perhaps the human condition itself.

Recommended for fans of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. If you’re looking for a darker, more adult fairytale, I’d recommend The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

Thanks for reading!

Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson

Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson

gorkGork needs to crown his queen today and leave to take over a distant planet or suffer terrible consequences. He has a few major problems: he’s in love with one of the most popular females at the military academy, his heart is far too big, his horns are far too small, his class rating is too low and his grandfather, Doctor Terrible, has gone missing.

Nothing a teenage dragon can’t handle, right?

Gork, the Teenage Dragon is one of the most unique books I’ve read in a long time. It is a story about dragons, yes, but not just that. Gabe Hudson has created an entire dragon culture.

WarWings graduates continue to conquer the universe one planet at a time. We are the proud preservers of the EggHarvest tradition. Victory will always be ours! pg 30.

In some ways, WarWings reminded me of the military academy from Ender’s Game. It is dog eat dog, or dragon eat dragon.

My favorite part of the dragon culture is its use of poetry: “I don’t know why it is, but singing a poem out loud will always make you appear more repulsive and psychotic to those who you intend to enslave.” pg 56.

I also enjoyed the nudging of journalists: “The vibe in the room was definitely fiendish, and you should know that dragon journalists on Blegwethia are notoriously ruthless. Because on my home planet Blegwethia if a journalist shows up to report a story and they don’t like the situation they’re seeing, they’re not afraid to wade right in and get their claws and beak bloody. That’s dragon journalism for you.” pg 88.

If anything, Gork, the Teenage Dragon suffered from too many lovingly crafted details about dragon culture to the detriment of the story. It dragged as a result. And some of the gags didn’t quite work.

On the other hand, I was laughing out loud quite a lot at Gork’s antics: “… I study my scaly green reflection and see five nasty-looking slashes in my forehead from where that demon Torp has swiped me with his claws. ‘Not bad, Professor,’ I say, looking at the slashes. ‘This could make some nice scars.’ Now in case you don’t know, teenage dragons love scars.”

I was also not fond of the ending.

Recommended for readers with patience and the willingness to overlook some repetitious dialogue.

Gork, the Teenage Dragon won’t appeal to everyone, but I could see some die-hard dragon fans absolutely devouring this book.

Kin (The Good Neighbors, #1) by Holly Black

Kin (The Good Neighbors, #1) by Holly Black

goodneighborsRue’s mother has always been a little different. She talks to plants, hangs out naked in the yard and seems ageless. Rue knows her mother is not like other parents. But then, one day when her mom disappears, Rue begins to see strange things- creatures with horns in the coffee shop, a winged girl hanging out in the high school hallway- and she realizes that she’s different too.

Where has her mother gone and is Rue going crazy?

“You know how sometimes, when you glance at something out of the corner of your eye, it looks different for a moment? Well, sometimes when I look straight at a thing, it looks weird too. And those moments are stretching wider and wider.” pg 5.

I enjoyed the faerie lore in this graphic novel: “If an older mortal is beautiful or good at riddles, we might take them, but we always leave something behind in exchange. Sometimes we glamour wood to take on their appearance or we abandon a faerie in their place.” pg 36.

This book deals with surprisingly dark themes so I wouldn’t let my tween read it. The story contains (non-explicit) drug use, rape and kidnapping. It should be ok for most mature teens.

The artwork is pretty. The people aren’t depicted like normal every day people (especially the faeries) but, for the most part, I don’t think the artist over-sexualized the women. That’s one of my pet peeves with graphic novels: when they depict females as ridiculously proportioned pin ups. But, like I said, this one isn’t over-the-top.

The faeries are quite creepy too: “Let me tell you a story. … Long ago, mortals called us the fair folk, the people of peace, the good neighbors. They called us these things not because we were fair or peaceful or good, but because they feared us. As they should. As they will again.” pg 77

Recommended for readers who like dark fairy tales and fans of Holly Black.