The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

sea

Writing this review is difficult. I know tons of individuals that raved about this book (including the majority of the Goodreads community), but I found it just okay. Yes, the writing is beautiful and there are tons of memorable lines, but the lack of plot made the storyline move incredible slow at times. The book is character driven, and switches point of view between damaged high schoolers ‘Nastya’ and Josh. The mysterious reason for Nastya’s silence is hinted at and slowly revealed as the book progresses.

The romance is heavily focused on, and is mostly adorable. I thought it was cute that she fell for an equally damaged individual with his own ‘human force field’. Although they both survive tragedies, they are able to find healing and safety in each other. Their love and trust builds slowly and it felt authentic. Pet nicknames in general are terrible, but Josh’s overuse of calling Nastya ‘Sunshine’ got beyond irritating.

Speaking of names, the origin and meaning of names played a large role in the book. It’s interesting (and so not a coincidence) that every single name meaning matched their personality (example- Sarah being a princess, Josh being a savior, etc.)  While I don’t think a given name predicts your personality, I did a quick search of the meaning behind my name and it is weirdly accurate.

Overall, this is a very angst filled book of two broken individuals finding each other and starting over. Because of the profanity, and mature content, it reads like other darker ‘new adult’ books and so I would recommend this title to older teen readers.

 

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

 

There are some things you can’t leave behind…

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

if you finddd

Many of my latest reads have featured terrible, dysfunctional families, but I think Carey’s mentally ill and drug addicted mother takes the cake. The level of neglect and abuse will break your heart.   From the very first page, we learn of Carey and her younger sister, Janessa’s sad and miserable living situation, consisting of: canned beans, clothes that stink of cat urine, and an abandoned cockroach filled camper in the woods.  But that’s not even the worst part…

Throughout the divided three parts (The End, The Middle, The Beginning), Carey hints at the trauma they’ve endured as the “white-star night”.  It’s not until the last few pages that readers learn what really happened the night Janessa stopped talking.  Warning—this violent scene was really difficult to read.  Despite this, If You Find Me is truly a story of resilience and the power of sisterly bonds. After being discovered by a social worker and Carey’s dad, the sisters are able to overcome unimaginable horror and adjust reasonably well to new life.  There were peaks of happiness and hope that were fully welcomed in this book of dark and traumatic events.

Overall, If You Find Me is a quick 245 page read.  Murdoch hooks the reader in within the first couple paragraphs and takes them on a haunting emotional journey that uniquely explores identity and family. A recommended read.

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

                                                            Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)

 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was one of the most hyped YA novels of 2011. Although curious, I was reluctant to read it because fantasy is not my preferred genre. After much encouragement by a publishing rep, I gave in and picked up the book.

Publishers Blurb:

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family.

Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

 MY REVIEW:

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”  This fantastic beginning gives a glimpse into the storyline and draws you in right from the start.  These opening lines are just one of my favourite quotes from this unique book. Indeed, Taylor’s writing is beyond imaginative and like nothing that I’ve ever read before. She succeeded in using mythology elements and rich imagery to create a dark and fascinating world. I loved being transported into a different world that some very interesting creatures (known as chimaera) call home. These creatures are half human, half animal, yet Karou considers them family. After all, they raised 17 year-old Karou before she moved into her own apartment in Prague to attend art school.  With tattoos and blue hair, the mysterious Karou lives a secret life from her friends, often disappearing from them to run strange errands for the chimaera, including the collection of teeth.  The secret of teeth, and many more unknowns are revealed slowly throughout the book.  However, I must warn you that some parts (character and world building) do move a little slow, and can be a bit confusing to grasp, but when you finally figure out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, it is amazing.

Although this book is catalogued as a Young Adult book, the writing is detailed enough to appeal to an older audience.  The historical and mythology aspects are so detailed that the reader must give their full attention and not be distracted in any way to absorb the story fully.  I found myself having to go back to re-read some parts, so I’m sure that if I read the book again, I would pick up on stuff I missed.  As I mentioned before, fantasy doesn’t usually appeal to me, but this book has a little bit of everything, including: fantasy, action, romance, and mythology. I truly hate to compare this book to Twilight (because Daughter of Smoke and Bone is SO much better) but I do feel that fans of Twilight would also love this book.  There is that aspect of a Romeo/Juliet romance, strange creatures, an ancient war, and folklore. 

Clearly, Karou’s story is not over because Daughter of Smoke and Bone ends with twists and surprises in the epilogue.  There are so many unanswered questions for both Karou and the reader. The ending is just the beginning, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.  In this book about love, peace, and the magic of hope, I leave you with my favourite quote:

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

 

More Praise for Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

“Author Taylor has created a variety of worlds, time frames, and creatures with such detail and craft that all are believable…Readers will look forward to the suggested sequel to this complex, exciting tale.” (Booklist )

“[A] breath-catching romantic fantasy about destiny, hope and the search for one’s true self” (The New York Times Book Review )

“Thrillingly fresh and new” (Entertainment Weekly )

 

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