Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs

This is one of the books I received after the Book Bloggers online conference and I was excited because I haven't actually read a mermaid book before even though I have a few on my "to read" list over at Goodreads. The copy I received was an advanced copy and the book was published May 10th. Since it was an advanced copy, some things in the published version might be different. I've noticed some mention online, for example, that one character's name is different. So, this is based from the uncorrected proof I received.

About the story from Goodreads: Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her—and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.

Overall: A decent story. The beginning dragged a little for me because it felt too easy to put down. I started reading the ARC back in May but there were weeks where I didn't read in it at all. But over half way through the story it grabbed my attention and I became emotionally involved with the main character's tale. I'd been wanting to read a mermaid book for a while now and it definitely is a mermaid book.

Characters: Tempest was a bit of a warm/cold character. In the beginning, I had a hard time relating to and caring about her, which isn't what one wants to have happen. The first part of the story we mostly see her get emotional, fight with her boyfriend and fret over the events that were supposed to happen at some point in the story. It isn't until she all of a sudden forgets everything and goes to the ocean for a different boy that things start to pick up. Speaking of boys, not surprised that there is the human boyfriend versus the mystery boy that wants the female main character. For the small number of books in YA that I've read so far, it has been a common situation. This one at least wasn't the human doing everything to help the main character, so I didn't feel as bad for him (Mark). I didn't warm up completely to Kai (or whatever his name is in the published version) but I did a little through the story. There were many other characters, of course, and at one point during the climax I was a little confused about who was who. But the focal was Tempest, then the boys and her mother, which she mostly thought about and we don't see much of for reasons shown in the story.

Plot: The plot at he beginning felt a little slow. I almost wondered if the beginning could have been compressed and the action once she ended up in the ocean could have been expanded. That would have made the book a little more interesting for me, I think, and cut down a little on having the main character waiting around and complaining. Once we find out the direction the story takes, it gets really interesting and made me want to read. The end felt a little ambiguous. I don't know if there is a second book but it seemed like there was potential for one.

Granted that it wasn't the greatest novel, but for those that like the paranormal/fantasy romance-y young adult novels where female main character has her own issues to battle along with a love triangle, then this book is one to check out. If like me, that's not quite your thing, there are many other books in the sea...

Dawn's Verdict: 6.5/10

In the Mirror, a memoir of shattered secrets, by Ann Carbine Best

Available from the publisher, WiDo.
Also available for Kindle and Nook for $3.99
I have waited it seems a very long time to read the memoir, In the Mirror, by fellow blogger Ann Carbine Best. I was delighted when it was in the mail when I returned from my overseas trip. It was great company while I tried to get my land legs again.

A memoir has to be cleverly written or it becomes just a recount which can be quite boring. Ann’s memoir is anything but boring! She has used her vast arsenal of writerly talents to compile a riveting story of her life. It is the generous use of dialogue which sets this memoir apart, drawing the reader in. I felt like I was going through the journey with Ann, (and offering her advice along the way.)

And what a difficult journey it is. For a married woman with four children to find out her husband really preferred men must have been painful beyond imagining. I’m sure many women reading In the Mirror would be yelling at Ann: Give him the boot! Don’t put up with it! But Ann is not just any woman; she is a woman of remarkable strength and purpose. She had married for life, she was protective of her children, she was not going to give up easily. Even her husband Larry said on breaking the news: ‘You probably want to leave me.’ Ann replied: ‘No. I don’t want to leave you. You’re my husband. The children love you.’ (p.23). And so Larry stayed, but wasn’t prepared to give up men. The marriage continued for seven years after Ann found out her husband had cheated on her. Seven turbulent years.

I was surprised at the extend of intervention from the Mormon church of which Ann and Larry were both members. It must have been helpful for Ann to have the men of the church to call on in her times of distress, but I didn’t always feel the advice they gave was in Ann’s best interests, but maybe that’s just independent me speaking.

For such a tale of woe, Ann is never woeful. She takes many blows, but receives them with grace. The reader can’t help becoming emotionally involved. I was very angry at some of the complications of her ex-husband’s gay life, how it affected the children, how it made a difficult situation even more difficult. I was angry at Ann’s financial struggle, especially after Jen’s car accident and resultant brain damage, while her ex-husband was in a position to help her but chose not to for selfish reasons.

Then I was surprised when Ann chose to marry again, this time to a man obviously addicted to alcohol, going against the advice of the church. But was it the financial pressure and her need to see her children secure that was behind this decision? Once again Ann and her family are put through years of turmoil until the inevitable happens and Tom is no longer with them.

Throughout Ann’s struggle, it is obvious she retains feelings for her ex-husband and that she regrets the breakdown of a marriage which she believed would last into eternity. In the Mormon marriage ceremony the bride and groom stand ‘in front of mirrors with mirrors behind them that reflected their endless images, symbolic of eternal marriage’ (p.197). This is where I think the title In the Mirror originates. But sadly even though Larry and Ann’s images were reflected in the mirror on their wedding day, their marriage was not to be for eternity.

For a great memoir which is a celebration of the resiliency of the human spirit, read Ann Carbine Best’s In the Mirror. I eagerly await her next memoir.

L'Aussie's Verdict: 9/10

Busy Times

Hello fellow readers,

It has been awhile, hasn't it. I have been trying to post for the past couple of weeks but things have been crazy busy. But I wanted to post something to at least explain the silence on this blog.

Me: I haven't been writing, reading or blogging much this month. I have two jobs that I started working at the very beginning of this month. Last week I worked 72+ hours. This week it is a bit over 55 hours, so a little better. I do have a guest post to format and get up here on the blog, and I'm trying to read some times but it's not easy that is for sure.

WritersBlockNZ has a lot going on in her own world too. Check out her blog here to see her excitement that is waiting to happen any day now. http://writersblocknz.weebly.com/blog.html

L'Aussie has been wonderful with her pre-scheduled reviews and she should be back soon from her travels. We will all be happy to see her back online. I'm sure she will have fun things to share about her travels on her blogs. http://laussiestravelblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/up-up-and-away.html

Things may be rocky for a little while, but don't worry. We're still here, somewhere.

The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney.

The blurb:

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.
In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

It is not often that you'll see me reviewing a YA book. Not because I don't read them, but my two colleagues on this blog specialise in YA, so I usually leave it to them. However, I was so thrilled to receive a copy of The Mockingbirds from a fellow Aussie book reviewer. I was intrigued by her review and have read many other fab reviews, mostly positive. 

The Mockingbirds has many appealing components that will appeal to a YA readership: boarding school, mysterious society, fierce vigilante justice with a traumatised but strong and sympathetic main character (for emotional impact).

The first chapter is intriguing. I loved the prose. It's sparse and sharp with a little bit of ache-y thrown in. I found it really appealing.

As a teacher who teaches many classics, I also loved all the little references to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. When you saw the title, like me, you probably thought it would be related in some way and it is. I adored the music refs, too, the Mozart, the piano playing and the passion for classical music. It was expressed so well, 'way cool' if you like.

There are many issues in the book which makes it a thought-provoking read. I like it for my students. Great for them to read it when studying 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' There are many discussion starters here.

On the down side, however, as the book progressed it started to lose me. I found myself not caring about the characters, which is always a red light to me. If I don't care what happens to the characters, I tend to stop reading. This time I didn't, but...Alex? The MC? I just didn't care about her plight even though she was date raped. Why? I think date rape is horrific, but her reaction distanced her from me. There was something about the way her emotions were presented. I didn’t feel compelled by her story. It didn't ring true.

The supporting characters all seemed a conglomeration. They were rather wooden, just characters in a book. They were usually flat and one dimensional. Even the love interest failed to spark - he seemed a celluloid creation to be the perfect match for Alex. Where was the romantic tension and chemistry between them?

I thought The Mockingbirds would be a powerful, emotional read. Many people may think it is - for all my lack of interest in the characters, it is really beautifully written. Yet I was mainly bored and felt disappointed at the treatment of the premise.

Because I didn’t connect with the characters, I wasn’t immersed in the story. It was difficult to suspend my disbelief regarding the novel set-up. The plot development bugged me and I really didn't see the reasoning behind some of the choices characters made.

But hey, don't listen to me, make your own decision. Goodreads gives it high ratings and it's easy to find glowing reviews around the blogosphere, but is that because the feeling is that we should rate it hightly because it dares to deal with the issue of date rape? 

I say kudos to the author for tackling such an intense and relevant subject for YA readers. She is writing a sequel to this one, but I'd give it a miss personally.

If this premise interests you, you should give it a go - you might connect with it. As I said the author didn't connect me with the characters so I didn't care about whatever predicament they were in. Overall, the actual book is well written and the prose made it worth powering on to the end.

L'Aussie's verdict: 7/10

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