Thursday, November 29, 2012

Audiobook Review: "Sapphire Blue" by Kerstin Gier

Title: Sapphire Blue
Author: Kerstin Gier
Translator: Anthea Bell
Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners, 2012 (print available from Henry Holt & Co.)
Narrator: Melisa Calin

After finding out she and not her cousin Charlotte is the carrier of her family's time travel gene, and the fallout of this discovery in Ruby Red, Gwyneth Shepherd is back in this second volume of the trilogy, which takes place immediately after the first in the series. Gwyneth continues her quick training, basically dance and history lessons so she'll fit in when she goes back in time with Gideon, the other carrier in her generation, and continues to try to understand what the heck is going on and why no one will answer any of her questions. Everyone seems to know something she doesn't, and everyone seems to be distrustful of her—not because of anything she's done, but because of what they think she will do in the future. Plus she's got this prophecy about being the raven and the ruby that she has no idea what to do with. So she begins to do some of her own detective work with her friend Leslie, and a wisecracking ghost of a gargoyle named Xemerius who does some spying for her, seeing as how no one can see him and he can walk through walls and all. (If you'll remember from Ruby Red, Gwyneth can see and talk to ghosts.) But will she be able to figure out the secrets that everyone is determined to keep from her, and other deeper, darker secrets, before she loses her own life?

Word to the wise, don't read this book unless you've read Ruby Red, because you will have absolutely no idea what's going on. I had a bit of trouble considering I hadn't read the first book for at least a year when I began listening to this one, although Gier did do a good job of inserting reminders and quick explanations without it being like the first chapter of the Babysitters' Club books and completely rehashing the story in a few pages.

I'm still struck with how brilliantly Anthea Bell did her translation. The humor is in full force, just like in the first volume, and there were very few if any phrases that didn't work. It makes me wonder what Gier's original German was like! I guess unless I learn German I'll never know, but Bell's translation is pretty fantastic anyway.

The action is back too, with plenty of still-unsolved mysteries and yet-to-be-revealed secrets. A few things come out here, but the tension has increased by the end of the book and the stakes have been raised. (Who is the nefarious Count St. Germain, and what does he want?) We know things could go really wrong for Gwyneth. Really, that's all you can ask for a second book in a trilogy, so I'm not disappointed. Certainly I'm looking forward to book three, Emerald Green, for the big reveals and finales. I have my own theory about a few things going on.

The one thing that really wasn't my favorite thing was the romance. I don't really get the whole Gideon/Gwyneth relationship, but to be fair, Gwyneth doesn't really know either. It's explained sort of by the end, but I wish he weren't so rotten to her when he decides he doesn't want to be her friend. I felt really bad for her and understood her confusion about him.

Melisa Calin was a decent choice for narrator. There were times when her English accent sounded strange to me, like she was actually putting on an accent, but I got used to it as the recording progressed. She did a good job of giving different voices to different people and I didn't really have a problem figuring out who was talking. I did, however, have trouble figuring out if Gwyneth was saying something out loud or thinking it, and I often had to relisten to portions because I wasn't sure if everyone else had heard what she said or if it was in her head. But that's more the issue of not having a clue within the text, and isn't really anyone's fault.

All in all, the audiobook of Sapphire Blue was a fun experience, and the book itself is a great continuation of the story. I am really eager to find out what happens in the final volume! (Hint hint: Anyone with a galley, I'd love to borrow it.)

Disclosure: I received this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review: "Fathomless" by Jackson Pearce

Title: Fathomless
Author: Jackson Pearce
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012

Lo is a woman of the sea, what one might call a mermaid (though she has no fins). She can't remember her life before the sea, just the vague thought that she had one. But she feels like she is happy under the water and tries to forget.

Celia is a triplet with the power to see a person's past with just a touch, though she feels her power is the most disappointing out of the three sisters—Anne can see a person's future, and Jane can see their thoughts in the present. Celia is shy and feels slightly useless compared to her sisters.

When the two girls meet and together save a boy from drowning, they discover how Celia can help Lo recall who she once was. But does Lo want to know? And what is the cost Celia will have to pay?

In this third installment of the Fairy Tale Retellings trilogy by Jackson Pearce, characters mentioned in the two previous books have their own story told. This isn't really a spoiler, so I'll tell you that Celia and her sisters are the much younger sisters of Silas from Sisters Red, and Lo is of course Naida, Sophie's sister from Sweetly. Finally the two stories come full circle, though that's not to say there isn't room for expansion down the road if Pearce decides to take that route.

I enjoyed the dynamics of the three sisters. Their mother is dead and their father has Alzheimer's, which is a terrible thing especially since they are only 17, so they are all each other has. It's very hard for Celia since she feels like the odd girl out, which leads her to take some risks she perhaps shouldn't when she discovers a use for her power. We see the sister relationships mature during the course of the book, giving more dimension to the characters in the process.

Fathomless rounded out what is now a trilogy very nicely. There was plenty of mystery and action, as Celia meets Lo at night on the shore and tries to read her past. We who have already read Sweetly basically know what has happened already, but it's still exciting to see Lo/Naida get there. One thing I really loved was how the perspective kept changing—first from Lo to Celia and so on, but then Naida had her own chapters as well. What made it really interesting toward the end was Celia not knowing which personality was in charge of Lo/Naida. It takes a bit of concentration to keep everything straight, but I didn't think there was anything too confusing going on.

If you've read Pearce's other fairy tale retellings or you like fractured fairy tales/modernizations of classic tales, this is a solid contribution to the genre. (By the way, this is Pearce's take on "The Little Mermaid.") I've found Pearce's retellings to be original and fresh, and this one is no exception.

Disclosure: I borrowed this copy from a friend.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My review of "The Diviners" up on The Broke and the Bookish

Yesterday I posted my review of Libba Bray's The Diviners, a wonderfully creepy and thrilling story about supernatural and occult happenings and murders in NYC during the 1920s. You can check it out here.
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