Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











18039069From Goodreads: London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.

Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.

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This novel actually started off slowly for me. At 30% in, I was thinking that I really didn’t want to finish it–I just wasn’t hooked, but I always give books the benefit of the doubt, as I did with this one, and as I went on, it got much better, and by the end I was turning the pages so quickly I would have had whiplash had I not been reading on a stationary Kindle.

The way Rosa’s family treats her and those around them is disgusting and very hard to stomach. There is a scene with a puppy that horrified me, and I nearly put the book down right then because I hated the heir so very much, but I kept going, because by that point, I was very interested in the plot.  And, this novel tackles some great topics for younger readers, such as racism and abuse, two aspects that are rampant within the text, stemming from the Brotherhoods hatred of all “witches” and the abusive relationship between Rosa, her brother, and her “fiancé.” Through it all, the novel shows how clouded one’s judgment can be based on hatred, and how entitlement and greed can ruin families. They were great lessons for readers about refusing to take abuse, though for a while there I was afraid Rosa was just going to roll over and take it.

While it may sound like Rosa is a week character that needs saving, in truth she is not. She is the subject of abuse on many levels, from physical to mental, and as a 16 year old without a friend in the world, she struggles on a very real level with her own wants and needs versus pleasing her family. At times I did want to reach through the pages and shake her, but then again, she must contend with the lesser of two evils–abuse from her family, or the death and destruction of others. Her selflessness is very real, but when it comes down to it, she refuses to stand on the sidelines and allow others to be terrorized. I really did like her and Luke (and they’re the only characters I really did like, save Cassie, the fiancé’s sister, but she was extremely miniscule).

The love relationship in this novel was slow between Luke and Rosa, and I liked that he saw her for what she was, a young girl abused and afraid, versus a witch worth killing. His attempts on her life were extremely interesting to see unfold, especially as his conscious plays a huge part in it all, and his attempts to finally stand up for what is right, along with Rosa’s make them vivid and real.

I can’t wait to see where the sequel of this one takes us because, while not ending on a cliffhanger per se, we are right in the middle of the action and you just know there is so much more to be told.  Four stars.

4 stars

Hodder Children’s Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on January 2, 2013.

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13060190From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Mara Westray has just lost her mother, and now, being shipped off to live with the father she doesn’t know is not how she imagined grieving. She’s already counting down the days until she turns eighteen and can leave the tiny island of Swans Landing.

But from the moment she steps off the ferry, nothing is as ordinary as it looks. Whispers of a haunting song on the wind make her see impossible things, and she isn’t sure she can trust her judgment about what is real and what isn’t anymore. Maybe she can’t even trust her judgment about quiet Josh Canavan, whose way of speaking in riddles and half-truths only confuses her more, luring her deeper into the secrets hidden beneath the ocean’s surface.

As she tries to unravel the events that led to her mom fleeing the island sixteen years ago, Mara finds that the biggest secret of all is only the beginning.

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I’ve finally come across another book that has merfolk it in (or finfolk, as they’re called in this novel), and they’re not evil!  YES!  So many mermaid novels I’ve read have completely evil females and it has really turns me off of reading books dealing with merfolk, but Surfacing, alongside Of Poseidon, by Anna Banks, has restored my faith in this genre.

Mara is in for a huge surprise when she moves to the island with her estranged father, only to find that nobody on the island really wants her there, save an older lady and two young male teens vying for her attention.  Everyone else, even her father, it seems, wishes she wasn’t there, but she’s at a loss as to why.  While technically a story about finfolk, this novel tackles the theme of prejudice and racism in the form of humans versus finfolk, and it’s very tastefully done.  It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Mara and up in arms about the treatment she endures from those around her, and I think it really helps teach a vital lesson that our society still needs to learn.  Tolerance.  Why is it that we tend to blame an entire people group for one thing that someone did?  And yet, in society, this happens time and time again.

For Mara, it’s no different.  Thrust into the “you people” category by those around her, not even knowing what it means when people say that to her, Mara unwittingly stumbles upon the truth as she finally goes for a swim.  As a reader, this was a little difficult for me because it took Mara so long to figure it all out, even when all the signs were staring her in the face!  Who has an hankering for salt water?  Not me…  And, who lives by the ocean and doesn’t go in? I was dying waiting for Mara to put the pieces together, but once she does, the story really begins to take off as she must come to terms with her change, keep the secret of someone she holds dear, and navigate her feelings of unwant from her father and the intolerable people of the island.

Mara has a quick wit about her and her retorts were awesome, especially to those who treat her like scum.  It was hard not to cheer when she reacts with a little more force on one occasion, but even so, violence is not the answer, which the finfolk believe wholeheartedly.  If only the human population on the island believed it, too.  The ending leaves the novel wide open to the sequel, and I’m excited to see where it goes, especially with Mara’s relationship with Josh and Dylan, Sailor’s search for her mother (although Sailor certainly isn’t my favorite finfolk), and Elizabeth and her father’s vendetta against Mara and everyone not completely human.  Three and a half stars.

3.5 starsFiction Addiction has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel, via Netgally, in exchange for an honest review.



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