[458]: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Amulet Books | Hardcover, 388 pages
October 14th, 2014 | Young Adult | Historical Fiction | Paranormal
Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars


I’ve not have much patience with YA books lately. I can’t seem to find it in me to forgive them their shortcomings. And when every imperfections glare at me like the sun, I’ve taken to a perma-scowl look every time I bring one of them home. Unfortunately, The Cure for Dreaming did not escape my wrath.

The gist.

Olivia Mead’s father thought that the best way to silence his daughter’s political and social views was through hypnosis. He believes that she should accept her responsibility as a woman to bear children and mind the household for her husband. Olivia, however, is a head strong, opinionated individual who dreams of becoming someone who can change the world. Lucky for her, the hypnotist shares her views, and proceeds to hypnotize her into seeing the world for what it was. She saw the monster that her father had become; she saw the people for who they really were. A supernatural power that appears in the form of a vision, and depending on how evil a person is, Olivia sees them as monsters in disguise.

At a time when women’s suffrage was an issue that men in power saw as a threat, Olivia’s father planned to make an example of his daughter. By hypnotizing her into becoming docile and meek, he also saw this as a means to further his stature in a society that saw him as a mad, laughable creature. The more he suppressed Olivia, however, the harder she fought back (in her timorous way). Drawn into the mysterious, secretive world of the hypnotist, Olivia will found herself fearing for her life, and questioning the validity of her father’s sanity.

The bad.

I’ll cut to the chase. This is a well-intentioned book. If I ignore all the – dare I say it – foolishness of hypnotism, I say this is a book that young girls would benefit a great deal to read. Most of the time, however, this book contradicted itself. It talked about suffrage, and the rights of women to vote. The rights to speak; the right to dream, but for all its posturing, women still ended up being controlled by the men in their lives. What was the point, exactly? If anything, Olivia was not a convincing character. I did not feel her passion to change the lives of the Oregonian women. She was hypnotized to do as they say, and when they say it. I cannot find admiration in a character who lacked confidence, and who presented herself as a weakling easily swayed. Especially if you’re trying to garner empathy for the movement.

Dracula. God. What is the obsession with Dracula?

The good.

If your intention is to incite hatred towards the men in this book, well, congratulations! I was rightly pissed. I was so mad that I went off my rails for at least ten minutes. My poor husband. Oh my God. His face. No, I did not punch him. He looked at me like I’m some alien being descended from a world where men were hated. Sigh. If my husband could record my tirade about this book yesterday, it would be pure gold. And honestly, I did not spare his ears from f bombs that proceeded thereafter. All he could do was shake his head, and look at me in horror.

I love the pictures included in this book. While its intentions was to add a more sinister vibe to the story, I’m afraid it only succeeded in making this book a slightly tolerable read.

The end.

I should’ve enjoyed this book, but I didn’t. I’m all for the feminist movement and such. But this book fail in all the things that mattered. The message is lost among the cacophony of foolishness.

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Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

GOODREADS SUMMARY17926775
Strange Chemistry | Paperback, 472 pages
April 1st, 2014
Young Adult | Historical Fantasy
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


“She foretold that when a prince of night bonded a daughter of the sun, the curse would be broken.” – Chapter 7, page 81


The day before she’s to move to the city with her estranged mother, Cécile was kidnapped. The abductor sold her to the trolls living in the magical mountain. All her life she thought that trolls are just a myth to scare off misbehaving children and a cautionary tale for the adults, but she was wrong. They are real, and the heir to the King of the city of Trollus needs to bond with a human in an attempt to break the curse.

Tristan is unlike any other trolls she’s heard about: handsome, fierce, and…rude. It didn’t take long before Cécile realizes that escaping, or even fighting with them is futile. So she decides to make the best of the situation. Slowly, she becomes an inadvertent sympathizer to the half-bloods in a brewing rebellion against the full bloods; and at the centre of this rebellion is someone of an unexpected surprise.

In Trollus, she will discover a blood magic that she didn’t know she possessed; she will also discover a love for its people and their bid for freedom. Most of all, she will find herself making a choice between freedom and fighting for the love of a prince she thought she hated.

This book sounds so good, doesn’t it? Fantasy, romance, trolls…how could I not love it? Well, very simple. I’m not a fan of this genre. I can’t stand fantasy, to be honest. It’s why I have several unfinished books in this genre (most recently, The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas). More and more, I realize that I am more of a realistic fiction reader than anything. Doesn’t have to be contemporary; my escape is no longer about worlds beyond my imagination. I am more than likely to enjoy a book that will break my heart than I would about dragons, trolls, and fae. Which is unfortunate, because a lot of books in this genre is a good work out if I ever want to do a bit of writing myself.

The world described in this book is as fantastical as they come: a mountain suspended over a city, giant slugs with toxin saliva enough to paralyzed trolls for their consumption, curses, blood magics and oaths. There is a ruling regent powerful enough to  keep the mountain from crushing the entire city; and romance between two people desperate for their own freedom.

Readers would be given privy to both Cécile’s and Tristan’s perspectives. Unfortunately, Tristan’s very short and limited chapters only gave us insights to the present situations as they occur in the book. There’s really not much about him other than his fight, a bit about Cécile and the hate he has for this father. Cécile, though, she rendered the most perspective, also lacked any depth. I didn’t understand why she wasted time learning about useless things that could be considered frivolous. I mean, you learnt of a war brewing and you decide to polish your strategy by learning about music and art? She eventually started to take matters in her own hands by learning about Trollus’ history and the curse that has befallen them, but the story could’ve used a bit of trimming. I thought time spent learning about art and music was somewhat incongruous, considering what was at stake.

It took me a full week to read this book; it was one of those things when I was forcibly reading to stave off dying of boredom. Harsh? I’m sorry, okay?! It’s just, I could’ve easily quit but I made a promise to myself this year that I’m going to finish reading every single book that I started on January 1st. I know this has been well-liked by practically everyone that I follow on Goodreads, but I just couldn’t.

Regardless, if you’re a fan of fantasy, and trolls are something that you’ve yet to explore, you should check out this book. It just wasn’t for me.

 

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Review: The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell

Publication Date: April 17th, 2012
Harcourt Children’s Books
Format: ARC, 278 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
SUMMARY
Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancé, seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart leaves Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma, to help her young widowed aunt keep her homestead going. There she discovers that she possesses the astonishing ability to sense water under the parched earth.
When her aunt hires her out as a “springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land.
Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water. Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving and start living.

Hope springs eternal.

Mourning the death of her beloved, Zora Stewart decided she needed to escape. What better way to forget about the tragedies in her life but to occupy herself with back-breaking labour? Ruined in Baltimore by her own devices, her mother shipped her off to a stead in Oklahoma where farming life flounders due to the scarcity of water. Little did she know, within her lies the ability to call on its sources. But as soon as she availed herself of the remuneration for being “springsweet”, guilt and worry soon burdens her as she recognizes hope in the people’s eyes and the responsibility of being the person who can possibly give it.  But among all things, she hopes that her stay in Oklahoma will ease some of the grief for the loss of Thomas. 

In the brusqueness of the West, she meets Emerson, a recluse who alleviates some of the pain simply with his presence. Slowly but surely, she starts to find a reason to keep going and finds the pathway toward a life she’s meant to live.

Much like its predecessor The Vespertine, The Springstweet is a historical romance with a touch of paranormal. I wouldn’t call it subtle, but certainly the characters’ abilities are pretty tame in relation to the other books that I’ve read in this genre (paranormal).  Basically, Amelia’s, Nathaniel’s, Zora’s and Emerson’s powers are natural by origin. As in, Amelia’s is fire, Nathaniel’s is air, Zora’s is water and Emerson’s is earth/soil.

Nope. Amelia does not breathe fire. She sees the future only in the backdrop of a burning sunset.

No, Nathaniel does not create super storms. He simply ‘jumps’ and he can be wherever he wanted to be. He’s like air. He can be anywhere.

Zora cannot summon a tsunami of water but she knows where she can find them.

And no. Emerson cannot direct earth to open up and swallow his proverbial nemesis. He can grow anything on his command.

Theirs was almost primitive and basic and totally appropriate in the era in which the author chose to tell their stories.

The Vespertine has the Austenesque feel to it while The Springsweet will take you back to the old Frontier. Saundra Mitchell excelled, quite spectacularly in whisking me away to these worlds while staying in the same period. How did she do it? Well, I imagine an incredible amount of strenuous research and profound imagination were involved. Call me insane, but she romanticized the wild, wild West for me.

Zora was a completely different character here compared to who she was in The Vespertine. She suffered losses in which a girl her age would consider impossible to overcome. But she grew up a lot. She lost a lot of her spright but she gained a lot more resolve and strength in spite of all the hardships, both physical and emotional she’d had to endure.

There were two love interests in this book but I wouldn’t be so quick to say it’s a love triangle. For the first time ever, I’m actually torn that the other guy didn’t have a prayer. He was sweet, gentlemanly and had the guts to chase her across the country. And his counterpart – the other guy was a force in which Zora’s abilities made more sense and therefore, a part of her that I don’t know she can live without…and he’s incredibly hot. *sigh* So what’s a girl to do? I say it’s not a love triangle because Zora didn’t really feel anything for the other guy so there wasn’t a moment when she vacillated between the two.

The Springsweet is a take off from the other books from my shelves and I loved what Saundra has given us so far. I’m dying to read the next book!

VERDICT:  Sweeping plains, barn-raising, yokels, horse-drawn wagons. The setting was, again highly imaginative yet somehow scarily accurate. If I was turned off by historical romance then, Saundra Mitchell single-handedly changed that for me.

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Review: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

Publication Date: March 7th, 2011
Harcourt Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover, 293 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
Goodreads Shelf: FAVOURITES

SUMMARY

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

A gift turned into a curse.

Amelia van den Broek spent the spring and the better part of the summer in the carefree company of her cousin, Zora; surrounded by ladies whose worries were isolated to proprieties and catching the eye of a legitimate gentleman. But circumstances changed when visions of the future appear before her during sunsets. Soon after, her place in society improved, as ladies of different stature started calling on her to read them their fortunes. Her encounters with a certain rake added to the charm of living in Baltimore, as Nathaniel Witherspoon disturbed her in ways which sent her reeling from the tumult of her emotions. It’s all enjoyment until one of her ill-omened visions came into fruition. And she was unable to prevent it from happening. It didn’t take long until everyone turned on her and the languid life she knew briefly fell apart.

Hard to believe I waited ages to read this book; and if it weren’t for an ARC of The Springsweet that’s been silently prodding me to read it, I’d not known the existence of this decadent, lush historical romance. I’ve always had this rigid notion that historicals are a bore. But let me tell you, this book certainly was far from it. The writing was rich in lovely prose, the language and setting, authentic of the period. This paranormal period piece took me by surprise due to the fact that the synopsis wasn’t really generous in mapping out the other elements of the story. Nathaniel Witherspoon’s ability certainly was a delightful revelation.

I love the characters as well. The cast was lovely and thoroughly fleshed out. I felt a certain foreboding oddity everytime Amelia foretold a future whilst Nathaniel just made me feel unsettled most of the time. These two enchanted me with every sensuous and (not so) innocent encounters on top of their numinous capacities.  Nathaniel filled me with anxious impatience due largely to Saundra Mitchell’s cunning choice to make his appearance in the book practically scarce. Needless to say, Nathaniel Witherspoon was one of those boys who’d make you shed all semblance of propriety with one quirk of his brow.

Amelia’s relationship with Zora was also delightful. Educated in rectitude, these two just have enough playful impishness to make troubles for themselves. But not all were about fun, dances and picnics.  The story didn’t end with these ladies walking into the sunset with their parasols and their beaus in tow. It was bittersweet.

VERDICT: A period piece sure to surprise you, The Vespertine will leave you in awe of the general faithfulness the author took in transporting you to an era heady with proper decorum and gentility. The paranormal elements balanced off the romance quite appropriately. It was an emotional ride but the ending left just enough to whet my already ravenous appetite for the next book.

“You’re the only fire that consumes me.” And my wonderful monster, he smiled at that. He smiled at me.”

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Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Publication Date: February 14th, 2012
Walker Children’s
Format: Hardback, 292 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
SUMMARY
Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

I have to say that I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of reading or watching about this legendary thief ever. Scarlet by AC Gaughen simply gave it a twist that made the fable of Robin Hood of Locksley more palatable to the YA genre.

Scarlet is a story about a girl running from her past while trying to correct it in one form or another. On the surface, Scarlet is a fearless, heartless, crafty thief disguised in a boy’s clothing. But underneath it all lies a girl with a heartbreaking, tumultuous past. Being a part of a band of thieves enable her to atone for her misgivings, ironically enough. Giving to the poor, helping the sick and protecting those who were maltreated by the Sheriff and his men.  But her past caught up to her in the bloodiest way possible when the Sheriff hires Guy Gisbourne, a renowned thief taker and the man responsible for her plight.

AC Gaughen took the legend and spun it in a way that the focal point became Will Scarlet instead of Robin Hood. The heroine definitely didn’t lack for heart, even if she tried to convey the coldness and the darkness she claimed to have inside. Her character seem to be inconsistent sometimes, through no fault of the writer. I just think she spent a lot of time battling with who she really is against who she wanted to be. She has such deep sympathy and love to Robin’s people but she was awfully succesful in coming off as someone who cared very little.

As for Robin of Locksley, because the focus of the story is Scarlet, I had a bit of a rough time connecting with the man. There just wasn’t enough of him in the story even though the novel is based on his legend. He came across as someone who had a hard time deciding how to deal with his feelings for Scarlet as a woman and as a member of the band. It seems that he was…using her, for lack of a better word, as he sees fit. It drove me nuts sometimes that he was clearly jealous of the way John and Scarlet interacted and yet, he didn’t want to deal. He was protective of her, sure, but in other occasions, he was ever so willing to put her in danger. He confused me, plain and simple.

The romance between Scarlet and Robin didn’t even get to first base. Let’s just say that they barely made it out of the dug-out. I’m eagerly anticipating how their romance is going to play out, considering the circumstances of Scarlet’s er, bargain with Gisbourne. Scarlet, dressing up and pretending to be a boy gave the extra oomph in the romance department. In fact, it’s the reason why I clamoured to put this higher on my Mt. TbR pile.

If there’s anything I can complain about this novel is that I definitely have a beef with the lack of thieving from the Sheriff’s treasury. I think it would’ve made Robin more legendary had the band stole from the very source of greed. Spending most of their time pick pocketing and ambusing the rich left a lot to be desired for me.

I also had a rough time with the writing. I think the author tried to write in a way that it would be consistent with the times but I found myself correcting it from time to time. It gave me a mild headache.

But overall, I think Scarlet has become one of my favourite re-tellings thus far. It had my rapt attention consistently throughout the novel. The author did a fantastic job of showing us what it was like for women back in the days; when we have no voice, no choice, and the men dictates how we breathe. Scarlet is a fierce, courageous, valiant character who easily became an admired heroine in my books.

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