Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mystery and Fantasy

Henry, April. The Night She Disappeared.(13 March 2012)
Gabie was supposed to be making deliveries for Pete's Pizza the night that Kayla too her shift and her car was found abandoned. Drew feels guilty because he took the call for the bogus order, but can't remember the voice. This story shifts point of view from these three characters (so we know what has happened to Kayla), as well as to various different people involved in the story, such as Cody, who is an addict questioned by police; Gavin, a search and rescue diver, and "John", the man who kidnapped Kayla. Because the readers have all of these view points, we know a little about what is going on, but Gabie and Drew try to find Kayla, and there is doubt about whether they will find her in time to save her. Like Teri Field's Holdup or Cadnum's Flash, this is an interesting take on a kidnapping mystery.
Strengths: Like this author's Shock Point (from 2006!), this story is not a pleasant one, but one which my students who like murder mysteries will pick up. Definitely buying this one.
Weaknesses: Not my cup of tea. When I read mysteries for pleasure, I always pick up the "cozies", so this was a bit much. Not anything overly violent, no language, brief kissing between Drew and Gabie.

Cashore, Kristin. Bitterblue.
1 May 2012, Dial
My fantasy amnesia makes it very hard to remember Graceling(2008) or Fire (2009), other than that I liked them and was excited to get Bitterblue. It took me the entire Easter weekend to read this, mainly because teenagers were having Disney song fest and it was hard to concentrate, but also because I got caught up in the characters and couldn't zip through it.

Bitterblue is now 18 and trying to reclaim the kingdom her father Leck destroyed. She wants to be a fair ruler, unlike her father, and understand the workings of her kingdom so that she can help the people. She starts to sneak out at night to see what is really going on, and meets Saf and Teddy, printers and outlaws who are bent on stealing back things that were taken under Leck's rule. Katso and Po are helping Bitterblue with her work, as are a variety of advisors, including Death (pronounced Deeth), the librarian who has the Grace of reading everything superfast and remembering it all. This comes in handy when he tries to recreate all of the books that Leck destroyed, and also when Bitterblue unearths her father's disturbing journals, that turn out to be not only in ciphers (like the embroidery that her beleaguered mother left) but in another language entirely. Through Saf, Bitterblue comes to understand how poorly her kingdom is run, but also runs into some danger. None of the people she knows seem to be who they say they are, and she uncovers secrets that make her allies her enemies and vice versa.

This book stood on its own as the story of Bitterblue and the kingdom of Monsea, and if I remembered more about the other two, I would have appreciated the inclusion of Katsa and Po, and well as Fire's appearance later in the book. These still remind me very strongly of Pierce's Alanna books.
Strengths: I was drawn to the character of Bitterblue. She had a horrible past to overcome and was trying to do so, even though she had few advisors that she could trust. Her relationship with Saf was understandable, as were his reactions to finding out who she was. The kingdom was fully developed.
Weaknesses: This is a very long and convoluted story; definitely high fantasy. It also seemed odd that the people of Monsea knew so little about the countries outside of their own. Like the other two books, there is mention of contraception and one scene where Saf and Bitterblue spend the night together, but drawn so vaguely that younger students will skim right by it and not know what happened.


  1. I definitely want to read Bitterblue. But I wish it hadn't been so long since I read the other two books in the series. Thanks for the review.

  2. I haven't read Bitterblue, but probably I wouldn't think it's odd that they don't know anything about other countries outside of their own. Most Americans don't know ANYTHING about countries outside of the US. :)

  3. I have the same fantasy amnesia. I picked up the sequel to Matched, but I had to give it up because I wasn't following the story.

  4. While I did remember Graceling and Fire, I felt the level of recall expected of the reader was intense.

    I was not thrilled with Bitterblue, largely because I felt it was incredibly dark and filled with evil and reading it ended up not being enjoyable with all of the horrible things you keep learning about.

    Fire was pretty violent but I loved it; Bitterblue was disturbing.