The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

sweet far thing Well, Merry Christmas to me, as the sequel I’ve personally been waiting for all year (no, not Deathly Hollows or Edward vs. Jacob, Round Two) was gifted to me several days before it’s December 26th on sale date, allowing me to gift YOU in return with this review of the sumptuous Sweet Far Thing, the third volume of Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy (which begins with A Great and Terrible Beauty) At the end of Rebel Angels, angsty Victorian teen Gemma was able to bind the magic of the Realms to herself to keep it out of the hands of the warring Realms tribes. Her goal was to eventually unite the tribes by sharing the magic with all of them. But the longer Gemma holds the magic, the harder it is to think of giving it up, especially when it allows her a freedom in her own world that she used to be able to enjoy only in the Realms. She can create illusions that alter her physical appearance, and that of BFFs Felicity and Ann, frighten away unwelcome suitors, and even cause snippy schoolmates to crash and burn during their ballet recitals. But while Gemma is using her power to play dress-up with Felicity and Ann, Realms folk are running amok, fighting and even killing each other to try and force Gemma’s hand. Meanwhile, Mrs. Nightwing is rebuilding the cursed East Wing in order to reopen the portal to the Realms, Circe may or may not have actually been neutralized, The Rakshana are threatening Gemma’s brother’s life, Pippa’s gone lulu (and not in a cute way) and Kartik’s back, seriously steaming up Gemma’s gabled windows–all while Gemma is trying to prepare for her debut season, where she will be presented to Queen Victoria along with all the other upper crust debutantes. Talk about an  inconvienient  time to have to battle demons and topple armies of the dead! Though it takes 800+ pages to do it, Bray manages to tie up every end she loosed in the first two books, while continuing to develop Gemma’s defiant, curious, headstrong character, who grows into her newfound power and learns to wield it with caution and respect. Bray knows her third book’s big–she even gives a sly nod to the fact when Gemma complains about an unwieldly text, “I curse authors who write such lengthy books when a few neat pages of prose would do.” I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a big book that satisfactorily answers all my questions anyday, and this one certainly does that! An excellent purchase for some of that Christmas or Hanukkah money that’s burning a hole in your pocket.

The Dead & the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

dead and goneIn this companion book to Pfeffer’s phenomenal Life As We Knew It, seventeen-year-old Alex Morales deals with the day-to-day drudgery of the apocalypse in New York City. An asteroid has struck the moon, nudging it closer to Earth and upsetting the balance of the tides. This causes tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, bringing civilization to a standstill worldwide. Alex, who lives on the upper West side of Manhattan, is trying to take care of his two younger sisters on his own, as his Mami stuck in Queens and his Papi is away in Puerto Rico. Like Miranda from LAWKI, Alex must make some tough choices as the new head of the family in order to make sure that he and his sisters survive, including breaking into other apartments in his building to forage for canned goods, and “body shopping” with his friend Kevin—which consists of picking over the ever growing number of corpses that litter the city streets for goods they can trade for food. Even as his life grows more and more surreal, Alex and his sisters cling to their Catholic faith and school to provide structure in a world gone completely mad. Will the siblings make it out of NYC alive? And if they do, what kind of world is waiting for them on the mainland? While I throughly enjoyed this novel, I have to admit that it didn’t strike the same chord in my heart as LAWKI. It may have something to do with the fact that in LAWKI, Miranda’s story is told in first person (“I said, I did”) and in TD&TG, Alex’s story is told in third person (“He said, he did.”) And maybe it strikes a little too close to home–living in NYC, it’s not fun imagining myself in Alex’s shoes and having to scavenge in my neighbor’s abandoned apartments for food! However, I still recommend you go out and get it a.s.a.p. Just keep a good supply of peanut M&M’s and bottled water handy…

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

such a pretty girl
Fifteen-year-old Meredith is trying to catch a criminal. This terrifying man abused the trust of his small community when he used his position as a school baseball coach to molest children. Sentenced to nine years in prison, he’s been paroled after only three years–and now he’s coming home. You see, Meredith knows him better than anyone, because he’s not just a face in the newspaper–he’s also her father. He may have fooled the parole board, but he hasn’t fooled her. Meredith has come to the awful conclusion that if she wants to make sure he never hurts anyone else ever again, she’s going to need proof of his continued sickness, even if she has to use herself as bait: “I know now that I’m the only one who really understands the threat and if I’m ever going to be free of him…then I will have to bite the bullet and spend time in his company. Stake out the sacrificial lamb. Uncoil the rope so he can hang himself.” I burned through this devastating read in one subway commute, and I’m still shaking from the impact. This chilling debut by Laura Wiess is horrifically real in its depiction of not only adults who abuse but also those who stand by and let it happen. But Wiess balances these descriptions with the angry, amazing Meredith, who’s character showcases the hidden strength of teens and their ability to heal in the face of overwhelming odds. While the transcendent ending makes the horror of getting there all worth it, don’t pick up this book unless you’re ready to travel with Meredith to the deepest, darkest corners of the human soul.