A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

“It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 240 pages.
Read from November 26, 2018 to November 27, 2018.

Published in 1968, this novel is one of Ursula K. Le Guin first ventures into children’s literature. She never intended to write children’s literature but thanks to her persuasive publisher this classic fantasy piece exists. Ursula was not only a pioneer in fantasy and science fiction but she also managed to create accessible and YA novels that were also pieces of literature.  I’m not sure how this author went under my radar as she is a highly acclaimed author but I’m glad I’ve found her.

This story the classic coming-of-age story of a young wizard named Ged. Ged has a natural talent for magic which is what gets him away from his poor upbringing and into a prestigious school to hone his magical skills. However, Ged is overly confident and he makes a mistake that will affect him for the rest of his life. After learning the hard way the cost of power, Ged must find a way to deal with the Shadow that he has released upon the world and come to realize that you are defined not by your mistakes but how your rise to overcome and learn from them.

“You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do.”

 

Ged’s trials are what makes this book timeless as the message the story provides to youth is essential, especially when the majority of kids are terrified of making mistakes. The book also emphasizes kinship and friendship with others and with animals and the choices it takes to be brave. That, and what kid doesn’t want to read about winning over dragons and beating their own shadows? This book is exciting enough to appease any youth reader and insightful enough to satisfy any teacher or parent. In a way, I am surprised that this series doesn’t have more a cult following as I imagined it reading like the Harry Potter of its day.

What is also pivotal in this book, especially considering its date of publication is the colour of Ged’s skin. Ged is described as dark-skinned and is not Caucasian, despite the cover art on most of the earlier published books. Imagine the ethnic minority readers this would have spoken to in the late 60s, and even today, who might have never had a character to admire or look up before that looked like them. Ursula became known for pushing boundaries on gender, race, environmentalism and more in some of her other works adding that exceptional element of brilliance to her writing.

Earthsea-painting-CharlesVess
Image by Charles Vess

While I have heard that this novel isn’t necessarily Ursula’s best work it laid the foundation for a phenomenal series and I know for me, it has made me want to read her more well-known adult novels and series. I would highly recommend that this book and its series be added as an essential to any fantasy-readers list and for those that love YA. This book is perfect for almost all ages making it a great book to re aloud to children or for those kids reading on their own.

 

Rhapsody by Heather McKenzie

The final instalment of the Nightmusic Trilogy is here!

4/5 stars,
ARC/ebook, 382 pages.
Read from January 9, 2019 to January 16, 2019.

The final instalment of the Nightmusic Trilogy is here! A big thanks to Heather McKenzie for graciously allowing me to read and give honest reviews of all of her novels. It’s been a pleasure! Rhapsody was published on January 7, 2019 and is available for purchase.

If you haven’t read the two previous books in the Nightmusic trilogy, stop right now and go and read them as this novel won’t make much sense if you have not read the previous two novels. Besides, this whole trilogy is like an action-rollercoaster of intense excitement and suspense so you’re missing out on some great YA reads if you don’t start from the beginning.

Rhapsody picks up right where Nocturne left off in which the people that Kaya loves most have been taken by her ruthless and vindictive father, Henry. Henry is trying to get Kaya back under his reign so that he can claim her large inheritance for himself and continue with his ethically unsound pharmaceutical company. Luke, Kaya’s lover, and Stephen, her caretaker and real father-figure are currently being tortured at her father’s home. Kaya loves Luke more than anything and she is going to do whatever it takes to get him back in one piece. Kaya’s passion and recklessness when it comes to Luke are tempered only by Seth, Lisa, Oliver, and Thomas whose own care and reasoning keep her safe from harm.

“Henry chuckled. “A deal? I have what you want. So, in exchange for Luke, unharmed and released from his current situation, you will come home. And you will bring Mr. Oliver Bennet—my loyal, adopted son—with you.””

Thomas, whom we initially met in the previous novel, Nocturne, has fallen desperately in love with Kaya. Poor Thomas is in a bid to try and win Kaya over from Luke, a struggle that Kaya herself was not anticipating with matters of her own heart. Oliver, who has yet to get over his own feelings for Kaya, will still do whatever it takes to keep Kaya safe and happy, even if that means directly helping her save Luke. Can this group of friends get away from the grasps of Kaya’s horrid family? Who will Kaya choose? Thomas or Luke?

“Was I in love with two people? The thought of living out the rest of my days without Luke, or Thomas, made the future seem impossibly bleak and unbearable. My stomach twisted up around my spine.”

I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA book with so much blood and action before. The first chapter is a torture scene! I remember being blown away with Serenade with the action-packed plot and excitement and Rhapsody continues to carry that torch. This book balances a mature and intense, violent plotline with the intensity of teenage loveI struggled a bit with Nocturne due to the building of the love-square that takes place with KayaThomas, Oliver and Luke as it was hard to fathom the intensity that these young men loved Kaya. However, this book developed on those relationships further and allowed Kaya more choice with the outcomes of her life.  Kaya was more empowered with her decision making in this novel and the friendships that come out of Kaya’s tragic and tumultuous story are sincere.  Kaya really is a genuine, kind, and tough individual that everyone wants to know and care for.  Some old acquaintances and friends make a come back in this novel, with some who don’t care about Kaya as much as they initially led on but I’ll keep those suspenseful spoilers to myself. I will say this, however, the ending is a happy one and for that, I am grateful.

I’m sad to see Kaya’s story come to an end as I enjoyed it so much but I am looking forward to seeing what Heather McKenzie will come up with next. If you like YA, especially stories outside of the paranormal genre, I would highly recommend this powerhouse trilogy.

 

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Did this book traumatize you as as teen?

4/5 stars.
ebook, 416 pages.
Read on October 26, 2018.

So this is the book that disturbed a generation of teens! Huh, I can definitely see why. ‘Cause this book is the epitome of a fucked up childhood. This book is banned in a lot of places and I can see why but at the same time I’m not sure I believe in sheltering teens away from certain realities. By reading books like this one, teens open up their mind to the world around them and become aware that there is a good chance that someone they know is suffering from some form of child abuse.

Everything was perfect for the Dollanganger family, four beautiful, blonde children and their doting parents, but their idyllic family-life is brought to an abrupt halt when their father suddenly passes away in a car accident. For the twins, Chris and Cathy, they soon realize that their mother is no longer able to provide for them alone. Their mom then makes a decision to return to her wealthy parents for assistance, a reasonable decision. Or so it would seem; their mother has been keeping secrets from them. The children soon learn that their mother has been disowned by her own family due to the scandalous relationship that brought them into this world, and that if their mother wants to inherit the family fortune the children need to be hidden away until after their grandfather dies. Since they are children they reluctantly agree to the strange situation with their mother promising to return in a few days. Those days turn into weeks, months, and then years as the Dollanganger children live out some of their peak emotional and cognitive years in the confinement of their grandmother’s attic. Their situation is volatile and desperate but they deeply fear their grandmother so they only thing they can do is stick together and look out for each other.

Annnnnd that’s where I will end the book summary since things get particularly twisted from there on out. Most people approach this book knowing full well the pinnacle twisted moment so I’m going to spoil part of it… Chris rapes Cathy. It’s a tumultuous and sad scene as Chris has confused his love for his sister in not having any other contact to the outside world. There are also a number of horrific and heartbreaking scenes involving the grandmother and of course their despicable mother. The author does such a remarkable job in creating this terrible story that many people have wondered if any aspect of the story was real. The author claims this plot is a fictionalized version of a true story as part of the plot came from the author overhearing a story from a doctor during a stay in a hospital.

It’s hard to believe that this book is classified as YA because it sure doesn’t read like one. This book is twisted and it might be too much for people who have had the trauma of child abuse, rape or incest. Having said that, this book left its impression on a generation for better and for worse. I would let older teens read this if as a parent you’re comfortable with but I would suggest that you read this book first, if you haven’t already.