Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review: Summer of the Mariposas

Title: Summer of the Mariposas
Author: Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published: 1 October 2012
Pages: 352
Rating: 6 / 10
Challenges: N/A

Synopsis: "When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero’s journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer’s original tale.

With the supernatural aid of ghostly La Llorona via a magical earring, Odilia and her little sisters travel a road of tribulation to their long-lost grandmother’s house. Along the way, they must outsmart a witch and her Evil Trinity: a wily warlock, a coven of vicious half-human barn owls, and a bloodthirsty livestock-hunting chupacabras. Can these fantastic trials prepare Odilia and her sisters for what happens when they face their final test, returning home to the real world, where goddesses and ghosts can no longer help them?

Summer of the Mariposas is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love." (from GoodReads)

My Review: Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. There will be mild spoilers.

This was a quick, intriguing read. The book is divided up into three sections. The first deals with Odilia and her sisters discovering a dead body and deciding what to do about it. This was my least favorite section, as the sisters spent a lot of time bickering and were somewhat annoying. The fantasy aspect (the girls receive spiritual guidance from La Llorna - who inspires sympathy more than fear) was a nice touch, and paved the way for the more fantastical elements to come later.

The second section follows along the familiar hero's journey from The Odyssey. I loved the way the monsters were updated! Circe tries to turn them into to "pigs" by stuffing them with drugged sweets, the nuaga and lechuzas (Scylla and Charybdis?) were unsettling and scary, and the cyclops turns out to be a one-eyed chupacabras! The scene with the chupabras was frustrating, because I felt like the girls weren't learning from their past mistakes, but it actually turned into a pretty big turning point in their growth as characters.

In the third section, the girls get reunited with their abuelita, mother, and even long-lost father (for a bit). This section included a really interesting twist on the suitors from The Odyssey. Overall I found the book very enjoyable. I liked the literary and folk lore allusions, the way Spanish was woven into the dialogue and narrative, the motif of metamorphosis, and the fact that there was no romance! (At least, not for the sisters). All of the love in this book is familial, and that's something that doesn't get talked about enough in YA books.

Other Reviews:

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review: Netherworld

Title: Netherworld
Author: Lisa Morton
Genre: Historical Fiction/Steampunk/Horror/Fantasy
Published: January 2014
Pages: 282
Rating: 2 / 10
Challenges: N/A

Synopsis: "In nineteenth-century Victorian England, a young widow finds that she has inherited more than her late husband’s property: The Furnavals serve as the ancestral keepers of supernatural portals scattered around the globe. When demonic entities begin crossing over from the Netherworld, Lady Diana realizes that a war is brewing, and she must be the one to confront it." (from Goodreads)

My Review: Disclaimer: I received an electronic version of this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers list in exchange for an honest review.

Here it is: I didn't like this book. I had to force myself to keep reading, even though it's relatively short, at least by my usual reading standards. I found the characters ridiculous and unbelievable and the historical bits anachronistic, and a huge chunk of the book was incredibly racist and offensive. The story sounded interesting; I expected Diana to be a steampunk Buffy Summers, kicking ass and killing demons. Instead, she's more of a Mary Sue (and I hate to use that phrase). She relies entirely too much on the men around her, and for a character who is purported to be intelligent I found many of her actions to be unconscionably stupid. I think (hope) this is meant to be an alternate universe, which would make some of the quibbles I have with the historical aspects of the story forgivable (but still bothersome to me). The worst part was the section which took place in China. My boyfriend is Chinese (so maybe I'm overly-sensitive to stereotyping?), and I found the trope of the "noble savage" a bit hard to swallow. Don't even get me started on the magic cat (who can understand English and is apparently indestructible). Or the two (TWO) near-rapes Diana endures after being seduced by demons pretending to be her husband. Or the resolution of the storyline involving her husband.

This book was definitely not for me. Perhaps I'm just not a fan of the steampunk/horror genre. It is the first in a new series, but I will not be reading any others.

Other Reviews:

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