Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Qnd Eldr. Breathe Fire. • Sky in the Deep

Eelyn has grown up knowing that the Riki clan are her enemies, that their ancient rivalry means it’s destined for her and her Aska clansmen to face them on the battlefield time and time again. But everything changes the day she sees her brother on the battlefield, the brother who is supposed to be dead but who is now fighting alongside their enemies. Her curiosity about his survival finds her captured and taken up to the mountains, where she is forced to spend a winter among the Riki… only to discover that perhaps they’re not so different from her own clan after all. Her tentative trust in the family that takes her in, her desire to return to her own clan, her warring loyalties and love – these things all come to a head when a greater enemy appears that threatens to slaughter them all without discrimination. Together with her brother’s friend Fiske, Eelyn knows she must make the impossible happen: she needs to get the Riki and the Aska to fight together to ensure the survival of the world she loves.

I really loved Sky in the Deep, friends. It’s part historical, part fantasy, and wholly compelling from start to finish. At its heart, it’s the story of a girl raised with a defined set of core beliefs that influence her actions and how she finds herself questioning all that she’s ever known when life unexpectedly redirects her path. Throw in a dash of Viking culture, both in the form of everyday village life and brutal battles, and you’ll end up with this story in a nutshell. I was hooked from the very first sentence (a rarity for me!), and easily gave in to the desire to let this story take me along for the ride (and what a ride it was!).

I was immersed in this world and the culture, though it’s as different from my own reality as night and day. And I was swept up in the events as they unfolded, which, to me, is always the mark of excellent storytelling. But, most importantly (and predictably, if you’ve been reading my thoughts on books for a while now), I formed a real connection with Eelyn. She’s so different from me in a lot of key personality traits, but that made her even more intriguing. I admired her brute battle strength and bravery, her fierce loyalty to her clan and those she loves, her cleverness and her vulnerability. I felt deeply for her as she navigated her own emotions and perils, rooting for her to figure out her truth and what it meant for the rest of her life. It was such a treat to witness her character growth (alongside the rest of the stuff going on in this story, of course), and it’s what made this read even more special.

It’s fairly obvious that Sky in the Deep is, to me, one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. It’s a stunning debut novel in every aspect – characters, story, setting, and writing. I’m thrilled that it lived up to my expectations (and the slight hype I was sensing surrounding it). I know for sure that I need more stories from Adrienne Young and I’ll be eagerly anticipating what comes next! In the meantime, you can snag a copy of Sky in the Deep next Tuesday – and I hope you do.

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
Publisher: Wednesday Books | Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Macky Reads Charlie and Frog

Charlie Tickler’s parents don’t have time for him. They would rather rescue giant golden moles and send Charlie off the boarding school than spend time with him. While in Africa, Charlie stays with his aging and very silly grandparents... who don’t really have much time for him either. But everything changes when Charlie stumbles upon a mystery that leads him to Francine “Frog” Castle, mystery enthusiast and budding super-sleuth. 

That Frog just happens to be deaf is both intriguing and amazing because, of the two, she’s the one who is pretty much consistently stepping on the gas and moving things forward. This is great because it brings the best out of poor Charlie, who at the start of our tale just wanted a place to belong. So, to find a solid base in Frog (who herself is rock solid, planted firmly in her Castle-on-the-Hudson community) is a breath of actual air for Charlie. She would rather much be solving mysteries than waitressing at the Flying Hands CafĂ© anyway, so she’s just as stoked to have met Charlie and the potential murder-mystery he has brought to her doorstep.

My experience reading this book was fun. Every chapter title is spelled out in regular words with American Sign Language letters beneath them. Was I signing these on the train and brushing up on my ASL letters? Yes. Eventually, the chapter titles had illustrations of the signs themselves. So me reading through this was basically following Charlie and Frog around town digging up all sorts of information and getting into all sorts of situations… and brushing up on the sign language. 

I believe the author Karen Kane (based on the author’s notes/dedication she wrote) is pretty close to a deaf community and has her real life relationships with them to credit for how seamless and engaging the integration of that aspect into the story has been. That there are several deaf characters in the book that are four dimensional in size and depth is, to me, such amazing representation. That the author is able to break the language gap and get people communicating on a real and true level just added to the great experience reading this book and honestly made me want to learn ASL. And that Frog herself is the one who’s large and in charge, but has no problems letting others take point makes her one of the most compelling middle grade characters out there. That she also happens to be deaf adds a dynamic and a flavor that just makes you believe in a better world. Whatever Karen Kane did, and just like one of her favorite signs in ASL, That - we need more of that. 

Charlie & Frog is out now and available everywhere.

Charlie & Frog by Karen Kane
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Source: Hardcover sent by the publisher (Thanks!)

London Calling, Part 02

It's time for part two of my London recap! (If you're interested, check out part one as well!). Today, I'll be sharing what Mel and I got up to during our last day and half in London. I'm still amazed at how much we managed to fit into our time in this city!

We kicked off our Sunday morning with a quick stopover at Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station, which was such a fun photo op (and a shopping stop for me, of course). We didn't let the rainy weather deter us from visiting Portobello Road, where we stopped by The Notting Hill Book Shop, saw the lovely colorful houses, and visited a few of the stalls and shops that were open on the main road (I scored a first edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!).

We walked through the Kensington Palace Gardens to make our way over to Kensington Palace, marveling at how secluded this palace seems despite being in the central part of the city. Deciding we needed a break, I finally got a chance to pop into a bookstore (two, actually, Waterstones and Hatchard's) for a browse and buy. We had afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason (which was delightful!), then walked briefly through a portion of Hyde Park. Our wanderings took us past the Wellington Arch eventually, and we decided we should go to see Harrod's just to say we went.

We dropped off all our goodies from the day's shopping adventures at the hotel, before we left for a quick night out. We had drinks at Opium (which is a really fun little cocktail spot), and finished off with grabbing a bite to eat at Nando's (which is excellent comfort/post-drinking food).

The next morning was our last in London, but we decided to make the most of the time we had. We grabbed another requisite red phone booth photo before popping into the British Library (they had a really cool British Library Treasures Gallery that I was just dying over). Our last touristy spot to visit on this trip was Camden Town, where we wandered over to Camden Lock to have a browse through their market. We had one last lunch at Jamie's Italian, before I split up with Mel to head for the airport to catch my flight home.

It's still so surreal to be able to say that I have finally gone to London! I've always wanted to go, and just like I predicted, it's another city of my heart. Being there for three and a half days was not nearly long enough. (I seriously already want to go back, and I'm already dreaming of when I'll next get to go.) There's just such a wonderful combination of history and pop culture, and I soaked up every single minute of my time there, brief as it was. I definitely hope that the next time I go will be for a much longer and more leisurely visit!


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