Quick Review: eBook Novellas

I purchased an iPad back in October. I did not have reading eBooks in mind, as I prefer physical books wherever possible and I can borrow plenty of those from the public library. Then I discovered there are a number of eBook novellas by some of my favourite authors, telling prequels, filling in gaps, or sharing alternate perspectives. I bought three of them back around Christmas and finally decided to read them a few weeks ago on a break from school.

  • The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While by Catherynne M. Valente
    • Series:  Fairyland #0.5
    • When to Read: After The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1).
    • Rating:  ★★★½ [ratings guide]
    • A great read if you want to know more about Mallow and the Green Wind
    • Holds all the charm and character of the other Fairyland stories, while feeling a touch  more mature and solemn
  • Unstrung by Neal Shusterman and Michelle Knowlden 
    • Series: Unwind #1.5
    • When to Read: After Unwind (Unwind #1)
    • Rating: ★★★½ [ratings guide]
    • Tells the story of what Lev did between leaving CyFi and becoming a clapper
    • As with the Fairyland story above, contains all the qualities I like about Shusterman’s writing (plot twists, intense narration, thoughtful characters, moral grappling)
      • Last two chapters really pack a punch and bring the whole story together, in line with the rest of the series – fills in gaps well, relevant to the series, does not feel like an afterthought
  • Skeleton & Dust by Rhiannon Paille
    • Series: The Ferryman and the Flame #0.5
    • When to Read: Before or after Surrender (The Ferryman and the Flame #1)
      • I would have preferred to read this before Surrender (if you read it before, you’ll have a better context for Surrender; if you read it after, you’ll recognize key characters from Surrender)
    • Rating:  ★★★½ [ratings guide]
    • Sets up the first novel by providing historical context
    • Romantic aspect feels more realistic than in Surrender (though reading this clarifies the romance in Surrender so it seems more believable!)
    • Especially liked Aria’s interactions with the Ferryman, and the scene where Aria shares food with the children

I have The Ferryman and the Flame #1.5 and #2.5 still to go. I wonder how many more little eBooks by authors I like are out there. Have you read any stories that were only available as eBooks that you enjoyed? 

Eowyn Ivey – The Snow Child

  Author: Eowyn Ivey
Title: The Snow Child
Date read: 26 December to 29 December
Published: February 2012
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Length: 212 pages
Genre: Historical fiction/fantasy?
Why I picked it up: Sounded intriguing, pretty cover
Rating: 4 stars
Buy:  IndieBound Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

My notes for this book are primarily chronological, documenting my thoughts on aspects of the story as they emerge. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Well. Not many books can pull off opening with a suicide attempt! I have read very little that deals with suicide, and usually it is in a much modern sense – related to problems of bullying, society, etc. I found the sequence extremely well-written, realistic and believable. An impressive start to a solid story.

I found the balancing act between is Faina a real girl or not, and what Mabel and Jack believe about her, incredible. At first I fully believed she was something they created but evidence against and for continually emerges throughout the tale. Usually I find I’m able to deduce what’s true, or I end up frustrated at the author’s ambivalence, but I found Ivey kept the balance well and didn’t force one side or the other. You truly cannot tell. Even Mabel and Jack seem to alternate in what they believe about the girl. The balancing act is subtle and believable and not at all frustrating.

I had to laugh at how easily I was misled by Garett. I had one question before the story even started – Who will cause Faina’s downfall?’ and it became pretty obvious it would be Garrett. But not for the reason I thought! I thought after he killed her fox, that would be the start of trouble. But I quickly realized (I even said a loud ‘OH I’m an idiot!’ as I realized that the two were going to fall in love.

The characters and story develop slowly but deliberately and at one point I suddenly found myself caring deeply for the characters (oh poor dear Mabel), who had suddenly become so strong and defined in my mind, and I had this wavering shaky feeling because you just know the story isn’t going to have a perfect happy ending.

I’m thinking now that the best way to describe this tale is understated, perhaps. Everything is just so well-written, so carefully constructed, nothing is too blatant or over the top or demanding, or even /too/ subtle – everything seems to be written just so, for a beautifully developed story.

As someone who went through Canadian elementary school, I appreciated and laughed at the reference to ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’ (page 139) 😛 What a creepy little poem that we studied in grade five!

Unfortunately, I did find the ending disappointing. I was expecting more emotional upset – why didn’t we see a reaction from Garrett? Because the story isn’t about him, I suppose. But I had become invested in these characters and I was braced for tragedy at the end, and then tragedy came but there wasn’t much to it and I didn’t feel bad for the characters. Perhaps this is a character fault of my own rather than the author’s? Something to contemplate…overall I though the story was great, a lovely winter read, but the ending relatively weak.