27 February 2015

Civias Acanteo Nero d'Avola


I haven't had much chance to sample the wines from Sicily, but wow! This was absolutely fabulous!

The nose was full of raspberry jam, browned butter and sugar notes. It smelled like a pie fresh out of the oven.

It was almost overwhelmingly dry, with sharp, chocolatey tannins. There was very little fruit, just a hint of dark cassis, but it popped with tongue-tingling acidity. All that, wrapped in silky minerality.

It was an impressive wine, all the more so for being less than $15. I will have to check out more from Sicily!

26 February 2015

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

It's been a while since I've read something as stark as I WAS HERE, the first book by Gayle Forman I've had the pleasure of reading. I knew that going in - the description made it very clear what I WAS HERE is about:

When her best friend, Meg, drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question. [From the publisher]

I've written before about my own struggles with mental health. Depression and bipolar disorder run in my family; my maternal aunt took her own life almost ten years ago. I was twenty at the time, and my aunt and I weren't that close, but it certainly gave me the framework for empathy with Cody's own loss.

Though the description almost makes it sound like a thriller - Cody trying to uncover Meg's secrets - the thrills are emotional. I WAS HERE is about survival after a devastating loss. It's about blame and forgiveness. It's about the terrifying notion that you might not know those closest to you as well as you think.

It's about fighting the stigma of mental illness. Knowing the warning signs. Being unafraid to talk openly about the uncomfortable truths of depression and bipolar disorder.

It's about finding hope and redemption in the unlikeliest of places, and finding meaning in life.

I WAS HERE is about so much. I wish I could do it justice. But it moved me, deeply, and I hope it finds its way into the hands of everyone who needs it.

25 February 2015

The Vast and Brutal Sea by Zoraida Cordova

THE VAST AND BRUTAL SEA is the final book in Zoraida Cordova's Vicious Deep trilogy, and it has the same virtues - and the same faults - as the previous two books.

When we left off, Tristan had found out Kurt was his uncle, a rival heir to the Sea Throne, and his almost-girlfriend Layla had been kidnapped by Nieve, the evil sea witch.

THE VAST AND BRUTAL SEA picks up with Tristan, his cousin Brendan, and his friend Kai on their way to find and awaken the Sleeping Giants, to try and turn the tables on Nieve.

Like the previous two novels, THE VAST AND BRUTAL SEA was a fun, breezy read, with memorable and delightful characters, quick pacing, action and adventure. The world was well-built, and we got to see even more of the backstory and history of the merfolk Cordova created.

But, like the previous two novels, it was lacking in feeling. And there were so many great moments that could have been amazing if they were allowed to breathe. Betrayals. Lovers torn apart. Lovers reunited. Deaths. Triumphs and heartbreaks.

Every time, the emotion was skimmed over. It was so frustrating.

For all that, though, I really did like the trilogy. I liked the voice, I liked the characters, I liked the world. I just wish it had taken that extra step, risked sharing that emotion. Then I think I would have loved it.

24 February 2015

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

UNMADE concludes Sarah Rees Brennan's The Lynburn Legacy, bringing the story full circle in more ways than one. And not everyone makes it out alive.

When we left off UNTOLD, Jared had been captured by his Uncle-Father Rob. (I never thought I would get to write that.) UNMADE picks up with everyone assuming he's dead, even though he's being held prisoner in Aurimere. Naturally, once the truth comes out, rescue operations ensue.

In some ways, UNMADE reads like an episode of classic DOCTOR WHO. I lost track of the number of times Kami and Kompany broke into and out of Aurimere, in different combinations and for different reasons. There was a lot of running.

Kami and Ash linked themselves as source and sorcerer at the end of UNTOLD, and that new dynamic spills over into everything Kami does in this book, even as she tries to cement her relationship with Jared, who she still loves. Ash comes on stronger now that they're linked, but, surprisingly, Kami never really turns toward him romantically. I actually appreciated her conviction in that: it would have been easy for the story to descend into Kami waffling between the two brother-cousins.

Naturally, the relationship with Jared is complicated. A risky attempt to link Jared and Ash together to share magic adds another knot to the thorny link, but again, it's handled in a way that felt fresh and authentic.

UNTOLD had a few deaths in it, but they were all minor characters. UNMADE gets bolder with the body count, but it was here where I felt a bit cheated. I never got to truly grieve the characters we lost, sometimes because it felt like I hardly knew them - the true them - and sometimes because the narrative moved along before I had the chance.

In the end, things come down, as they must, to a confrontation between Kami and Kompany on one side and Rob and his minions on the other. I was kind of hoping for a bit more badassery in the sorcerous finale, but all in all, it was pretty awesome.

The ending didn't surprise me - it was exactly what I expected to happen - but that didn't mean it wasn't satisfying. I don't imagine things could have ended any other way.

THE LYNBURN LEGACY was my first venture into "Gothic Romance," and having come through the other side, I'm still not entirely sure what differentiates it from "Paranormal Romance." I think Gothic and I expect things to be dark and moody, but Kami's narration never flagged in its youthful energy, its witty descriptions, the marvelous dialogue. Even things were at their darkest, it felt like there was a little light of humor shining on them. I'm not sure what to make of it, other than I enjoyed it.

I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for more "Gothic Romances" and see if I can figure this out.

23 February 2015

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

UNTOLD is the second book in Sarah Rees Brennan's The Lynburn Legacy trilogy, and picks up pretty quickly on the heels of UNSPOKEN.

I was surprised and impressed with the end of UNSPOKEN: there was a huge paradigm shift at the end, when Kami severed her connection to Jared. I haven't read a ton of paranormal romances (which this sort of falls under, though it's often called Gothic), but this seems a pretty direct inversion of what most paranormal romances do: rather than pushing the characters incrementally closer together, UNSPOKEN started with them linked more intimately than anyone can imagine, and then split them apart.

In UNTOLD we see Kami without Jared's voice. We learn more about who Kami truly is: confident (except about her looks), smart, determined, brave, and, most importantly, moral. She has a strong sense of right and wrong and won't back down in the face of evil. We learn more about Jared, too: learn what makes him tick, what he truly wants. We see him learn, slowly, how to express himself outwardly, after a lifetime of only talking to Kami in his mind.

UNTOLD uses a wider narrative lens, shifting from Kami to Jared and then to Ash and Holly at times as well. [Did Angela have a POV section, too? Embarrassingly I can't remember, and I just finished the book yesterday.] The close third person served the story well, and each characters internal world came alive. As with UNSPOKEN, Kami in particular was enjoyable to inhabit, and her entire family seems to share her amusing dialogue traits.

As Rob gathers his sorcerers and Lilian trains her sorcerers, Kami and her krew make their own plans for the impending battle. When it comes, it's vicious, surprisingly violent at times, and leaves the story's paradigm shifted once again.

It goes without saying that, since this is the second book in a trilogy, things aren't wrapped up neatly. Indeed, it's hard to see how they can get any worse. The ending was chilling and inevitable, and it worked, even though it's something I've seen before (it seems to be the way at least 50% of second-books end).

The one gripe I had was the same as with UNSPOKEN: it felt like the book was overly Americanized. I wonder what the UK version of the book is like.

I really enjoyed UNTOLD and I've already started on UNMADE. I can't wait to see how Kami and friends make it out of this. Assuming, of course, they do.

20 February 2015

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

THE FIVE STAGES OF ANDREW BRAWLEY is the first book published this year that I have absolutely loved. I devoured the whole thing in a single day. I actually read most of it in a single sitting, on my flight back home from Dallas, but when we had to get off the plane I had to put it down for a while, and wait until the evening to finish it.

I knew from the very first line this book was going to break my heart, and boy, did it hurt so good.

THE FIVE STAGES tells the story of Drew, who survived the accident that killed his parents and little sister, but never left the hospital afterwards. Instead he's created a new identity for himself, working in the hospital cafeteria and sleeping in an abandoned wing of the building at night. He tells himself he's trying to be invisible, but it's impossible not to see the new family he's made for himself: his boss at the cafeteria, the nurses he's befriended, the two teenagers in cancer treatment that he hangs out with.

When a boy comes in who was set on fire - literally - for being gay, Drew's drawn to him, and begins to risk more and more to be around him, to help him out of his own pain. Drew's drowning in pain himself, and Shaun David Hutchinson captures the agony of survivor's guilt and the horrendous ache of loss so perfectly it's breathtaking.

In his free time, Drew likes to draw, and THE FIVE STAGES has a page or two of his comic book - PATIENT F - after each chapter. Drew tells himself (and others) it's a story he's making up, but it's pretty clear the story is his own way of coping with his own hardships.

The tentative romance between Drew and Rusty is one of the most well-written ones I have seen in a long time, all the more for it being between two gay boys without ever treating it any differently than a heterosexual romance. Drew, especially, is comfortable in his own skin and rarely feels the need to comment on being gay at all, except as it relates to what Rusty endured.

THE FIVE STAGES has plenty of surprises in it, both heartwarming and heartwrenching, and the sprint to the ending was rough and visceral.

I would have liked the dénouement to go on a little longer; I like to linger at the end of a book, and this one wrapped up too quickly for me. Part of it was probably the comic at the end; they say a picture is worth a thousand words, but they certainly read a lot quicker, and I wasn't ready to be done. I wanted to stay in that world a little longer.

Thankfully, I can always revisit it.

I absolutely loved THE FIVE STAGES OF ANDREW BRAWLEY. I'll have to check out Shaun David Hutchinson's other stuff.

18 February 2015

King Dork Approximately by Frank Portman

I'm lucky, in a way, that I didn't read Frank Portman's KING DORK until a few weeks ago. That I way I didn't have to wait very long for the sequel to come out.

KING DORK APPROXIMATELY picks up right where KING DORK left off: Tom Henderson has (mostly) recovered from his tuba-inflicted head wound, but he's just as big a dork as before, and being in a band will only get him so much protection from the Normals out there.

I was never able to quite place when KING DORK took place, but KING DORK APPROXIMATELY includes Y2K as a plot point, so that's a pretty big giveaway. Tom's concerns about the transition from vinyl albums to CDs, Sam Hellerman's first forays into cell phone usage, letter jackets - I was instantly transported back to my own sophomore year. Apparently, Tom was born within a year of me! I know it's weird - I already empathized with him plenty before - but knowing that made it even easier to slip into his head.

There's a lot less conspiracy in KING DORK APPROXIMATELY. Much like KING DORK, it's about everything: girls, rock and roll, family, letter jackets, how terrible "normal" people are, trombones, Mountain Dew, recycling...I could go on. Despite Tom's own railing against "character arcs" in his previous explanations (the way he refers to the events of KING DORK), we got to see him grow up even more in K.D.A. as he has his first serious girlfriend, goes to school away from Sam Hellerman (after Hillmont gets closed down), and see just how much he actually does care about Little Big Tom. He even surprises himself on that one.

The narration is as quirky as ever. Tom and Sam Hellerman have taken to referring to albums by their serial number rather than their name, but Portman is helpful as ever with a guide at the back of the book. I recommend waiting until the book is over before reading it, because Tom does mention which album is which within a few pages of mentioning the number, and the entries at the back of the book are a hilarious story in and of themselves.

There's a lot less mispronouncing of words, but Tom's vocabulary continues to expand impressively, though he's not always 100% certain the words he uses mean what he thinks they mean.

It's so hard to talk about this book other than to say how much I enjoyed it and how much I laughed at it. It was even funnier than its predecessor, and it was a lot harder to put down, too.

I want to talk about the ending a little, so stop reading here if you wish to avoid SPOILERS.



Okay.

Finding out that Sam Hellerman was behind the Catcher Code was not a huge surprise to me, and I was glad to see Tom was appropriately mad at him. Sam Hellerman always came off as a manipulative asshole to me, the kind of friend who's not really your friend and you don't completely realize it or admit it to yourself.

I so wanted to see Tom and Sam throw down. I like to imagine that they did. Especially in the wake of Tom finding someone who truly seems to care about him.

I really did like the ending. If you had asked me after the first KING DORK if there would ever be a sequel, I would have guessed not. And I can't imagine a sequel to KING DORK APPROXIMATELY, I would make the same guess. But I hope I'm wrong. I'd love to hang out with King Dork again.

17 February 2015

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Within the first page or two of THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING I had a pretty severe WTF?! moment. The main character mentioned Christmas.

You have to understand: THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is presented as pure fantasy, complete with a cottage in the woods, fostered royalty, magic, and all that.

But what you come to realize fairly quickly - if you are a careful reader and you have an open mind - is that this isn't fantasy set in a world all its own. This is something different. Something new (to me, at least): a post-apocalyptic fantasy.

I struggled for a long time about whether this constituted a spoiler or not, but I don't think it does. Things are peppered early on that let you know it. Still, when I rated the book on Goodreads I couldn't help noticing a number of people who were really angry about it.

I don't really get that. It's not like it came out of left field; it was built up slowly and surely from the beginning.

Anyway. That's just one aspect of the novel, but one that seems to drive a lot of passions.

I don't read a lot of fantasy these days, but I still have a deep love for it, and I very much enjoyed THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING.

The main character, Kelsea, is the heir to the throne of Tear, and has been living in isolation with her two foster parents for nineteen years. Now it's time for her to ascend the throne, and the novel starts with the arrival of the guards who will deliver her to the capital.

Things do not, of course, go well.

Tear is a troubled kingdom, as Kelsea soon finds out, desperately in need of a Queen, and the thrust of the book is watching Kelsea learn how to be the person her kingdom needs to be.

There weren't very many surprises or twists along the narrative, nothing (aside from the setting) that leapt out at me as being radically different from fantasies past. But it was a good, solid story, with relatable characters, and I am looking forward to the sequel.

16 February 2015

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

I was turned on to UNSPOKEN by two people almost at the same time: one, my friend from work, who reads as much as I do, rated it on Goodreads; at almost the same time, one of my valued Critique Partners mentioned it as a comp title for her own work.

It took me a while to get around to reading it - my To-Read list grows ever larger - but I DID finally get to it.

It took me a while to get into it. I started it at a time when work was keeping me fairly busy, plus Downton Abbey had just started again and I had fallen behind. Anyway, it took me almost a week to read it - and I read the last third or so in a single day.

UNSPOKEN follows Kami Glass, spunky British schoolgirl reporter, as she starts up a newspaper in her sleepy town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. The people of the Vale live in fear of the Lynburns, the absent family that owns most of the town, and that people whisper secrets about. Just as the story starts, the Lynburns return.

UNSPOKEN is billed as gothic romance, but it didn't seem that different from paranormal romance, complete with a love triangle. I generally find love triangles tiresome, and this one didn't impress me any, but that's one quibble.

Where UNSPOKEN blew me away was in its dialogue. It was witty, deeply funny, and presented a paradox to me: while I could never imagine any teenagers sounding like they did in the book, somehow, the characters sounded exactly like teenagers nonetheless.

Kami is one of the wittiest narrators I have ever read.

UNSPOKEN ended up being a very enjoyable read. It didn't really pop out at me with any surprises, but then again, not every book needs crazy twists.

The only gripe I had with it was the feeling that, even though it's set in England, it didn't ever feel truly English to me. It felt more like the American South, somehow. I don't know why that would be, but it just did. There was something quintessentially British that I was missing from it.

The author is in fact Irish, so I wonder if something happened when it was localized for American readers. It definitely removed more of the British-ness than I would have liked. I always thought the HARRY POTTER books trod this line well, but UNSPOKEN went way over the edge and stripped out all the charm.

Still, I've already picked up the sequel and can't wait to read it.

12 February 2015

Lover's Leap from Smith Tea



Oh man. I think I am in love with this new tea. I almost didn't get any - it's a special blend and it sold out in a day! But the fine folks at Smith Teamakers were able to help me get my hands on some.

Lover's Leap is a blend of Ceylon black tea (from the estate where the blend takes its name), pink rose petals, chamomile, and citrus. When you smell the dry leaves, you are instantly transported to heaven. There's no other way to describe it.

As you can see, the tea had a lovely golden liquor when I steeped it (seven minutes, because I usually like my tea on the dark side). It was bursting with rose and perfume scents, but there was this little zing to it that tickled the back of my nostrils. Enticing. Intoxicating.

The taste was round and floral, and the pure taste of Ceylon came bursting through. It seemed less bitter than many other Ceylons I've had. I don't know if it was the blend, or if they selected one that was slightly less fired, but there were vegetal notes that were absolutely luscious. And, of course, the acidity of the citrus helped tie it all together.

This is one of the most complex teas I've ever had the (very great) pleasure of tasting. I am in love!

11 February 2015

Sympathy Hangover?

I'm having a weird day today. Last night I stayed up, perhaps a bit too late, writing on my new manuscript. I was working on a scene wherein the main character gets drunk (hammered!) on tequila sunrises.

The scene is only half-done but I hit my goal for the night (1000 words) and needed sleep, so I left it at that.

At no time yesterday did I consume alcohol of any kind.

Nonetheless, I woke up this morning feeling hungover. My mouth was dry, I had a headache, my stomach was queasy at best...

Am I experiencing a sympathy hangover for my main character? Is that even a thing?

Weird.

10 February 2015

Luis Cañas Crianza 2011


This Rioja was my other January wine club bottle. I've written before about the soft spot I have for Spanish wines, and this one was no exception. For the price point, Spanish wines are hard to beat.

The Luis Cañas Crianza was a deep plum color, with a tight, closed-off nose. A little time allowed it to open up some, revealing subtle notes of black licorice.

The taste belied the nose, with notes of apple cider taking the fore. It was dry - extremely dry - but the tannins were nicely balanced, not chewy.

I shared this bottle with a friend and we both enjoyed polishing it off with dinner. It was a great table wine.

09 February 2015

King Dork by Frank Portman

I wish I could remember where I first came upon the mention of Frank Portman's KING DORK, because I would like to thank whoever it was that wrote said mention. It was one of the funniest books I've read in quite a while.

KING DORK follows Tom Henderson, social misfit and self-proclaimed King Dork, though his sophomore year of high school as he fends of bullies, learns about girls, laments his sad-sack teachers and their obsession with THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, and investigates a mysterious code left in his dead father's books.

If it sounds like a lot, that's because it is, and it's all remarkably interwoven. I was immediately reminded of Andrew Smith's GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, both because of the intricately-woven narrative, and the voice of the narrator.

Tom is one of the most likable protagonists I've come across in quite a while, mostly because of how honest he is. His observations of social hierarchy at school are keen, his relationships with adults feel true, his yearning for contact with the opposite sex are alternately intoxicating and frustrating. His relationship with Sam Hellerman, his only friend, is awkward and tender in equal measure. The two are more dependent on each other than either will admit.

The humor that suffuses KING DORK is gut-bustingly funny. Tom's wit shines through as he riffs on his teachers' reverence for THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, which he calls the Catcher Cult; the humiliating nature of PE classes in high school; how confusing girls are; and his own oddball family.

The narrative is a messy ball of yarn - in the best way possible. Plot points come and go, only to pop up again later, sneakily woven into what's come before. Misinformation, fake identities, and outright lies pepper the book as Tom tries to understand his father's code. Murder and child pornography rings and dry cleaning tickets and funeral cards all lead Tom deeper into the mystery - unless they turn out to be red herrings.

Music suffused KING DORK - not only is Tom trying to start a band, but he talks at length about his musical tastes, that of his peers and family, and what it means to him. The author is himself a musician, and he pulled this off beautifully.

The climax was unexpected (something Tom would appreciate, I'm sure). As Tom himself points out, he doesn't have a traditional character arc - he doesn't learn lessons or grow from his experiences. He just gets a fractured skull and some memory gaps. And the realization that being in a band makes you imminently more attractive to the opposite sex.

That's not quite true, though. Tom does grow up. He finds a connection to his father he didn't have before, even if he doesn't realize it. He learns a little bit (and only a little!) about the opposite sex. More than that, though, is the silent accumulation of maturity that teenagers experience. He may feel the same at the start and end of the novel, but we as readers know he's not.

My favorite part of KING DORK was at the very end of the book, when Portman provided a glossary of words, including hilarious mispronunciations of them, followed by a list of band names and rosters devised by Tom and Sam throughout the story.

There's so much going on in KING DORK that I'm sure I forgot to mention parts of it that I loved. I can't wait to read the sequel.

06 February 2015

Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha 2011


Alas, I lost my tasting notes for this wine, so I'll see what I can remember...

I have a love for Garnacha - it was the first wine I truly fell in love with - but this one was a little different. Most garnachas I've tasted had a bit more fruit than this one. The Las Rocas seemed to be more tannic and even a little bit astringent.

There wasn't much complexity to it yet, either, but then again it was still quite young.

All in all an okay table wine, but not the equal of a Kan Blau or Evodia, which are my favorite Spanish table wines.

05 February 2015

Valminor Albariño


My latest offering from the wine club was this bottle of Valminor Albariño, from (as usual) Rias Baixas. This was Valminor's special ten-year edition (if my Spanish is accurate), and it certainly stood out as a unique, special Albariño.

To start with, it was much darker than I expected, tending toward a deep gold color rather than the pale straw I was expecting. It looked more like a California Chardonnay than an Albariño.

The nose was different, too - full of floral notes rather than citrus, more buttery than crisp.

The fruit, normally so forward and light in Albariños, was subdued. I doubt this wine saw any oak but at times it felt like it, it was so heavy and assertive. The acidity was sharp, and at times it seemed almost fizzy - but I don't think it was truly semi-sparkling. It just felt that way.

This was a lovely wine. Though it was different than the norm, it really opened my eyes to what Albariño could do when given the chance to express itself.

03 February 2015

The Savage Blue by Zoraida Cordova

When we left off (at the end of THE VICIOUS DEEP), Tristan and friends were on a quest to gather and unite the three pieces of the Sea King's trident to gain the Sea Throne and prevent the oceans from falling into chaos caused by Nieve, the evil sea witch.

THE SAVAGE BLUE picks up pretty much right after, with Tristan on board the a vessel, training with his stoic friend/guardian Kurt and, as usual, skimming over any emotions he experiences.

All things considered, THE SAVAGE BLUE had more heart to it than THE VICIOUS DEEP, which I was happy to see, but it still never delved deep enough for me. I don't know if it was a narrative choice - to keep the plot focused on action and the pace energetic - or a stylistic choice - as if boys don't feel as deeply as girls. I hope it was the former, because I find the latter spurious at best.

Anyone who actually reads this blog knows how much I adore Andrew Smith's books, and all of them feature male narrators who are thoughtful, expressive, and feel things every bit as deeply as female narrators.

Anyway, THE SAVAGE BLUE took a step in the right direction for me, but I needed more. MORE FEELINGS!

Aside from that, it maintained the caper feel of THE VICIOUS DEEP, with more players entering the mix, and some surprisingly complex sociopolitical contexts emerged. I was glad to see that side of the story being fleshed out more. Cordova surprised me at several points, and the twists were well-earned - especially the back-to-back doozies at the end.

As much as I complain about the lack of feels, I actually enjoyed THE SAVAGE BLUE quite a bit. It was fun, fast-paced, and kept me on my toes.

For some reason, finding the final book in the trilogy, THE VAST AND BRUTAL SEA, has proven troublesome. I had to put in a WorldCat request for it at the library, so we'll see if that works out or if I have to break down and buy a copy.

02 February 2015

The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova

If memory serves, Zoraida Cordova's THE VICIOUS DEEP came to my attention from an article on great trilogies that finished in 2014.

So: THE VICIOUS DEEP. Tristan Hart, wunderkind-slash-manslut, gets washed out to sea, comes back with amnesia, grows a fish tail, finds out he's half-merman, goes on globe-trotting (-swimming?) adventure but mostly in-and-around Coney Island...what's not to enjoy?

It was enjoyable, but at the same time, it was unfulfilling. Much like the Coney Island junk food that Tristan was so fond of, it left me wanting a little more substance.

It felt like every time there was an emotional beat, rather than digging in and exploring it - swimming deeper, as it were - Cordova backed off, skimmed it over or had Tristan make a flippant comment. That can work if it's not overdone, but it felt like this was every. single. beat.

Even the most earth-shattering revelations were barely explored. Meeting a family he hadn't known existed. Hell, discovering he was a magical fairytale creature was basically smoothed over, accepted, and never really re-examined.

Even one of the scenes that had the potential to be beautiful and romantic - when he showed his true form to the girl he loved - barely had any sizzle or spark.

All that being said, THE VICIOUS DEEP was fun and entertaining. It had all the makings of a great caper, and if it had been purely that I might have enjoyed it more thoroughly. But with its YA Fantasy backbone I wanted more.

Incidentally, I've always enjoyed mermaid fairytales since I was a child, stemming, I think, from (a) my own love of the water, at least until the age where body-consciousness kicked in, and (b) the fact that Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID is the first movie I can recall experiencing in my life. I guess it left quite a mark. I don't know.

Either way, I picked up the sequel to THE VICIOUS DEEP, THE SAVAGE BLUE, and have already read it as well. Expect a full report soon!