Posts tagged liz kessler

Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep

Book #7.  Yes, I realize I’m going slowly.  Emma is really boring me this time around for some reason, but more on that later.

This is the second of Liz Kessler’s Emily Windsnap trilogy, about a girl who learns at twelve years old that she’s half-mermaid.  The first book was all about her discovering her mermaid heritage and the reason she hadn’t known about it beforehand, which turns out being a bit more nefarious than expected.  She and her mother are then reunited with her mermaid father and sent to a secret island to live a happily ever after.

Which is where Monster from the Deep picks up.  I was fairly excited for this book, mainly because the idea of a secret, paradisical island where mermaids and humans live together in harmony reminded me a little of Peter Pan’s Neverland—well, that and the island at the end of the off-the-mark ’98 TV movie of Brave New World, with Peter Gallagher, but that’s probably just me.

My point is, I was looking forward to a lot of exploration of the island.  Despite the title of the book, I was basically assuming that it would be an end-of-the-book climactic thing, rather than what it was, pretty much the main focus all throughout.  I can’t complain, though.  It’s a middle-grade book, and while we don’t get to see as much of the island as I’d like, there’s some character development here that I didn’t expect.  Emily has looked forward to living on this island because here she would finally, finally fit in—except she’s so focused on fitting in that she works overly hard to try to prove herself, which is what ends up landing her in trouble in the first place.

That’s all good and well… but once she does get in trouble, the story goes a little bit off kilter.  Meanwhile, we’re flashing over to the point of view of Emily’s old school rival Mandy at the end of each chapter, which was an effect that I like, but I think could have been developed just a teensy bit more.  We get that Mandy’s parents are selfish and argue a lot, leaving Mandy feeling left out and not very important, but we don’t really understand a thing about her parents, except that they argue a lot.  Like in the last novel, the child-parent relationships just seem a little off.    The end of the novel felt very much like a repeat of the first one, also.  Both strongly imply that mermaids have been doing awful, awful things for hundreds and thousands of years, and then after Emily pleads her case, Neptune, despite being as megalomaniac-y as you could suppose, eventually sees her point and changes his ways.

I’m starting to wonder if the excuse “this is a middle grade book,” isn’t a little thin.  I don’t know that Emily learned anything from the mistakes she made in this book, except perhaps to not go trespassing on Neptune’s personal property—she abuses a friendship and instead of having to pay for it with anything more than her conscience, her friend turns around and praises her for being such a courageous person.  Instead of realizing that she would have fit in on the island just being herself, she just seems happy that she gets a party at the end of the book.  And on top of all that I’m having more and more trouble buying her as twelve years old.  The book is marked for ages six through eight, but personally I was reading stuff like The Secret Garden by then.  I can’t help but think that maybe Kessler is underestimating her readers…

That said, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the book.  I did, actually.  Despite her faults, Emily is an extremely likeable character, and any look we get at Mystic Millie is worth all the rest.  Though not how she’s described at all, I keep picturing Millie as an overdressed Zooey Deschanel, it just seems like the kooky kind of role she’d play, and if it ever gets made into a movie, she’d have my vote for the role in a heartbeat.

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The Tail of Emily Windsnap

Nothing like a good old-fashioned mermaid story to break up the Austen, hm?

I admit, I’ve been eyeing The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler for some time now. Mostly because… well, it’s such a pretty book. It’s middle-grade, and I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by the storyline, but it was an altogether enjoyable book. Partially, again, because it is so very pretty. It’s not just the cover that’s pretty, but there are little black-and-white underwater vignette watercolors all through the book, in between chapters and sections of chapters alike, and it gives the book an all-around motif that’s really enjoyable. While it’s true that the best of stories can be read scrolling through a no-frills .html document, this book is a prime example of how influential packaging really can be.

Not to say that it’s a bad book by its own standards—Emily is a pretty delightful character, and her mermaid friend Shona even more so. The story is a little wackier than I expected, and the kid-parent relationship is a little thin (really, what parent never takes their kid’s view into account, even if it feels that way?) but all in all it was a lot of fun to read, and had a nice ending. There are two more books so far in the Emily Windsnap series, and I’m definitely interested enough to keep reading, and the descriptive parts about undersea life and surroundings were very well done.

This makes book #48 of 2008. I don’t know at this rate that I can finish two more in two and a half days (or rather, I’m 99% sure I can’t) but it easily beats the 31 I managed to read in 2008. In a couple days I’ll post my whole list, slightly annotated. It’s not too impressive, but it’ll do. Despite my failure, I’ve tentatively made a slightly higher goal of 52 books in 52 weeks next year. What can I say, I aim for improvement. 😉

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