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Book Review: Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey

“Can the bonds of true love ever be severed?” – front cover blurb

Some books are inspired by other authors.  Golden by Jessi Kirby, for example, channels the works of Robert Frost.  For Mary Lindsey, her dream was to write a book inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.  Ashes on the Waves is inspired by not only by the works of Poe, but by the poem Annabel Lee in particular.

“It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.”

Complete poem by Edgar Allan Poe here


Ashes on the Waves is set on a secluded island that is almost like a different world.  Here, the locals live a life of extreme poverty and are overwhelmed by ancient legends that dictate much of their daily life.  The locals know that there are various creatures, called Otherworlders, that live in the sea; they are wary because you can be drawn in by them to your death.

 “It’s difficult to reconcile the fantastic with reality; hard to accept that things we can’t see exist—terrifying, in fact.”  – Ashes on the Waves


Anna, Annabel Leighton, is a rich socialite who has gotten a lot of negative press lately so she is sent by her family to stay out of the spotlight in their island mansion while her brother plans a wedding and his political career.  It would be so easy to dismiss Anna as a socialite, but Lindsey gives her tremendous depth of character as she stands up for justice and the poor.  She performs some truly heroic, sacrificial acts and I really loved her.  She is a strong female role model.

Liam MacGregor lives on the island, shunned and forsaken.  It is believed he is of the devil because of a birth injury that left him with damage to one of his arms.  Like I said, the people on the island are truly backwards and primitive.  At times it almost feels like you aren’t just going to a different island and culture, but through a portal to the past.

Anna and Liam played together as kids, and Liam has always been in love with her.  But because of who he is, he knows that he is unworthy and has no chance.  Except that Anna totally rocks and sees into the heart of him and a love grows among them.  The Otherworlders see this love and make a bet: they will test the couple’s love and the outcome determines which of the two supernatural groups will have to leave the area forever.  They throw every test and temptation that they can think of to the couple, and what happens is the real meat of the story.  The second half of the book is particularly strong and interesting.

 “The pain had no ebb or flow. It was a constant ever-increasing knell in my chest, timed to the beating of my broken heart.”- Ashes on the Waves

Overall, I really liked the premise of the story. The bet between the two factions of Otherworlders will remind readers of the story of Job.  This part didn’t happen, however, until around page 170, so it took a really long time to get to it.  I would have liked it to have happened earlier to propel the story forward more quickly.  The pacing of the first half of the story may be problematic for some readers.  It was very exciting though to see what would happen next, how the couple would – or would they? – survive it, and the strength of our two main characters.

However, there is really good character development and romance readers will definitely find a lot to swoon over. I am never a fan of that obsessive I can’t be away from you love, but in this world there is at least a reason for it.  Liam and Anna are both shining characters, as is Liam’s only real friend and supporter Francine.  Most of the other characters are cruel, superstitious, self serving and prone to secrets.  Again, I love just the moral being of our two main characters, their strength, the choices they make.  What Anna does for a local girl is simply inspiring.

I really liked how well a life of poverty was depicted; Although, as I mentioned, there were times where it felt more historical than other elements suggested, like Anna going back and forth to the island in a helicopter, and that caused a real disconnect for me.  Of course, this is a work of fantasy and there were very strong fantasy elements, and they were not your typical fantasy creatures.

Teachers, in particular, could really love this book.  It would be great to read along with a unit study on Poe.  Each chapter begins with a quote from a poem or story by Poe that relates to what happens in the chapter.  There are so many creative writing ideas to do here with teens.  It would also go great with a study of mythology, local legends, or superstitions.  There are also strong discussions of justice, discrimination, and women’s issues in Ashes on the Waves.

“For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.”

At times haunting, especially towards the end, this dark, gothic love story should find many fans.  Share it with fans of Jane Eyre or The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (which is also Poe inspired).  3 out of 5 stars.  There are 41 reviews for Ashes on the Waves on Goodreads and it has gotten an average rating of 4.25.  Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey. June 2013 from Philomel.  ISBN: 978-0-399-15939-8.

The Poe in me: ya lit inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,. . .” – The Raven
 
 

Most teens get a wad of cash when they graduate high school, and some of them do smart things with them.  I, however, went the next day and bought 1) the ugliest flower shirt known to man, 2) The Whole Story on CD by Kate Bush and 3) The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe.  I love Poe so much that when I found out I was pregnant with my first and second daughter, I wanted to name her Annabelle Lee.  The Mr., however, had something against naming his daughters after dead girls in poetry.  But this – right now – is a great time of year for all things Poe so I bring you books inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.  (I wish I still had that ugly shirt and I would take a pic of me wearing it and holding my Poe anthology, but Poe was ruined in the great flood of 2011 and no one would still own that shirt.)


Steampunk Poe
First, you’ll want to make sure that your teens have access to some of the original works themselves.  But you don’t want no boring stories, which is why you should get Steampunk Poe.  Here the original works of Poe are presented with some very cook Steampunk pictures. (Published October 4th 2011 by Running Press Teens) (ISBN 9780762441921)

 
“TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad?”  – The Tell Tale Heart

 
“There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion, even by the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made.”  – Masque of the Red Death, Poe

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
This is a stinking dark and brillian re-imagining of the original Poe story.  This time, Griffin presents us with a dystopian future in which a plague roams the land.  In this dark underbelly of a world, Griffin excels in creating an atosmphere that is so oppressive, you feel like you can cut through it with a knife.  Masque of the Red Death is a great addition to this post on epidemics in ya lit. (Published April 24th 2012 by Greenwillow Books) (ISBN 9780062107794)

 
“Ghastly, grim, and ancient Raven, wandering from the Nightly shore,– Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore! Quoth the Raven “Nevermore!”” – The Raven


Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
Isobel finds herself drawn to the strange and aloof Varen and the image of Edgar Allan Poe that he draws in his journals.  These drawings seem almost to come to life; and Poe’s world is a world you wouldn’t want to find yourself in. (published August 31st 2010 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers) (ISBN13: 9781442402003)  ils…

“I know not how it was–but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.” – The Fall of the House of Usher


Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley
Michael is invited to spend Christmas with a guardian in a desolate house.  As Michael wanders the halls of the desolate home he learns that lonely doesn’t always mean alone and even houses have secrets. An homage to The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe. (Published October 4th 2010 by Bloomsbury UK) (ISBN 9781408800133)

 
“That is another of your odd notions,” said the Prefect, who had a fashion of calling every thing “odd” that was beyond his comprehension, and thus lived amid an absolute legion of “oddities.”  – The Purloined Letter


The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Many teens will not know this, but Poe is actually the originator of the modern day detective story (The Purloined Letter), which is why the Edgar Awards for Mystery is named after him.  In The Name of the Star, Johnson created a gothic mystery that would make Poe proud.  Although it appears that a modern day Jack the Ripper is roaming the streets of London, the truth is even more terrifying than Rory can even imagine. (Published September 29th 2011 by Putnam Juvenile) (ISBN 9780399256608)

And Two Titles Coming Soon . . .

“For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; ” – Annabel Lee
 
Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey
 
Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.
 
With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make a wager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.
 
Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem Annabel Lee, Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love. (Expected publication June 27, 2013 from Philomel/Penguin)


Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

NYT Bestselling author of THE HOLLOW series, Jessica Verday’s OF MONSTERS AND MADNESS, a series of romantic YA Gothic thrillers inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, as told by Annabel Lee, a young girl who moves to Philadelphia in 1826 to live with her father and discovers that he may be implicated in a series of murders across the city, and only she can prove his innocence and protect him from the true evil he has created in his basement lab, to Alison Weiss at Egmont, at auction, for publication in fall 2014, by Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media.
Foreign: Rachel Hecht, rhecht@foundrymedia.com
 
Using Poe in the Classroom/Library
  • Read a Poe story and a ya lit book based on or inspired by said story and discuss
  • Have teens chose a Poe short story and write their own inspired by version
  • Study more at poestories.com
What other Poe inspired YA Lit is out there? Add to our list in the comments please.

TLA Baby!

Tuesday night I left work and drove 4 1/2 hours to make my pilgrimage to TLA.  TLA baby, here I came! It was a truly amazing day where I met a ton of amazing teen authors, talked to publishers and yes, I received some ARCs (which will get their own post).

Although the exhibit halls were amazing, and I’ll get back to them, the fun truly began at the Texas Teen Author Tea.  Here we were invited to speed date with a wide variety of amazing teen authors.  There were 60 authors in total present, but I didn’t get to date them all.  The even was introduced by Andrea White, author of the fabulous Surviving Antarctica, which I have loved for a long time and being a new Texas transplant I had no idea she was a Texas author.  Ms. White, it was announced, gave some money to YART, the Young Adult Round Table, and they were starting some cool online resources including something called SPOT, the Spirit of Texas Reading Program.  My favorite was when she said that our goal – authors, librarians – was to help teens learn that “books are relationships”, a book is more than just two covers with pages in between.  Well said.

Then the speed dating began!

First I dated Morgan Matson, author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and the upcoming Second Chance Summer, and Jessi Kirby, author of Moonglass and the upcoming In Honor.  Both of these ladies were incredibly nice and I was lucky to later get signed copies of books by both.  Second Chance Summer and In Honor are both contemporary titles and I am so excited to read them.  As much as I love paranormal and dystopian – and you know I do! – it is always great to have those contemporary titles that help teens see the real world they live in just a little different, to open their hearts and minds and just be.

I had just tweeted that I hoped I got to meet David Lubar and bam – he sat down right next to me.  David is funny, not surpringly.  I also got the opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated authors like him who participated in the Yalsa-bk listserv discussions (Alex Flinn and Jonathan Maberry post frequently as well).  And then he mentioned the possibility of Zombie Weenies! I know he would also want me to mention the Weenies Topical and Literary Index, where he painstakingly indexed his weenies stories.  With David Lubar I met Christina Mandelski, the author of The Sweetest Thing.  My favorite part was when she told us that she took cake decorating classes to help her write this book and admitted to being obsessed with The Food Network.

I then got to meet Mary Lindsey, whose book Shattered Souls may have the most fabulous book cover ever.  She did a great job of selling her book and talked about the book cover process and it was very cool.  I ran into her again later and we chatted some more.  She shared that she was in the process of writing a very cool sounding Poe inspired book that I honestly can not wait to read.  With Mary came Greg Leitich Smith, author of Chronal Engine and yes, husband to Cynthia Lietich Smith.  He came bearing dinosaur tattoos and as far as I am concerned, there can no be enough dinosaur books.

I also met (cue squeeing) Megan Miranda, author of the breathtaking Fracture and learned that she has a background in science that helped influence the book.  Stasia Kehoe talked about her book, Audition, and how it really delves into the question of identity and talent and passion.  Also, audition has ballet and dance is really popular right now.  Here is my true confessions moment: I always wanted to be a ballerina, I own a copy of Center Stage and watch it often, and I watch Dance Academy on Teen Nick – purely for professional reasons, of course).  Then P. J. Hoover talks about her undying love of mythology and how it plays into her book series which begins with book 1, The Emerald Tablet.  Fans of the Percy Jackson series will love these.

After being sad for a few moment about the authors I didn’t get to speed date, which for me included Orson Scott Card, I returned to the exhibit halls where I had to buy a new copy of Shiver so I could have it signed by Maggie Steifvater.  Being a huge Shiver fan, this was quite the moment for me and Maggie was incredibly nice and gracious to everyone who stood in that line.

Then – bam – the moment truly had a moment of synergy as just that moment John Corey Whaley had written his Why YA? post about Love is the Higher Law and who should I meet?  Why yes, David Levithan himself.  He is, of course, one half of the brilliant writing partnership behind the truly marvelous Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  And it turns out, he is a book editor.  He is, in fact, the editor of The List by Shiobhan Vivian.  I have been dying to read this book so yes, yes I did buy it and get it signed.  I also got a picture of the wonder team.

Then, the most amazing thing happened! I met Barry Lyga.  That’s right folks, THAT Barry Lyga.  Author of the fabulous, and fabulously creepy, I Hunt Killers.  He himself is not creepy, just the book.  But fabulously so.  Barry himself was very personable.

I also met and talked to a look author named Beth Fehlbaum.  Her book, Hope in Patience, is a 2011 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  Hope in Patience is about one young girls journey of recovery from abuse.  Fans of the Dave Pelzer books will want to read these.

I learned at the Harper Collins booth that Robison Wells was going to be at TLA today, a truly devastating realization for me as I left last night.  Thursday, in fact, is teen day and they are having a ton of great authors, groups of teens, lots of great ARCs and a huge Divergent/Insurgent moment.  I ran into a bunch of great librarians, authors and book bloggers and I am sure there will be lots of great posts in the next few days about it all.  I love conferences because they are this moment when all of us – authors, publishers, librarians – come together and rejuvenate.  We are all working towards the same goal: to get books into the hands of teens.  It’s nice to get together in person and share our stories of success, those moments when we learn how a book made the difference in someone’s life.