Monday, August 5, 2013

ARC Review: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem
3/5 stars
Soho Teen, 2013
264 pages
YA Historical
Scheduled to release August 13

Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

So many thoughts! This caught my attention due to its title and its kind of similarity to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (as the publisher synopsis references John le Carre, I suspect that is not unintentional). Additionally the cover is quite striking with its vivid pops of color (pink and yellow is combination I am loving this summer). And my third reason, like I need a third reason after the intriguing first two, was the setting in 1982 Soviet Union. Have you ever read a YA book set then and there? I don't think I have and I always want to try the new and unique.

The book started out promisingly following young Marina whose dancer mother is very important to the USSR, resulting in quite a cushy lifestyle. However when her mother discovers something she should not, Marina and her father flee to the US trying to build a new life. However they cannot forget her mother left behind, abandoned and their attempts to reunite lead to tragedy.

Though I didn't mention it in my brief summary above, Marina (and her mother) has a special power: a second sight of sorts. Wow did I hate that element. I found it confusing and unnecessary in a book I was already struggling to follow. When I read historical fiction, I expect to either find myself in what I consider a somewhat glamorous world that I know a lot about (like Regency London) or to be educated about a time period I don't really know (such as the USSR in any period). But I never quite followed the KGB plot-perhaps that confusion is supposed to mirror the confusion and suspicions entertained by people during that period. Regardless, I did not enjoy it and really struggled to finish the book.

One plot point I did like was Marina's attempts to acclimate to life in the United States and the portrayals of her and other immigrants' experiences in a hostile new world. Another was the moments of dance though brief and mentions of music, which are more elaborate. There is also a romance that was okay and an excellent Valentine's Day Massacre dance scene that I really liked.

Overall: My unfamiliarity with the time period made this a difficult read that I struggled to finish. I found it all very confusing and never connected with any of the characters.

Other Opinions:
I Am, Indeed

26 comments:

  1. Oh that's too bad! This does sound like such a promising book. It is great when you can pick up a novel and learn something while you are being entertained. It sounds like this book tried to do too much with one story.

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    1. I thought it sounded so cool but I was very disappointed with the execution.

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  2. The concept sounds really good but it seems the execution wasn't quite there. Yeah, I'm not sure about the whole second sight thing. It seems like an unnecessary element that just clogged up the works.

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    1. Exactly right-the second sight thing was especially difficult and unnecessary to me.

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  3. The second sight seems out of place in otherwise promising book

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    1. Well that wasn't the only issue but it was probably my biggest one.

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  4. After having just read Boy on the Bridge, which is set in the same time period, I was excited for this one, but this is the second "meh" review I've read -- and both of you are readers whose taste usually matches mine.
    I'll go put "White Nights' on my Netflix list instead. I've never seen it…
    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. I hadn't heard of White Nights but I might give that a watch someday.

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  5. That's too bad that certain aspects were confusing - sounds like the writing wasn't strong enough to carry the concept of the story.

    Thanks for your honest thoughts! :)

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    1. It just felt so muddled and it didn't spark the way my favorite books with me.

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  6. I think that the 1980's Soviet Union setting is going to be a new trend in YA. Not only The Boy on the Bridge that Jen mentioned above, but next year Beth Kephart has a book titled We Could Be Heroes coming out about two lovers who are living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall during the early 80's. I am REALLY excited to read that one.

    Sorry this book was a bust for you in the end, but it is an exciting new period in historical fiction I'm looking forward to reading more of!

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    1. I think that could be a new trend! I like the sound of Kephart's book and am excited to see what more authors do with the period. There are so many ways to take it.

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  7. Valentine's Day Massacre dance scene? Sounds interesting! I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the book that much, hopefully your next read will be better:) Great review!
    -Danna

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    1. That was such a cool, unexpected bit. I've never seen anyone celebrate anything around that massacre so it caught me off-guard in the best way.

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  8. Aw, I'm sorry you didn't love this book. Though I'm glad you still somewhat enjoyed it :) (Since it is a three star ;p) Anyway. Don't think it's a book for me, but it does sound interesting :) Thank you for sharing and for being honest. <3

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    1. There were some okay bits; it just wasn't my thing.

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  9. Too bad, it sounds like it would have been really good, I'm not familiar with that time period either. Great review.

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    1. I loved the premise and wanted to know more about the time period but didn't get much satisfaction.

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  10. Wow, I hadn't heard of this before. The time period and setting is one I would definitely be interested in reading but I'm not sure, since you didn't love it it's probably not worth my time. I was born in 81, Yikes, I'm historical now! LOL.

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    1. Doesn't it sound cool? I think of it as historical especially because the USSR no longer exists-it is literally a thing of the past.

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  11. The synopsis sounds interesting, so that sucks that the book couldn't hold it together. Though I must say, I do really like the cover.

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    1. I love the cover too-I wish there had been more dancing as I always like that in a book!

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  12. I've been interested in this one, but I was hoping for lots of dance descriptions. And I definitely didn't expect a paranormal element.

    (You should watch the movie White Nights!)

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    1. I wish there was a lot more dance! Had never heard of White Nights before now but have added it to my to-watch list.

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  13. You make a great point about reading out of your comfort zone, the Soviet Union would definitely be new to me as well and I think I would struggle with it. Hmm, the paranormal aspect seems kind of thrown in and I'm sure I would care for that either. Thanks for an honest review!

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    1. I wonder if I had more background about the Soviet Union if this would have worked better for me.

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