Sunday, August 25, 2013

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

"The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again."

I'll just say it: this book wasn't really the best one I've ever read. I'd give it maybe 3.5 stars. I didn't hate it, but I didn't have a whole bunch of excess love for it either. Maybe it was just the transition from the exciting vivid 20's setting and fluid writing of last week's book, or maybe I wasn't able to appreciate the style it was going for, but the writing seemed to fall pretty flat. When it keeps referencing the heat but can only seem to ever muster the word "limp," and when I went the whole book not really having a sense of what Hannah looks like beyond her hair color and that she's "occasionally pretty," I tend to get a little bored. To give the author credit, there was quite a bit of introspection and dealing with issues and emotions, but it's kind of off-putting to realize that, two-thirds of the way through the book, I still couldn't picture Hannah at all. It just focused on the situations. These however, I'm happy to report, were mostly well-handled and very realistic--a trait that made the ending stronger but admittedly caused some chafing/awkwardness along the way. In a sweet way though, I guess. So, like I said: 3.5 stars. I wouldn't go around recommending this to everybody, but if you're looking for a book you can blaze through in about 4 hours you could really do worse. A resounding "meh."

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Diviners by Libba Bray

"Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened."

And so ends my endeavor to read this 580-page book in one day. I couldn't have picked a better one to do it with, though. I wasn't quite convinced when I started it, but it started reeling me slowly in. By the end I was basically transfixed. One of the things that made it interesting was the '20s backdrop, I haven't read many set in that era and the way it was written with the language and the setting was pretty engaging and captivating. The writing in general was very well done, and there were spots here or there when it was nothing but imagery and it was really cool to read. Another selling point: it was witty. It made me laugh a couple times. The multiple-storyline angle mixed things up a bit, which was nice, although it gave each side character a little less "screentime." But that's another thing about the characters: they were all pretty surprising. I was hard-pressed to find a character that was exactly as they seemed on the outside; everyone had layers, and more often than not, those layers were pretty freaky. It enhanced the interest of the book. Anyway, this has been a rambling review of The Diviners, which I'd give 4.75 stars if I could. Trust me, it's worth the read! Go find it at Kettleson or MEHS. Seriously. I'm not kidding. I'm just gonna stare at you through the computer screen until you go out and do it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

"A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.
Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy."
Soo... hmm. Well-- I don't know. I mean, it was a good book. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset for it or something. Well, whatever it was, I thought the book was fine and good enough, but wouldn't exactly do cartwheels for it. On the positive side of things, it was very vividly written and was able to convey a lot of themes and emotions. Word use and settings were really stellar. One of the things that made it a little offsetting for me, though, was the amount all the characters changed from one moment to the next. And, I mean, it's good to have a book that breaks stereotypes and looks beyond them, but it was a little more unnerving than that. A character could do something decidedly mean or awful, but it would be forgotten about in five pages. They're a group of girls who supposedly end up best friends, but are capable of lashing out horribly at each other. And I get where some of this is coming from: the flaws of humans and our ability to be led and swayed, but it didn't exactly make the characters wholeheartedly endearing to read. Anyway, in conclusion, it wasn't by any shot a bad book. It was quite good, especially if you're in the curling-up-in-bed mindset. It was a tad slow at times, and had those other elements I talked about, but the style is good and I was fine with reading it. This is one of those ones that you really need to try for yourself to decide. I've heard many other people have really liked it (and I'm going to give the second one a try). It's at BMS, Sitka High, MEHS, and Kettleson.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

"'There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,' Neeve said. 'Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.'

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore."

I wasn't sure what I was expecting when I started reading this, but the road the book took wasn't anything I could have guessed. I think that's good, though. Admittedly, the first half-ish of the book was a little slow (it takes quite a time for her to even start interacting freely with the Raven Boys) but you can never say there was too little character depth and development. Maggie Stiefvater gave some generally more straightforward bios as the book began, but the character gold started coming when all the characters started interacting with each other; little quirks and details of each fueled motivations and insights into each of the boys and Blue. That started at the halfway-point of the book, give or take, and it got increasingly compelling and--if you can call it that--entertaining. Not that it's a comedy by any shot, but the characters are insanely fun to read. I can also tell it's definitely meant to be part of a series, and a cohesive one at that; the original hook and plotline intrigue you get from the inside cover almost takes a backseat to other correlating events, but I get the feeling they're definitely not forgotten. If I could, I'd already have the next book and be reading it to find out more. I don't know, I think this has the potential to be a really good series--can't wait for the next book! Now: go get this one at Kettleson!