Blood Magic

At NTTBF I met the incredible Tessa Gratton, who wrote United States of Asgard. I also picked up the first of her previous books, and then soon after I decided that she ought to be crowned queen.

Tessa Gratton is amazing, this book destroyed me. I can’t even describe how much I’ve fallen in love with Gratton’s works. That’s basically all you need to know, honestly.

  • Author: Tessa Gratton
  • Publisher: Bluefire
  • Year: 2011
  • Shelved In: Teen Romance
  • Genre vibe: I think Tessa Gratton needs her own genre. Southern-Gothic-genre-bending-romance-plus-magic-and-monsters, otherwise known as “perfection”.
  • At a glance: Silla’s mother and father died, bloodily. Someone gave her a journal that seems to be a book of spells, of all things. Nick’s been mixed up in some weird stuff in his life. Then they meet, when Nick sees Silla trying out this strange magic in the graveyard. Things only get worse from there.

BloodMagicPBK-finalBlood Magic

Alright, where do I start with this book. I ate it up, it was so consuming. Tessa’s writing is freaking amazing and I can’t get over how much her settings do in terms of getting you invested. She creates these stunning worlds and places and you can’t help but do anything but sit there and let them absorb you.

Frequenters of this blog will now by now that atmosphere is one of my favorite things about anything and everything I read. Blood Magic’s atmosphere is almost Gothic, and just this side of urban, and I loved it so, so much. Every image of every place was crystal clear and somehow you get the sense that only things you’re seeing are even real.

This book was so automatically atmospheric that I couldn’t help but do one of my favorite things. I made it a playlist. Some books never have quite enough aesthetic to merit an entire mix. But this one — this one was perfect.

I could go on and on and on about the things I loved about this book’s atmosphere. I just want to go back and live in it. The details, the depth, the relevance to story. Absolutely perfect.

Another thing that Tessa is unfairly good at is romance. I love romance. And Tessa’s relationships are some of the best ever. Silla and Nick’s dynamic was an incredible thing, both a source of conflict and a source of comfort throughout the whole book. They played off of each other really well, as characters. They work well together, as a couple. And, to top it all off, their inner journeys work and conflict with one another so well.

The details of every character give them each their own kind of persona are perfectly spaced and so natural. Every one of her characters is a completely real and incredibly complex person. It all makes for some of the best relationships I’ve ever seen, whether they be romantic or not.

One of my favorite relationships in this book was between Silla and her brother, Reese. I’m a sucker for brother/sister relationships. Especially ones where the siblings in question actually get along. If there’s a prominent brother/sister relationship involved, chances are I’ll pick up your book. If I pick it up anyways and am pleasantly surprised to find one, like I did with Blood Magic, all the better. I love siblings.

So characters: A+, Tessa. Please don’t ever stop because I love everyone so much.

And then there’s the magic. Characters are more my area of expertise, so to speak, but Tessa’s magic systems never fail to make an impact on me. This one was no exception. It was creepy as heck and just all around awesome. The thought, care, and time that she puts into her worlds and things make it all some seriously quality stuff.

Obviously I have only good things to say about this book. So I’ll just kind of leave it at that. Blood Magic is amazing, the end.

Overall

  • Rating: 5/5 Stars and then some
  • Recommended to: People who are fans of all the things I mentioned, basically. Amazing relationships, amazing and scary magic, amazing atmosphere, and lots of kissing.
  • Lasting impression: The sound of her name off his lips, blood on the cemetery ground. A whistle of wind in a sad and empty house.
Advertisements

The Walls Around Us

18044277

So, this book. This book is special. Why? Because I got it two weeks early at book fest. (and also because it has the prettiest cover I have ever seen)

And this review. This review is also special. Why? Because it’s not only me that brings it to you this time. My friend and I read this book together and now, we bring you our reviews.

So, let’s cut to the chase.

REACH on Plot:

I don’t say this often, but the plot was one of my favorite parts about this book. The story that Suma tells is an absolutely beautiful one. While a lot of books are mainly plot or mainly character driven, this is one that’s both. Everything kind of weaves together all at once, and all you can do once you’ve jumped in is let it take you where it will. The intensity is incredible, the emotion is even better. Suma takes every aspect of her story and blows it up so that you can see all of the details…just not until she shows you where they are.

The story keeps its secrets. But it doesn’t lead you astray. It’s so captivating and so interesting that you can’t help but listen to it unfold as if you’re right in the middle of it. Every new twist and turn makes your heart jump, every scare becomes a deeply unsettling fear. The story that The Walls Around Us tells, is, in a word, unforgettable.

Sniffer on Plot:

When people say Young Adult Paranormal, I scream, “Nooooooooooo.”
(Because once, I slipped up and read Twilight. Don’t ask. Don’t judge. It scarred me for life. It was bad. End of story. Forget about it.)
The Walls Around us is the first paranormal novel that I actually loved. It was the perfect amount of strange, the perfect amount of creepy, and an insane amount of disturbing. From the jarring opening, the novel keeps a consistently dark tone that builds tension until you can’t bear it anymore. Though some scenes are slow and some of the pacing a bit shaky, the tight feeling in your chest never fades.
It is rare that I become fully invested in a book. It is rare that a book truly moves me. When I read emotional stories, they often don’t reach beyond tugging at the loose heartstrings—the ones that are always changing with my mood. The Walls Around Us snipped off the loose strings and stabbed me right in the ventricles.
Okay, perhaps that sounded strange, but that is exactly what I felt. The Walls Around Us is not a monotone book. It creates complex feelings that affect every section of your heart.
Regret. Sadness. Joy. Hope. Redemption.
They are all present.

REACH on Prose:

My weakness is pretty words. An overabundance of them. Well done flowery prose is just about my favorite thing ever, and Nova Ren Suma’s is some of the best. One of the jobs of good prose is to aid the story’s atmosphere, and the prose in Walls Around Us does that really, really well. All throughout the story, back and forth between the narrators and their different situations, the prose is fitting and just absolutely beautiful.

It’s a very smooth-feeling kind of writing. There aren’t really any sudden stops or short sentences, because it doesn’t really call for that. The whole of the book is very much suited to the velvety-feeling writing, and I was very happy to let it captivate me and block out everything else.

Sniffer on Prose:

Reading Nova Ren Suma’s book is like reading a rippling, flowing, surging, colorful song. It is like bathing in a stream of flowers that tickle the sides of your cheek and cast their aroma into the air. It is like breathing a whole garden of spices. It is like diving into a vat of perfume and drawing in every last ounce of it into your soul. It is like soaring off the edge of a cliff and embracing the open space. It is like holding a beloved’s hand, and suddenly finding your lips locked with theirs and your heart thundering.
Reading The Walls Around Us is beautiful, but tiring.
There comes a point when something special becomes ordinary, and unfortunately, Suma’s writing falls into this trap. I was ecstatic for the first few pages, but when the beautiful prose kept going at full throttle, I became numb to it. I believe in sparsity. If a writer can use strong style consistently and save the stunning moments for important scenes, the book can reach a gut-stabbing level of impact.
Suma keeps her book powerful—stunningly powerful, actually—but nevertheless overuses her lyrical prose.

REACH on Characters:

How do I even begin to talk about these characters? Each and every one of them is so alive in their own right. You never wonder who’s who or why someone is there. They’re all crucial and they’re all so, so interesting.
I cried for a lot of them. I screamed at a couple of them. I felt for all of them, somehow. Each individual story was heart wrenching. I didn’t know who to love and who to hate for the longest time, and I don’t think I ended up truly hating anybody.

Obviously I have only good things to say about this book. If I were to keep going there would just be emotions everywhere, and no one wants that.

Sniffer on Characters:

The Walls Around Us is unique in the fact that for the first few chapters, you are not sure who you are supposed to like and who you are supposed to hate. Everyone is interesting, but it is easy to predict a character’s outcome in both directions. Someone could be good, and someone could be bad. You don’t know. An odd feeling of suspense fogs the first half.
When the mist clears, when motives rise, and when you can see everything, the characters become sharp. The suspense of unknowing flips on its head and becomes the opposite. When you know, emotions flood in. The actions of each character are more affecting. The turns of the novel are more exciting, because you know who you care about.
Also, The Walls Around Us is the first book to make me terrified of ballerinas. So, props to Suma for that.

My favorite thing

Anyone who frequents this blog knows that I love ghosts. Every time I read a good ghost story, I disappear happily into its pages for as long as humanly possible. And so while I am completely in love with everything about this book, the fact of how well it deals with its genre is absolutely my favorite part. The surreality, the creep factor, the sheer terror incited at times. The best part. By far. This is one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read, and it’s not even completely about ghosts.

To see what Sniffer’s favorite part was, visit his blog. It is very much worth your time.

Overall:

  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Fans of scary things, really good ghosts, incredible characters, and even better settings
  • Lasting impression: Red feathers. Red feathers everywhere.

North Texas Teen Book Festival 2015

The NTTBF. One day, fifty plus authors, and you. I added to that a few of my favorite people–such as one of my best writer friends over at Snifferblog and some from my writing club–and the fact that out of those fifty plus authors, one of them was Tessa Gratton and, well, that day ended up being one of the best I’ve ever had.

This was the first year for NTTBF to be held, and I think I said enough over the course of the day that it had better keep on going. It was hundreds of readers and thousands of books all gathered together in the same place to attend panels full of authors, signings by those authors, and a couple of different events such as Book Speed Dating. Publishing houses such as Penguin Teen had tables set up, as well as a promoter for the Insurgent movie that comes out in a couple weeks. Authors brought bookmarks and pins and things for their books, and in one special case their latest book, which isn’t released in stores until the 24th.

I got there pretty early, which was one of the best things I did. Nothing started officially happening until nine, and so being there by about eight fifteen made sure that I was able to spend a lot of time in the book sales room, and ensured that I actually got all of the books I wanted, as a lot of them were sold out by the end of the day.

Book Speed Dating was one of the three ticketed events and the only one that I attended (both others were panels that didn’t really interest me). You got taken to a table, read a synopsis, and told to pick a book. It was super quick, super fun, and really unbiased. There were a variety of things to peak a variety of interests at the table, and so you were forced to go only by what grabbed your attention the most. (I have My Soul To Take by Rachel Vincent and can’t wait to start it.)

The sessions were, of course, a big part of the day. There were up to six or seven sessions running at all times from ten AM to three PM, so you got to attend five sessions total. I stuck pretty close to my favorite authors for most of the day, and went to sessions on secondary characters, romance in unlikely places, captivating fantasy worlds, thriller novels, and horror. Two of the absolute coolest people to hear from were Leigh Bardugo and Nova Ren Suma, who happen to be two of my favorites. Leigh is a joy to watch and listen to because she’s so full of energy that you can’t help listen to what she’s saying, and it’s good stuff too. Nova is a little quieter, but absolutely full of amazing ideas and insights, and a super easy person to pay attention to.

Another thing that was cool about the panels was that as I listened to the authors speak, I got convinced to read their works. Julie Kagawa and Sherry Thomas were both ridiculously cool people, and through hearing them speak and answer questions, I got interested in their books. (Granted, my reading list is already a mile long, but y’know…) It was a really cool kind of setting to be in on, watching authors interact with each other and with the crowd and the panel mods and learning about how they work and what they like.

It was also a little like being in the same room as a rock star. On the way to my first session I walked right by Tessa Gratton and just about had a heart attack. She’s amazing, by the way.

One of the best parts of the day for me was staying right up until the end, when there wasn’t really anybody left. I got to talk with Natalie C. Parker and April Tucholke for a bit as everything was emptying out, which was the neatest experience. Natalie is amazing and I got to hear an Author Story first hand, and while April is kind of intimidating she is seriously incredible as well.

All in all, one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m super excited for the future of NTTBF and am already planning on next year. I was surprised with how smoothly everything went, even given the amount of people there and the traffic jams that occurred. Rock on, NTTBF. Rock on.

 

Book Review: Eleanor and Park

My new romance for February was finally (finally) this book because I’m very late to jump on the bandwagon and kept forgetting it existed. But I did it. I read the thing. And I wasn’t disappointed.

71LkLmxqgjLEleanor and Park

  • Author: Rainbow Rowell
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Year: 2013
  • Shelved in: Teen romance
  • Genre vibe: Contemporary teen romance, and a large portion of the book is almost slice-of-life.
  • At a glance: Eleanor is weird, quiet, and hurting. Park is small, quiet, and dark. They meet on the bus. And then things happen.

I was super, super impressed by this book. The biggest praise I’ve heard for Rowell was on the subject of Fangirl, which never appealed to me. But I’ve had my eye on this one for awhile, and when a friend actually, personally recommended it to me a few weeks ago, I made it a tangible thing on my TBR.

I’m really glad I did.

Eleanor & Park deals with a lot of things. Things like Eleanor’s abusive home to Park’s insecurities, the different kinds of people that are in this world. But I think my favorite out of all the things it dealt with was the slow but definite development of Eleanor and Park’s relationship.

Everything in this book is really…clear. There’s not much that’s trying to keep secrets from you besides the plot twist, and everything that happens or is done has a clear purpose. I liked that. I liked how Eleanor and Park…met. It was logical and normal and somehow gave me a small feeling of whimsy and started off the atmosphere of a glimpse into these two people’s lives as an outsider that was to continue throughout the book.

All that to say, Rowell knows how to tell a story. And she’s really, really good at it. Setup, pacing, narrative, everything is there and on point. It makes the book an easy and ridiculously engaging read.

Not to mention the actual writing style. Not too simplistic, not unnecessarily early. Absolutely perfect and definitely tailored to each of their two points of view.

All put together, it’s just…a beautiful, beautiful book.

The way the harder situations are dealt with is good, and the character development was amazing. I fell in love alongside both of them and it was a neat experience. So often these stories are one-sided, and the best part of this book is that this one wasn’t. It’s Eleanor and Park. Both of them are included in this relationship, in this story, and that’s the thing that I’m going to remember most from reading this.

And, that said, Eleanor and Park are both incredible, incredible characters all on their own. I related to Park a little more, and though that doesn’t usually influence how my favorite characters come out of a book, it did this time. I also felt like Park’s inner journey was a little bit more defined and less obvious than Eleanor’s. Not that Eleanor’s was bad or predictable in a boring way, but it was a little easier to see where she would end up, and so I didn’t really get to go on the journey with her quite as much.

Really the only negative thing I have to say about this book is that the ending took something from me. I completely understood, and it broke my heart like it was supposed to. But it happened so fast. Which may have been the point, but it was so out of keeping with the rest of the book that it took me a while and a couple of re-read pages to even realistically get a grasp on what had happened.

I finally came to the conclusion that it wasn’t bad, or wrong. I just wasn’t ready.

But this was a stunning read, and I’d love to have it on my shelf before too long. It’d be worth a second read eventually. So overall,

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars with that fifth one just a little bit less obvious
  • Recommended to: People who like really good romance and who aren’t afraid of some grittier subjects. Perfect book to curl up with on a cold day and just…read.
  • Lasting impression: Vinyl records, a dimly-lit suburban home, the feeling of sitting on top of a bedspread, holding hands.

 

Book Review: Unspoken

My library set up the Blind Date with a Book stand again this year. To my slight dismay, I was able to identify five books by their dating site profile blurb. But I eventually found one that interested me.

Paranormal, Gothic urban fantasy seeks romantic reader to join teen girl uncover the mystery behind a secretive family and bloody deeds in the depths of the woods. When her imaginary boyfriend gains a physical body, can she still love him? Can she trust him?”

Pretty great right? Sounds like my kind of thing. I opened it up and found Unspoken, a book I’ve looked at a couple times and dismissed, and only recently had recommended to me by my book soul sister.

Figured it was time to take the plunge.

10866624Unspoken

  • Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Year: 2012
  • Shelved in: Teen paranormal romance
  • Genre vibe: Definitely not urban fantasy, I’m not sure who thought that. More southern Gothic paranormal than anything.
  • At a glance: Kami Glass likes journalism. She has an imaginary boyfriend. Turns out he’s not so imaginary. Old family returns to small town and things start to happen. Magical things.

This book is so aesthetically pleasing. The cover is beautiful, the inside flaps are probably the prettiest I’ve seen in a while, and the heading pages for the different parts of the book were incredibly stunning.

It’s just, really beautiful.

But aside from that, there’s really only one other thing that I really enjoyed about it, and that’s the magic setup.

The way things were explained was really cool (if not exactly eloquent) and the Lynburn magic and their ties to the town was super interesting. I loved the feeling through the whole book that there was more going on than met the eye. The revelation that it wasn’t something paranormal so much as something vaguely fairytale-like was an interesting one and probably one of the most engaging things that happened throughout the whole thing.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say about the characters. I’ve said before and I’ll probably say every single time, I’m not really a middle-grade person. I like my characters to be fifteen or over, preferably over. It’s just personal preference.

But Kami read like she was fourteen, and I couldn’t get into it. She said some things that were so funny I couldn’t take the rest of her seriously. I’m not a fan of books that consist mostly of snark and witticisms, because while those things are great and some characters exist on a core of them, they take away from the story and more importantly, the atmosphere.

This was supposed to be a paranormal romance, right? Certain things go along with being told that. At least a little bit of darkness, and, you know…romance. The amount of laugh-worthy banter stole away whatever darkness could have been there given Kami and Jared’s situation and mental connection. And while the banter and sarcasm was well-written, not stupid, and in character, it just didn’t seem necessary, and it made Kami seem…really immature.

This book suffered from something like atmosphere schizophrenia or something. I was never sure if I was supposed to be laughing or taking this all seriously. And that kind of frustrated me a little at times.

And so I was disappointed. Not completely, because there were good parts. But as far as actual enjoyment goes, there wasn’t much.

So, overall.

  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended to: People who would enjoy something along the lines of “Nancy Drew plus magic”, people who like paranormal but like laughing better.
  • Lasting impression: That look you give your friend when they say something really strange, and the taste of dust.