The Careful Undressing of Love

Some books are too easy to miss. Don’t let this be one of them.

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  • Author: Corey Ann Haydu
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre vibe: You know how some things are contemporary, but also like, they read like a cult horror novel? It’s like that.
  • At a glance: If a girl from Devonairre Street falls in love with a man,  he dies. This is the Curse. The Devonairre Street girls live in disgust for the curse, untouched by it as yet. But then a boy they all loved dies, and all of the girls’ lives are thrown out of focus.

The story of this book is kind of unremarkable: I impulse-bought something else a couple days before it came out, then I saw it and went back to exchange. I don’t even remember the original impulse-buy at this point; this book was too good. But what’s funny is I don’t have a lot to say about it.

This is a book about tragedy and grief and how love is both of those things all the time, and I don’t know how much there is to say about that in and of itself. But this book is also a book about Tragic Events. And it’s also a book about Those Girls. Any and all of these things are things that carry a specific taste and feeling–whole books have been written about them on their own. This book is about them all, and in that, it’s heady. A little cloying, a little too much at times. This is a book for people like me, who just really like crying over fictional people. This is a book for a lot of things.

Books like these are quite often my favorite because sometimes they fly under the radar; people aren’t sure how to define or talk about them or figure out even how they feel about them. That’s part of what makes them so good. Books like these are a tangible thing, and they’re hard to let go of while you’re reading them, and after you’re done they leave you with that nameless “holy-shit-what-even-do-I-love-so-much-about-this-book” type feeling. There’s a lot of things in these kinds of book that often just make you feel. And that, I think, is their biggest strength.

So overall, this book is…

  • 4/5 stars
  • for people who really like feelings (and probably April Tucholke)
  • tradition, and old neighborhoods, and knowing how to feel things you wish you didn’t
  • Cleopatra by The Lumineers

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt, Clue #: 2

I know what you’re here for: your next clue. Because you’re a detective, right? And detectives look for answers.

Well, I have some for you. But! Patience is a virtue. So read on.

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  • Author: Stephanie Morrill
  • Publisher: Blink YA Books
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre vibe: Jazz age society mystery!
  • At a glance: Piper’s best friend has gone missing. Mysteries just don’t get solved fast enough, so Piper takes matters into her own hands, looking for answers in a lot of the wrong places.

So the One Year Adventure Novel program is a thing that I did, and their Summer Workshops are a thing that I have attended. This is where I met Stephanie and heard her speak–and then I met Piper.

This is a book that just feels very nice to hold onto. You know the sort. Just the right heft and weight and amount of pages. And to top it all off: she matches my outfit.

lostgirlFast forward a few months of somehow managing to ignore the ARC I was so lucky to acquire, and here we are nearing the launch date, and I’m given the honor to join in and help send Piper out into the world. Enter Linnea, stage right, furiously reading. But this was by no means a difficult task.

This book is amazing. Jazz age YA fic is kind of my gig, and there’s not a lot of it out there, and even less of it that’s a mystery. So this book was like an answer to my little bookish prayer.

This will come as a surprise only to newcomers: It’s super hard for me to fall in love with Strong Willed Female Characters. This is generally perceived as a shortcoming of mine. And, true to form: Detective Cassano is my favorite thing about this book…HOWEVER.

Piper Sail is a glorious creature. Sometimes, characters with her type of situation and even her temperament make me want to pull some hair out along the way, but I can’t remember a moment I was annoyed with her. I enjoyed her position as a narrator, I believed her decisions and emotions, didn’t ever hate her for looking for answers, and I didn’t feel cheated out of a poignant story moment because she was being “~driven~”, and that ends up not being her only character trait, as well, which is a bonus.

That being said: Detective Cassano. If miss Piper is a standout lady detective, Cassano is her perfect match in a multidimensional, easily-fallen-for supporting role. The twisting roles he plays in getting Piper her answers thicken the plot quite nicely–and just make him all the more fantastic.

It’s difficult to review the plot of a mystery without screwing it up for everybody, so let’s just skip to the end, shall we? Stephanie was amazing and allowed me to have her fill in my wrap-up points for this post, so before you get your clues, have some authorly insight!

The May Queen Murders

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The May Queen Murders

  • Author: Sarah Jude
  • Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Genre vibe: Cult horror, Southern gothic
  • At a glance: First animals, and then girls. Terrifying murders are once again cropping up all over Rowan’s Glen, and sweet Ivy might be next.

 

Some books just kind of…happen. You see a lovely cover at first and say to yourself, “I’ll read that soon,” and then all of a sudden you find yourself in an indie bookstore the day your writer’s conference ends and well…

So I pick up THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS, a book that houses a delightfully textured cover, the perfect shade of pink, and the promise of something best read with the lights out.

I got all of those things in my two-day reading-binge in attempt to keep up with my reading schedule. This book is the perfect quick read. Just under 300 pages, fast-paced and interesting, decent characters and only slightly awkward intimate relations. Murder, romance, atmosphere et cetera. I enjoyed the ride quite a bit.

The problem happened when the climax started to climb. Reveal after reveal happened within pages and sometimes paragraphs, huge-seeming subplots that got little-to-no pagetime. Which, for the sake of shock and ohmygodohmygodohmygod WHO IS THE MURDEROUS PSYCHO, worked pretty well. But outside of that, it just wasn’t…enough.

MAY QUEEN MURDERS is a slightly-less-than-300 page book with a story that could easily have filled just-under-500, with just a little bit of extra air added to each of the little plot points along the way. So while I enjoyed my quick ride through murder and mayhem, and it filled a need in my reading life that’s been lacking for quite some time, the part of me that devours scary things kept wishing there was more more more.

But overall:

  • Rating: 3.5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: People looking for a brutal, quick scare, and also people that like freaking gorgeous covers.
  • Lasting impression: Butterfly kisses, creek water lapping over your ankles. Blood spilling through the cracks in the hardwood.

 

 

ILLUMINAE

There are books that you say you mean to read, and you actually mean to read them. Then there are books that you say you mean to read, and you don’t totally mean it–all you really mean is that it looks interesting.

And then there’s books that just wait, crouched on the shelf, until you walk by with your unsuspecting interest, and in a crime of opportunity: you pick it up.

ILLUMINAE is that kind of book. And it doesn’t just grab you. It attacks you.

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ILLUMINAE

  • Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • Year: 2015
  • Genre vibe: SPACE SCARES
  • At a glance:SPACE SCARES

So let’s face it: it’s been about a month and a half since I read this book.

And yet, here I am, reviewing it anyways. I can’t seem to get it out of my brain. And while I may not have anything in particular to say about it, per se, I…can’t stop thinking about it.

That counts for a lot, I think.

I’m a fan of Amie Kaufman’s similarly co-authored Sci-fi Romance STARBOUND trilogy. I saw Jay Kristoff’s teases for the upcoming NEVERNIGHT and just about melted through the floor. And then ILLUMINAE happened.

This book. This book is a great many things. In addition to being an experimental medium (Imagine being handed a file on an incident. That’s the book.), it’s just…really scary.

Here’s a chain of events for you:

-Your planet basically gets blown to pieces.

-You and a small portion of your world escape on 3 ships.

-There’s an AI on one of those ships.

-There’s you on anther.

-And then your ex on the final.

I’m sure it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see how things could go downhill pretty quickly with that particular cast of characters around. ILLUMINAE is packed with twists, turns, ups, downs, you name it, ILLUMINAE has it. Including heart-wrenching feelings.

(Sorry–can’t get away from those on this blog.)

ILLUMINAE is, in short: intoxicating. You think it’ll be a fun high sci-fi ride. It’s not. It’s a drug in book form. The kind that makes you see space for days. Weeks. Months. Years.

Which is a good thing, by the way.

So overall:

  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Sci-fi fans and not sci-fi fans alike. Anyone that likes to see experimental mediums done well.
  • Lasting impression: There’s a little girl walking through the hallway, tugging something along with her. You don’t want to know what it is.

 

Zac & Mia

Think back a couple of years. One or two. Think of a book that came out, a book you picked up and put on your mental “I should remember this and read it this year” TBR. Got it?

I have so many of those books that sometimes I try not to think about it. Zac & Mia was a book like that–I saw the cover and couldn’t forget it. Fast forward a couple of years, Half-Price Books…well, you can guess the rest.

I picked it up off my TBR shelf the other day and thought, “Why not now?”. I’m behind on my reading schedule, it’s been a long week. How about some contemporary? I wasn’t disappointed. Not in the least.

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Zac & Mia

  • Author: A. J. Betts
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Year: 2014 (2013 in Australia)
  • Genre vibe: Those Cancer Books™, but smaller, fuller, and more Other.
  • At a glance: There’s a newbie in the ward. Her first night, she plays her music so loud Zac’s not sure he’ll ever recover. Her name’s Mia, and my god will she turn things upside down.

I’m going to preface this with saying I haven’t read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, ME, EARL, AND THE DYING GIRL, or anything akin. Not for any particular reason, really. But something about the simplicity of Zac & Mia drew me, and I’m glad it did.

I don’t know how much I really have to say about this book. I devoured it. Zac is a certain, life-filled kind of character that you rarely find presented so effortlessly. Mia is a whirlwind. I even cared about literally all of the side characters, and some of them only had a few moments of page time.

This book is good. It’s well put together, it’s well written, it’s excellently populated. It’s thoughtful, it’s interesting. It’s a heck of a wild ride, and you don’t even expect it–or realize it, really, until it’s over.

It read like an adventure novel sometimes, with the added thrill of being set in Australia. And the funny thing is that there’s not much to say. There isn’t. And I don’t even feel like their ought to be–Zac & Mia was incredible, and it’s the kind of book that I’m simply glad to say that I read.

So overall:

  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: People who love really good stories!
  • Lasting impression: The wheeling stars overhead, the smell of home, a warm bath and someone’s perfect arms for holding.

Behold The Bones

Some books you’re just so excited for, you can’t even say why.  You just need them right now and you don’t know why you’re excited for anything else at that point.

Natalie C. Parker’s BEHOLD THE BONES was that book for me.

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Behold the Bones

  • Author: Natalie C. Parker
  • Publisher: Harper Teen
  • Genre Vibe: Southern Gothic + an Old Ghosts vibe
  • At a Glance: There’s a lot of things that Candace Pickens can’t do. But there’s a hell of a lot more that she can. (also: ghosts and swamp weirdness and crazy rich kids invading Sticks)

I received this book in an ARC prize pack that I got through a twitter giveaway Natalie ran for the release. It’s the first ARC I’ve ever gotten myself, and I pretty much just screamed for a minute and stared at it when it got here.

(thanks again to Natalie, because. it’s my favorite thing.)

I sat it on my desk and made it wait until I re-read BEWARE THE WILD in preparation. I had already started, and I am not a quitter. A day or two later, I snatched it up and began, using it as my first book for the #5books7days challenge that I may or may not be a book behind on by now.

It was a wild ride. That’s for sure.

I loved the setting and poetry of BEWARE when I first read it, and BEHOLD is no different. Parker is a goddess when it comes to lyrical wording and that indistinguishable “this-is-not-technically-a-scary-book-but-oh-my-god” feeling that creeps up your spine.

The sheer depth of her swamp is incredible to me; you’re never, ever wanting for something to make sense when it comes to this. There are no loose ends you have to imagine for yourself or anything of that sort. Natalie knows what she’s doing. She’ll take care of you. Promise. She just may also spring swamp ghosts on you.

Which is another thing I absolutely loved about this book. Ghost stories rank among my favorite story types ever, and that’s not at all what I was expecting when I went into BEHOLD. But it is–in part–what I got. The swamp ghosts were important and present, and while their scares weren’t the point, they were potent.

That’s a good word for this book. This book has a lot of ‘P’s. Poetry, potency. Pints. There’s a lot of alcohol in this book. That was good too.

Natalie is a goddess amongst character handlers; her skill with a side character will be legendary. I found myself a little in love with everybody, I think. And the way they fell in love, too.

All in all, BEHOLD THE BONES is too good to pass up. I’ll definitely be revisiting it once or twice more in the future.

  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Southern gothic fans, EVERYONE who read Beware the Wild, and if you haven’t, then people fed up with ~Strong Female Leads who want a real one
  • Lasting Impression: Cherry blossoms and bones bones bones and the quiet; the missing places in  your memory.

 

 

Hold me Closer, Necromancer

Some books are a calling. Other books are a destiny. Still others are a demand, and then what’s leftover are a journey.

Sometimes, those journeys last a long, long time.

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Hold me Closer, Necromancer

  • Author: Lish McBride
  • Publisher: Henry Holt
  • Genre vibe: Urban paranormal
  • At a glance: Samhain Corvus LaCroix is a fry cook. He is definitely nothing special. He’s also a huge smart ass with a penchant for getting into trouble, it seems. And, as it turns out, he’s also a necromancer.

Every book discovery story is different. This one started in February 2015, Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo Washington. The shiny cover with the raven on the front snagged me more than the staff recommendation slip inside of it did. I was overcome by my first indie bookstore experience and the discovery of a copy of one of my favorite books (The Replacement, Brenna Yovanoff), and yet somehow I convinced myself not to buy it.

I looked and looked and couldn’t find it after that. I’m notorious for forgetting to order books that I want to read.

Flash forward to October 2016, the Half Price Books by my house. I discover the sequel on the clearance rack.

I’m outraged.

Christmas 2016 rolls around and my best friend gifts me with a shiny new copy of the first one.

Success. My adventure begins.

And what a strange adventure it is. NECROMANCER is a weird book. The characters are pretty good, and the writing is pretty good, and the plot is really good. There’s just…a lot going on.

When I first got into it, what I got introduced to were dark, disturbed necromancers, mothers who were also witches, and things that left mysterious claw marks on people. I figured I knew what kind of magic I was in for, and the types of things that would show up.

Then as the book went on, more things showed up, and I tried to make room for them in my perception of the situation.

Then more.

And more.

And more.

Until suddenly there were magical creatures fighting on this necromancer guy’s lawn, and I realized I wasn’t prepared for this. I was enjoying it, but it didn’t fit with what I thought the book was going to be, and I think that threw me off more than a little.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was worth all the while it took to acquire it. It was fun to read, and by the middle of it, I cared about Sam and Co. quite a bit, and was actually super interested in the magic aspects that I actively saw.

But there was a lot going on. There was some pretty dense writing at more than one point, and there were too many people+places+things for me to really follow. I ended up picking SAM and RAMON and focusing on those two things any time something happened.

I will absolutely be reading the sequel.

Just not very quickly.

So overall:

  • Rating: 3.5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: People who like wit and comedy, good male characters, and a lot of interesting fantasy elements
  • Lasting impression: Sam’s apartment. Scars on his shoulders. A crooked grin without any malice or cleverness behind it.

Empire of Night

My second anticipated read of the spring came out–the sequel to Sea of Shadows, one of my favorite new reads from last year.

I tried to forget, because there was no possible way I’d be able to read it for a while. Then I remembered that, oh, libraries get new books pretty quickly around here. So I got myself first on the holding list (I know, I know, amazing right) and waited with baited breath. . .

Only to be disappointed.

22754669Empire of Night

  • Author: Kelley Armstrong
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Year: 2015
  • Genre vibe: While the first book was very much supernatural fantasy, this one lost quite a bit of that supernatural aspect, and most of the fantasy aspect, and boiled down to “boring”.
  • At a glance: Moria decides to go out on…some quest that I’ve forgotten about. Moria and Ashyn get separated. Moria is more interested in Tyrus and romance and feminist statements than she is with the fact that her sister could be who knows where. Tyrus saves the day–and the book.

So I can sum up my feelings about this book pretty fast: wet cardboard.

That’s right, that’s all. What started out as a decent sequel to a book I really enjoyed just fell to little, soggy, easily dismantled pieces in my hands, and it felt kind of gross.

The first seventy pages or so were really good. I was excited to be back in the world, ready to dig my hands into some high fantasy for a while, happy to finally meet my beautiful bastard prince from the end of the last book, and things went well.

Then they all left for this quest of theirs and, well…wet cardboard.

The writing took a dive, the characters absolutely plummeted. Moria and Ashyn are the sisters to end all sisters, Keeper and Seeker, bound together. But upon being separated–neither girl ever really spares a thought for her counterpart. Moria is too preoccupied with being captured and romantically confused, and Ashyn becomes literally nothing but a pair of eyes through which to see. Guin’s story was much more important than Ashyn’s and that made me angry. Because I liked Ashyn. She deserved better.

I felt like a lot of Guin was unnecessary. Her story didn’t really make me sad; it just disappointed me further. There seemed to be a lot of statements, so to speak, in this book, that really didn’t need to be there. Women shouldn’t be mistreated–I got it. Can we move on? And maybe get to some character development?

Unfortunately, neither of those things happened. Even Tyrus, who was the one redeeming factor, didn’t seem to have any discernible arc. Nobody did, really. No one changed. Moria came to terms with her feelings for Tyrus (finally), but that was the long and short of it. There was no point A to point B. There was barely even a point A to begin with.

All in all, I was really disappointed, because I was super excited for this book and it just…let me down.

I don’t think I’ll be anticipating the last book in this particular trilogy. I can’t say that I’m too interested to see how it ends.

Overall

  • Rating: 2/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Nobody really.
  • Lasting impression: Still can’t get over that wet cardboard thing…

The Poisoned House

I told twitter how excited I was about this ghost story I found on my shelf a week or so ago. I remember buying it: it was the great reading slump of 2012, and I was a slowly blooming bud who had just been transplanted into the teen section and was unsure of why these terrifying covers seemed to be drawing her closer.

I ended up with it somehow. I remember thinking it was just so beautiful, as books sometimes are. But I never made it past the first few chapters.

Now, at long last, I have conquered.

…Only to be somewhat disappointed, if entertained.

the+poisoned+house+2The Poisoned House

  • Author: Michael Ford
  • Publisher: AW Teen
  • Year: 2010
  • Genre vibe: Historical fiction/mystery/ghost story. Though I hesitate to actually give it that last one.
  • At a glance: Life is hard for young Abi, a scullery maid plagued by a hateful mistress and the loss of her mother and–soon–what appears to be her ghost, not to mention all this mystery of murder…and that really, really hateful mistress.

I’m not gonna lie–I devoured this book. Granted, it’s pretty short, about two hundred fifty pages, and small ones at that. But I ate it up and finished in about a day and a half. What’s funny to me is how engaging I found it. There’s nothing particularly interesting about Abi’s character, or her situation, or Ford’s writing. But it was…interesting. Plain and simple, I was interested in what was going on.

The writing was simple, it didn’t feel overly His-Fic-y, nobody was particularly annoying. The ghost was even pretty well done, if not as scary as I’d been hoping.

Then the mystery kicked in.

Now. I love a good mystery. And often, ghost stories and mysteries are one in the same. But what’s not okay is when I’m sold a ghost story, and then once the mystery starts to unravel…my ghost goes away.

Abi gets her closure at the end of this book–she lives to the ripe old age of ninety-three and founds a charity. But the ghost? The whole point–supposedly–of this book? Vanished.

Which, as one can understand, was vaguely upsetting for me. Since I really really wanted a good ghost.

So that kind of killed it, for me. Not ruined it, per se, because I very much did enjoy myself. But it disappointed me, and that made me sad.

So, overall:

  • Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars or so
  • Recommended to: Anyone looking for a quick, entertaining, decent read and willing to let not-spectacular things slide.
  • Lasting impression: Cold, slimy stone steps, an upended velvet chair, the muted colors of looking out a second- or third-floor window in the five minutes before the sun goes down and thinking that something’s off.

Chopsticks

There are things that are my thing, and things that aren’t. Things that are my thing include romance, neat characters, spontaneous book decisions, and amazing aesthetics. Things that aren’t include…well, things that say “a novel” and then have almost no words in them.

But somehow this book surpassed that.

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  • Author: Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Year: 2012
  • Genre vibe: I’m gonna go with just pure aesthetic here, although it is a romance and a bit of a slice-of-life story.
  • At a glance: Glory is a piano prodigy, young and troubled after her mother’s death. Frank moves in next door and both of them are swept up into love like the poems tell it. But the pressure Glory’s father puts on her leads to her slow unraveling and neither her nor Frank–who just can’t seem to keep it together in school–know what to do.

What to say about this book…first of all, it’s told through pictures, which is normally not something I’m drawn to. It’s not that I don’t like it or think it’s not “a real book” or anything like that. But visuals can never quite impact me the way traditional words do, so I just don’t pick up many. But today I’m at the library, and on the staff picks stand was this book.

I remember flipping through it at a bookstore awhile back, not really internalizing it, and going on my way. Now I wish I’d bought it that day.

The first thing that struck me were how beautiful the pictures were. I’m not a photographer or a visual artist of any kind, but all of the pictures in this book were just amazing. They all give the story a specific feeling, kind of dreamy and unreal and a funny sort of intimate. The kind where you’re seeing someone’s cluttered kitchen and the things on their dresser before really knowing them.

The dialogue pieces and documents are what really drove the story in though. Glory had such a voice, for someone who was more face than name, and that’s what kind of amazed me. I just finished reading Persepolis for my English class, my first graphic novel, and even that was a little lacking in specific character voice in the way we usually mean it when we talk writing.But this was a story told as much through the simple fact of Glory’s existence as it was through her eyes and her mouth. All of it ended up blending together so beautifully that I got choked up a couple of times.

The librarian that recommended it apparently thought the ending was really ambiguous, but I thought it was pretty clear. I’d be interested to know what other people think.

All in all I seriously, seriously enjoyed this book. I’m so glad I picked it up and actually sat down to read it rather than letting the thought that I’d have to try too hard to get anything out of it get in my way.

  • Rating: 5/5 stars, even though it’s not quite a book that you…rate
  • Recommended to: Fans of artistic ways to get across story, fans of aesthetic and photography and romance.
  • Lasting impression: Glory’s voice. I want this book on my shelf so I can curl up with a knit blanket and a cup of hot chocolate on a frigid, rainy afternoon and escape for awhile.