I am such a sucker for books about 'after.' Books about those moments after THE moment, and that is what The Secret Year pretty much is and man, did I...moreI am such a sucker for books about 'after.' Books about those moments after THE moment, and that is what The Secret Year pretty much is and man, did I love it for that. Colt was so likeable and honest in his grief. The way he processes Julia's death is messy and confused. It doesn't always inspire him to make likeable decisions, but it just rang so human and true that I found myself supporting him from start to finish, wanting the best for him. There's no 'right' way to grieve and I just really got what he was about from the first page, which doesn't happen for me often.
I also loved the unhurriedness of the prose (but it is not slow by any stretch of the imagination), the vivid and reflective tone of the narration. Colt was really GOING through it, so much so that I felt like a bit of an intruder at times. It's just very internal in the best way.
Colt and Julia's relationship is so sudden. It happens like a flash of lightning and it's not convenient for either of them, given Julia's boyfriend and the class issues at play--but it can't be helped. So it's really something they are constantly trying to make sense of together and on their own (through touch, thoughts, and in Julia's case, a secret journal)--but how do you piece together something so raw and electric? Can you? And after Julia's death it becomes nearly impossible.
Something I particularly loved is how Colt sort of experienced Julia's side of their relationship AFTER her death. As he tried to move on with other girls, he sort of mirrored Julia's constant struggle to choose between what she had and what she wanted and what she needed. This is a book about that--what you have, what you want, what you need and how complicated figuring all that out can actually be, even when it seems like it should be really simple. Sometimes you are just meant for someone at a certain point of time and you've just got to let it happen, and however it turns out--as Colt would say--it's something you've got to live with.
This was such a thoughtful, well-written book. I'm so happy I read it.(less)
This is a really warm, lovely and tender coming-of-age wrapped up in an awesome ghost story. Fourteen-year-old Iris is trying hard to navigate a shift...moreThis is a really warm, lovely and tender coming-of-age wrapped up in an awesome ghost story. Fourteen-year-old Iris is trying hard to navigate a shifting personal landscape when her best friend, Colette, shows interest in one of the local boys, Ben. Ben may or may not have caught Iris's eye a little too (although she'd only grudgingly admit that). Ghosts aside, this makes things complicated (ghosts included? Even moreso). Iris is a young fourteen--her character is not too young to be fourteen. She's just truly a girl who is in no rush to grow up, but happens to be doing it anyway and that's that. I found it so refreshing. Saundra Mitchell so deftly explored the fierce loyalty and bitter jealousy that can happen between two close girl friends that man, I remembered what it was like to be that age, inside and out as I read.
And talk about your atmosphere. The creeping, suffocating heat in Ondine, Louisiana wasn't lost on me even though, you know, it's January in Canada and I can't really remember the sunny months right now. And it has ALL the hallmarks of a good ghost story, in my opinion. Ouija board (yes, please!). Seance (I'm THERE!). The mystery comes together not a second before it should, building with such an eerie edge. There are some unnerving moments with Iris and her ghost. But it's also got this sense of wonder to it as well, which is owed to Saundra Mitchell's vivid and engrossing prose.
Shadowed Summer is really special. What a satisfying read. Also, it's kinda an obvious thing to say, but you know. This book would be AMAZING to curl up with around Halloween. Nice afghan around yer shoulders. Hot apple cider in your hand. All that creepy energy crackling in the air. Gaaah. Is it October yet?(less)
Oh, man. Wow. This book is suffocating. It so vividly captured what it might be like to be a good person, caught up in something so terrible, somethin...moreOh, man. Wow. This book is suffocating. It so vividly captured what it might be like to be a good person, caught up in something so terrible, something that is yours and yours alone, that you can't share with anyone. You feel the weight and isolation of this truly terrible secret and what it must be like to force yourself through the day-to-day in the mean time. Just wondering if this poor kid will ever get out from under it. It is so good and so grim and so real, which is what made it so terrifying and just like CRUSHING. Just the way it presented such innocence around the loss of such innocence was crazy amazing... seriously, you guys, this book crushed me. How do we live with anything, let alone this kind of mistake? Blake Nelson deserves every accolade he gets.
Welps, this seals the deal for me. Looking forward to whatever book Lauren Strasnick puts out there next and the book she puts out after that one and...moreWelps, this seals the deal for me. Looking forward to whatever book Lauren Strasnick puts out there next and the book she puts out after that one and the book after THAT and the one that's after all those other next ones and I could go on but surely you must catch my meaning here, GoodReads. (less)
It's a wonderful and exciting thing how Lauren Strasnick can express such longing and loneliness and sadness and confusion and heartache and tendernes...moreIt's a wonderful and exciting thing how Lauren Strasnick can express such longing and loneliness and sadness and confusion and heartache and tenderness and honesty in so few words. Her and Me and You is a sort of emotional mystery that is not so much about being solved, but more about presenting people being messy in an intriguing and absorbing and delicate way that will leave you wondering after the last page, but in a really good way.
ALSO I REALLY LOVE THE COVER. It is perfect.(less)
This was HYSTERICAL. Like laugh-out-loud to self, read to the family, family laughs-out-loud with you hysterical. It was also very sweet, and at times...moreThis was HYSTERICAL. Like laugh-out-loud to self, read to the family, family laughs-out-loud with you hysterical. It was also very sweet, and at times, very bittersweet. I loved this one, start to finish. Every word. It's just perfect.
Also if you love Joey Comeau's work (particularly Lockpick Pornography), I think you'll dig this.(less)
The reason C.K. Kelly Martin is one of my most favourite authors of all time is simple:
THEY'RE JUST SO GOOD.
Also each one makes me think, "W...moreThe reason C.K. Kelly Martin is one of my most favourite authors of all time is simple:
THEY'RE JUST SO GOOD.
Also each one makes me think, "What's she going to do next?! How will she top this?!"
This might be the best one yet. (Not that she makes it easy to choose.)
My Beating Teenage Heart is a powerhouse of a novel, for reals. As of my writing this, it comes out tomorrow and I think you'd be doing yourself a huge disservice if you didn't pick it up. I got to read an ARC earlier this year and it left such an impression on me, I haven't forgotten a word of it. If you love emotionally driven, gut-wrenching novels in the vein of If I Stay, please look no further than this one. It's a total punch in the heart.
The book follows two characters: Breckon Cody and Ashlyn Baptiste. Breckon is spiralling after the death of his little sister, Skylar. Ashlyn--well, Ashlyn is dead. Stuck in some kind of limbo, she's not sure who she was or how and why she has died. All she knows is that for some reason, her after life is tied to Breckon and she must watch this boy self-destruct with no way to help him... or is there a way?
Not saying more than that. This is a book you really have to read to experience. Let it show you its way. It is just aggh--tears forever! Heart-shattering! By the last page I thought my heart would explode. Not kidding.
Breckon's pain was incredibly rendered, largely because CK Kelly Martin wasn't afraid to go there. I appreciated the way his self-destructiveness was handled. It was subtle and respectful but it took on this kind of force, just creeping up on you until you hit that point where you realized you truly didn't know if Breckon was going to be okay because he was so lost. And I really wanted him to be okay. Martin is an author who doesn't take easy outs, so flipping past page after page and never having that guarantee of him making his way out of this was really well, EXCITING. But nervewracking too. A page turner. And Breckson's grief was so understandable that he could have done ANYTHING and it would have made sense to me.
Speaking of which--the exploration of grief, just generally is so spot on. I'm not a big fan of the charmed grief experience. I'm not sure if I've expressed that before but loss is a horrible, raw, aching thing to go through. There are always moments in grief where you can see the glimpses of it getting better, but I really do not like taking part of the kind of entertainment that wants to sell me on grief, who try to make it charming, quirky--ROMANTIC. Any kind of story that tries to sell me on the "beauty" of that kind of pain or tries to romanticize it is completely lost on me. I'm not at a place in my life where those stories speak to me and I'm not sure I ever will be. My Beating Teenage Heart isn't afraid to be real in its grief, to be unpretty if you will (omg now the TLC song is stuck in my head). It was so clear and so sharp and so inescapable. It's not afraid to be ugly.
As usual, Martin excels at capturing romance, relationships. Breckon is in a relationship with Jules and the way they are with each other is so real and sexually healthy. Emotionally--the toll Skylar's death took on them was so so believably painful. It was an earthquake straight through the heart of their togetherness and the way they struggled to hold on and navigate it really made me sniffle. That's the thing that I really loved about this--Martin isn't afraid to put dings in Breckon's support system. Death does divide. Creates friction. Turns people against each other in ways you can't quantify because you still care about them it's just--it's forcing you away from one another. Like when you try to push two magnets together and it's impossible. She captured that reality perfectly. Just the whole presentation made me feel so upset at times because it rang SO TRUE and that is a compliment. This book hurt. Good.
Ashlyn's narrative just leveled me. The juxtaposition of where Breckon was at and where she was at--truly masterful stuff. The way the pieces of her life came together was so incredibly moving and the way her life put her death into context, the moments she had but will never have again, the moments she wanted but will never be allowed... it's harder to say much about Ashlyn because her life story is a slow reveal and everything feels like giving something away, and I can't give that stuff away. I refuse to! But the voice Martin gave her was just perfect. And learning more about this girl and her life with the knowledge that it was over... it just reminded me that our time here matters and we should all be handled with care and kindness. We matter, our time matters and what we leave behind matters. Ah, just thinking of it makes me want to reach for the Kleenex. Ashlyn and Breckon's arcs were gorgeous. This whole book was gorgeous. I hope it receives tons of recognition and praise. I truly believe it deserves both.
And every day since I finished reading My Beating Teenage Heart, I have been waiting for CK's next book. Gaaaah. WAITING IS SO HARD.
Pre-release review: Holy moly. My Beating Teenage Heart is the real deal. I hope it gets a massive amount of attention when it's released because it absolutely deserves it. Longer review closer to release, but I am totally and completely blown away. NOW IF YOU'LL EXCUSE ME, I am going to find a bunch of Kleenex to dry my tears and just let this sink book in. Stunning. Also, I want to say--nearing the anniversary of my grandfather's death, this particular reading experience meant a lot to me and I'm going to remember it. I'm so glad this book exists for people to read.
A MILLION thanks to Kelly Jensen for sending along her ARC.(less)
I must be avoiding a deadline because I read this in a day. I guess I have a distant curiosity about The Duggars, I dunno. I can't bring myself to get...moreI must be avoiding a deadline because I read this in a day. I guess I have a distant curiosity about The Duggars, I dunno. I can't bring myself to get worked up about them. The book held my attention and I found it distantly interesting and it satisfied my distant curiosity so I would call it a success as a book. Omg, though. Someone transcribe their recipes for Trashy Eats, stat. (ngl, I totally want to see what BBQ tunafish sandwiches taste like.)
There is something mildly disturbing about the fact that I read this book with a huge grin on my face, LOLing throughout, BUT I...more"Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"
There is something mildly disturbing about the fact that I read this book with a huge grin on my face, LOLing throughout, BUT I totally cried at the end, all sucker-punched, so I'm not going to worry about myself too much.
Also I seem to have this blanket acceptance of whatever realities Joey Comeau presents because his delivery is so matter-of-fact and unpretentious and trusting of its reader, which is nice because then I get to read without this huge layer of cynicism over my eyes that I seem to read everything with lately. I just dig his style and how he puts words together! Each of his books are accessible and bold and risky and very honest. And there's no navel-gazing which is like, "yeah!" His stuff is wry, funny, thoughtful, sincere and heartfelt. Just GOOD! Everybody should be reading his stuff. Bible Camp Bloodbath is no exception.
I gotta say the bloodbath was pretty amazing. There's a lot of joy in those passages, or at least I got that vibe. Like when you watch a movie and you can tell everyone is enjoying themselves--director, actors, the dude with the boom mike etc. Every time a camper died my face was doing that incredulous grin that is also part horrified oh-my-God-am-I-grinning at this?! thing the whole time. You know, the one that is like:
D: :D D: :D D: :D
And then you get to the end and you're reminded of how human the people involved are and how objectively, it's all pretty tragic.
It's been more than a few months since I read Entangled, but it's a book I've not forgotten. Cat Clarke's debut is a really intense novel--so very, ve...moreIt's been more than a few months since I read Entangled, but it's a book I've not forgotten. Cat Clarke's debut is a really intense novel--so very, very emotional--and I loved it when I first read it and I love it now. It's the story of Grace, a very lost, very broken girl, who, through a series of unfortunate choices and betrayals finds herself waking up in a white room with a pencil and paper. She's being held there by a boy named Ethan, who seems convinced she can write her way out of this one and I WISH I could say more than that, but the story in these pages is one you have to read and discover for yourself (do it!). So I'll not say anymore on plot, lest I spoil you, but I WILL talk about the stellar voice and characterization you're going to discover when you pick Entangled up.
Grace is such a raw and real narrator. Clarke knows how to balance her most unlikeable moments (because Grace will challenge you to like her and I love that kind of daring from a debut author) with this vulnerability that I really adored. Grace IS an angry and confused seventeen-year-old. She's real, she's flawed. The way she's a catalyst to the events in her life in some ways but in other ways a passive witness to them is beautiful and honest. It's very human. The things Grace goes through are hard; the way she relates the things she goes through gives them that much more of an impact--that's truly how much voice you'll find here.
Grace aside, what I most loved about Entangled was the way it portrayed a downward spiral. You can just SEE things getting away from Grace--and there's nothing you can do about it. You can understand why she was/is powerless to stop them. Sometimes the things that get away from her are small and sometimes they're huge, and as she reflects on how it all went wrong the novel hurtles towards what I felt was an unexpected but PERFECT conclusion. It's a page-turner, basically! It was just so damn intriguing watching a character map out the pieces of their shattered life. I also think it's a talented writer who can make the reflective segments of this book as suspenseful as the moments that take place in the present, with Grace locked in the room trying to figure Ethan out.
The whole novel is presented without apology and that's fantastic--here is Grace's story and Cat Clarke trusts you to make what you want of it. I might not make the same choices that Grace did in her life, but I could see why she made them and I believed in her emotional growth. My heart broke for her, a lot. And like any good book (in my opinion) Clarke offers no easy answers, no cut and paste happy ending, but she does give you a lot to think about. This is a great read. I can't wait to see what Cat will come out with next.(less)
Here's something I never thought I'd say in a review but wouldn't mind saying again: Wildefire is pretty much what you would get if Sam Raimi decided...moreHere's something I never thought I'd say in a review but wouldn't mind saying again: Wildefire is pretty much what you would get if Sam Raimi decided to write a YA novel. We're talkin' like, Xena (okay, I know that's Rob Tapert but Raimi produced and they're friends and have you ever compared Army of Darkness to a Xena episode? Like certain cinematic sensibilities? I KNOW!) infused with the violence of Drag Me to Hell and the kind of wry humour you get in flicks like Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. I could probably end my review here and that would be enough, right? Who doesn't like Sam Raimi? The only thing I was going to say was the blurb doesn't really suggest a Sam Raimi kind of time but then I re-read it and it seems to have a promise of violence AND ends all like punnily so I take it back.
Wildefire is pretty rollicking. I have been trying to think of the best word to describe it as I read and that is the one I came up with. Rollicking! It really is. The first 37 pages are a lot of fisticuffs, which may or may not be to everyone's liking (I like fisticuffs) but it does set the stage for everything that follows, except maybe not in the way you'd expect. Knight is clever in his set-ups. 99,000 times I thought the book was going one way--and I sort of felt like the narrative was slyly winking at me when it did--and then took me in another direction, all, "HAH!" And I appreciated that, even though it made a fool out of me roughly 99,000 times. Eventually, you (by you I mean me) have step back and trust that you're going where you're supposed to be going and the destination is going to be good, and in the case of Wildefire, it really was. You know when you read a book and you want a BIG finish? This book had that.
(Also? VOLCANO RELATED LITERATURE, okay. I love volcanoes.)
Ashline is a really fresh protagonist. She's ANGRY and clever and did I mention angry? Her reactions are often caustic/sarcastic, knee-jerk and physical. Ash is no empty vessel, guys. As such, she made choices that frustrated and confused me at times--she went this way, when I was thinking, no, go that way! Girl, what are you doing?--which, in my ~humble~ opinion made for a more engaging read. Her unpredictability, just the fierce PRESENCE of character, is such a sell for me. I also like that she wasn't defined by Colt. Colt was really interesting. He was there JUST enough, so it made their interactions more electrifying/gratifying. It felt earned.
Overall, Wildefire is a fantastic and ROLLICKING arrival on the YA scene. I am looking forward to whatever Knight has in store for us next. Which would appear to be a sequel. Which I better not have to wait too long for.
Futher thoughts: If Wildefire gets optioned for a movie maybe Sam Raimi can direct it and Bruce Campbell can totally cameo in it, somehow. Are you reading this Karsten Knight? Tell your people I said this. Find a way.
But seriously, you guys, good stuff. I know lots of readers who would enjoy this one. I'll be recommending it to them.
Also shout-out to Emily Hainsworth who sent this to me. Thanks, ~*Emily*~!(less)
AT LAST, I can finally sit down and write my thoughts on this beautiful book properly. I got to read early drafts of it (lucky me brag brag) and each...moreAT LAST, I can finally sit down and write my thoughts on this beautiful book properly. I got to read early drafts of it (lucky me brag brag) and each draft was like perfecting perfection until the final version completely blew me away. I do not know how Nova Ren Suma sits down at her laptop and makes this book magic happen only that she sits down at her laptop and makes magic like this book happen. The girl is Talent with a capital T.
I won't give a rundown on the plot because I can't really do it justice. I feel like I'll say too much or not enough in all directions and part of the experience of Imaginary Girls is letting Ruby take Chloe, and by extension you, on a very eerie and unsettling and gorgeously written journey. This is a book about obsession, ghosts, magic and love. Chloe is blindly loyal to her sister Ruby and Ruby to Chloe. These are girls who would die for each other, bend time and distort reality for each other. (Dear my sister: DO YOU LOVE ME THAT MUCH?) These are two girls who huddle together and push everyone out to the point I felt like I was reading the most grim and beautiful secret. That's what Imaginary Girls is: a grim and beautiful secret.
I am just going to give you notes on why this book is incredible and you should read it or we aren't friends anymore:
The setting. If your novel is setting dependent, this is how you do it. Nova Ren Suma's world-building played on all of my senses. She takes such care with her words and makes everything so there the reality she creates is absolutely undeniable, which, for a story like this I think is so important. I believed everything.
There is this moment in Bridge to Terabithia where Leslie is reading an essay on (I think) deep-sea diving, and it was so vividly written that Jess felt like he was drowning. I never forgot that--as a kid I felt so cheated that I didn't get to hear Leslie read that essay--and I thought of it over and over when I read Imaginary Girls. This book made me feel like I was drowning. Except in the good way. This is a story that literally closes in on you and makes you open your eyes to it, whether you're ready or not. Which is what I assume drowning in water is like. Also this is as close as I want to get to that feeling! Also I know I said it was "drowning in the good way" (I KNOW, I KNOW, "drowning in the good way"--DROWNING IN BEAUTIFUL LITERATURE IS WHAT I MEAN HERE) but also the terrifying way too, which leads me to the fact that...
THIS BOOK MADE MY EYES WATER. This might not have significance to you but allow me to explain: my eyes water when I am scared. It is how I measure the success of a horror movie. DID IT MAKE INVOLUNTARY TEARS STREAM DOWN MY FACE? Yes, yes it did. Did I just make myself sound like a weird person? Yes, yes I did. (view spoiler)[But oh my God, when the reservoir water started coming into the house aaaah. (hide spoiler)] This story is so damn creepy and it is the kind of creepy that sneaks right up on you like the movie Repulsion and you think you are okay but then seven hours later you are like D: D: D: Except when I read Imaginary Girls I never thought I was okay and then seven hours later I was D: D: D: THAT is how creepy it was.
The characters. These are characters who look at the world in a very specific way and it read so real to me. Chloe and Ruby live for each other at the exclusion of all others. I think that was a bold and brave decision and I think it paid off. It made me really understand every single action both characters made and a lot of times their dynamic broke my heart. The possessiveness, the ownership of each other. The consequences of Ruby's love. The consequences of Chloe's temptations to figure out who she is without Ruby. Nova Ren Suma nailed what it is to have a sister. She nailed that bond. And then the genius is in how she skewed it just enough to make you question everything. I think the best creepy stories are the ones that take familiar elements and then distort them until you know you are looking at something you've known but also you know you have never, ever known if that makes sense. That's a really fine line to navigate but wow, did Suma pull it off. It was masterful the way it was done here, is all I can say.
Did you love Jellicoe Road? I think you will love this book. It is that kind of read. You can feel the weight of the story on you, it twists itself around you so tightly you are not sure which direction is up and then as you read on, the picture slowly starts to unravel and it makes a new picture and everything comes together in the most incredible way. The hints that Suma drops along the way that bring the book to its ultimate conclusion is just wow. You might wonder where the book is going and then when it gets there, you know there is nowhere else it could have gone. And then you have to read it all over again and just appreciate how expertly it was all put together from a craft standpoint. When I finished this, Suma had my trust as a reader for life.
I could keep going but I will leave it at this: Imaginary Girls is Extraordinary. CAPITAL E. And the cover is amazinggggg as I said in my original "review." Nova Ren Suma, like CK Kelly Martin, is a talent to be reckoned with--the kind of writer who comes along and makes you want to be a better writer. For that, I thank her and I can't wait to see what she has in store for us next.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Man, I just thought I'd read a couple of pages of this before I went to sleep last night and polished off the whole thing in like two hours which is R...moreMan, I just thought I'd read a couple of pages of this before I went to sleep last night and polished off the whole thing in like two hours which is RIDICULOUS but in the good way. And I woke up with it in my head. This is a truly bold debut--a raw slice-of-life and intimate look at the head and heart of a girl who has gone through more than her fair share. I liked getting to know Loa. Her narrative is memorable and also unpredictable, which I really appreciated. Couldn't put it down.(less)