The Diviners by Libba Bray is a dense book. This is by far one of the most historically rich young adult books I have ever read. The amount of effort...moreThe Diviners by Libba Bray is a dense book. This is by far one of the most historically rich young adult books I have ever read. The amount of effort and research Bray put into The Diviners is immediately apparent. Not only do we get the more surface historical elements such as bobbed hair and flappers and speakeasies, but we also get the political, social, and economic climate of the time period in a masterfully subtle way. I think that is the greatest strength of The Diviners. The historical elements are fully integrated into the story in a beautifully seamless way.
Besides the awesome historical element, I really enjoyed the occult aspect to The Diviners. I loved "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies" as well as the various rituals and ghosty things that happen. I think there's a wonderful blend of fact and fiction that creates a really interesting story. I think some people may be initially turned off by the occult elements, but I think if you just remember that this is 100% fictional it will be ok. (I personally love creepy Halloween stuff so that was a huge selling point for me).
Now let's just take a minute to discuss Naughty John. That is one CREEPY mofo. Seriously, Naughty John is one of the best villains I have ever read. I would say he is on par with Stephen King's ghostly bad guys, which are really about as good as you can get. I think a lot villains in YA are watered down but not Naughty John. He's a great villain and I'm really excited when YA authors take their villain out of the box the way Bray did.
The other characters were also wonderful. I really liked Evie, even if she started off rather shallow, I think there will be a lot of growth with her character. I also really liked Theta and Mable, Evie's two friends. I liked their friendship a lot. I've said it before, but I love YA that has girls being friends with other girls. I think it's really important to include in YA and I think The Diviners does a great job.
My only real complaint about The Diviners is the sheer density of the book. Not only is it almost 600 pages, but the story is so full of background and historical elements that it can be a little daunting. This really isn't a negative, more of an observation that The Diviners was a slow burn for me.
Overall The Diviners is an impressive YA novel and really stands above a lot of historical fiction (YA or not). The excellent paranormal mystery woven into one of the most comprehensive historical novels that I've ever read makes The Diviners by Libba Bray an achievement for the YA genre. (less)
First, to the 31 people who shelved this as "steampunk", you are so, SO wrong. Just because there's a pair of goggles on the cover doesn't automatical...moreFirst, to the 31 people who shelved this as "steampunk", you are so, SO wrong. Just because there's a pair of goggles on the cover doesn't automatically make it a steampunk novel. Sorry.
The Marbury Lens is, well, weird. Good weird, but weird all the same. The best way I can describe it is half The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson and half the movie The Road Warrior. The Marbury Lens is an experiential book. It doesn't bother to give you a lot of background. You don't learn how the lens work or why Marbury is the way it is, you're just thrown into the world and are forced to sink or swim much like the main character Jack. And you're not just swimming in water, you're wading through blood and fear, sweat and pain. The Marbury Lens is violent, intense, agonizing, and completely engrossing.
What I really loved about The Marbury Lens was how it didn't hold back. I am a huge horror fan and this book did not skimp on the gory details. I felt everything in this book as if I was in Marbury too. When Jack saw a dismembered body and gagged my stomach roiled. When Jack began to question his sanity, I felt the same anxiety. In much the same way as how Jack cannot resist the pull of The Marbury Lens, I too found myself consumed by this book, despite the horror contained within it's pages.
I loved the ambiguity of The Marbury Lens. We never really figure out if Marbury is real, a symptom of post traumatic stress or worse, an imagined escape. And that's what makes it so awesome. I love it when a book is completely not the normal YA fare and I think "What the fuck am I reading!?". The Marbury Lens delivers, and the ending? Had my mouth hanging open in disbelief. I cannot wait for the second book, Passenger, due sometime in 2012.
I absolutely loved the premise of The Raven Boys, but I had a hard time getting started with this novel. The beginning felt very slow, largely due to...moreI absolutely loved the premise of The Raven Boys, but I had a hard time getting started with this novel. The beginning felt very slow, largely due to the story being told from two separate perspectives (Blue and Gansey have alternating point of view chapters for a while). However once Blue and Gansey meet and join forces the story takes a major turn. I flew through the second half of this book and became completely immersed in the story and characters.
The Raven Boys is a bit of a slow burn to start off. I think this is due to the fact that the marketing materials presented the book like it was going to be all about Blue and her family, but in reality Gansey is the main character for much of the novel. I went into The Raven Boys expecting a story about a girl living with her psychic family, but instead I got a story about a group of boys trying to find a magical energy line. This isn't bad necessarily, but it wasn't what I was expecting so I was put off at first.
The biggest strength of The Raven Boys is the characters. Each character feels supported and full. Everyone has a unique backstory that shapes their world view. I really enjoyed reading how each character grows during the course of the book, in particular Blue, Gansey, and Ronan. I also really enjoyed Blue's family and I really hope that we'll learn more about them in future books.
I'd say the pacing of the book is the biggest weakness. It was slow and confusing at the beginning, and fast and confusing at the end. I feel like this is a book I needed to re-read immediately after finishing because I felt like I missed something. The world building in The Raven Boys sometimes felt too big for the book and that the ideas of the magic and mythology were difficult to get on paper.
Overall the Raven Boys is an interesting, if sometimes confusing, start to a series. While the world building and pacing were shaky at times the fantastically developed characters will definitely bring me back for book two. (less)
Harbinger had a lot of things going on. I mean a LOT. There were elements that were dystopian, paranormal, psychological thriller, or romance. Unfort...more Harbinger had a lot of things going on. I mean a LOT. There were elements that were dystopian, paranormal, psychological thriller, or romance. Unfortunately these ideas were not strung together well and gave Harbinger a disorderly and confusing plot.
Harbinger is set in a post apocalyptic type world, but because Faye is secluded in an institution type place, we only get hints at the dystopian world around her. This would be ok if the action was only in Holbrook Academy, but the story eventually stretches to a world wide problem. Because of the scope of the issues presented by the end of the book I really needed more information about the current government and social structure. We just don't get enough information about what went wrong and what changed from today to bring the world to such a drastic situation. I felt like there was a lot of interesting things there, but it was treated as common knowledge, which in a made up world doesn't really work. Honestly I would have just shifted the setting to today's world because the story is about what is happening at the academy and all of this post apocalyptic stuff was just distracting.
I also found the characters to be really confusing. There's some really unfortunate insta-love with Faye and this guy she meets named Kel. It's that common trope of two people instantly knowing they are super special snowflakes the first time they meet. I really don't like relationships like that in books, I much prefer the slow burn of a relationship that takes a whole book to develop. I find the payoff much more satisfying. (Plus it's never a good sign when the romance happening between two side characters is more charming than the main love interests.)
I felt like there was a lot of potential with Harbinger. The mystery was intriguing and suspense was built well throughout the first half of the novel. However there are just too many different story threads that aren't pulled together neatly. Harbinger would have definitely benefited from a stronger editor who could have narrowed down the scope of the book to just the elements that are essential to the plot and cut the rest out. (less)
Confession time. I have never read Wuthering Heights. I don't really know what it's about. I know there's a boy named Heathcliff and he's a bit of a d...moreConfession time. I have never read Wuthering Heights. I don't really know what it's about. I know there's a boy named Heathcliff and he's a bit of a douche to a girl named Cathy, but beyond that I got nothing. The House of Dead Maids reads like a middle grade prequel/inspiration story for Wuthering Heights. I think it would be great for a middle school student to help introduce them to the more Bronte/Austen style of writing. I could see The House of Dead Maids being used in a middle school classroom and then Wuthering Heights being taught later in High School.
The House of Dead Maids is very creepy. I could totally see it being an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark. The story telling and pacing are very well done and while it isn't extremely scary, it maintains a level of suspense throughout the entire novel. I also thought the ending of The House of Dead Maids was very clever. I liked how it ties in the Bronte sisters and hints at the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. It an interesting addition to the Wuthering Heights tale, and it has definitely made me want to read Wuthering Heights.
Overall The House of Dead Maids is a great middle grade Gothic tale that maintains a a suspenseful tone without becoming too scary. I think will help spur an interest in classics in young readers and I would recommend it to any reader who is looking for a quick and ghostly story. (less)
Anna Dressed in Blood is an excellent and creepy ghost story that is sure to thrill readers. It's a perfect book for the Halloween season. This myster...moreAnna Dressed in Blood is an excellent and creepy ghost story that is sure to thrill readers. It's a perfect book for the Halloween season. This mystery is excellent for anyone interested in ghosts and their motivations for haunting and how the living can help them. I seriously loved everything about this book. First off, the title is perfect. Man I love a good title. Also the setting is fantastic. The descriptions of Anna's house is so freaky and just the perfect place to be haunted. It really adds to the mystery of the whole story, and I really liked the history of the house. The house is even more scary once you learn what happens in the house while people were still alive. I also really liked Blake's writing style. The pacing of the book is very well done. The way the mystery unravels never feels forced nor predictable. I was constantly guessing what was going to happen next, and in a mystery/thriller that is a MUST. If I can guess what's going to happen within the first 50 pages you're doing it wrong. I really enjoyed the humor in this book as well. It's subtle and well placed. The overall tone of the book is firmly on the dark side, but the instances of lightness really help maintain my interest in the book. The other thing that I really appreciated was the Wiccan and witchcraft aspect of the book. Cas's mom is a pagan who does things like cleanse tools used to hunt ghosts, purifies their home and casts protection spells, and creates candles, herbal mixes, and other items that are infused with a specific intention that are sold online and at various metaphysical shops. What I loved about this is the fact that what Cas's mom does IS REAL WITCHCRAFT. This is what real witches do. They don't fly or turn into cats or shoot lasers of the their eyes (oh wait that was x-men). I loved how the witchcraft in Anna never goes into the made up "Hollywood" witchcraft that is in pretty much every book about witches ever. It's real, and I loved it. I'm very excited there's going to be another book because I am not ready to let go of Anna and Cas. The ending of Anna Dressed in Blood is exciting, suspenseful, and fairly cliff-hangery so I definitely want to read more.
I've been reading a lot of reviews that are comparing Anna to the creepy ghosty from The Grudge, but for my gamer self I kept picturing American McGee's Alice in hysteria mode:
Bad Girls Don't Die is an excellent mystery and horror novel. I thought it did an excellent job of balancing the scare factor while still keeping it a...moreBad Girls Don't Die is an excellent mystery and horror novel. I thought it did an excellent job of balancing the scare factor while still keeping it age appropriate. I think this is an excellent book for younger teens who are interested in ghost stories but don't want a lot of gore.
The best part of this book, hands down, was Kasey. There's something that is just terrifying about creepy little girls, and Kasey is a perfect example of this. When possessed she's sinister and manipulative and completely unsettling, which creates a fantastic tension. The buildup of Kasey's descent is very well paced. I really liked the main character Alexis as well, I'm so jealous of her pink hair. Actually all of the characters were great, I really enjoyed Megan and Carter as well. Unfortunately the story gets a little messy near the end and it's a bit hard to follow (and freakishly easy to predict) but the creep factor is still there.
Overall Bad Girls Don't Die is an excellent introduction to the horror genre. I think people who aren't big on the blood and gore of some of the more hardcore books of the genre will really enjoy Bad Girls Don't Die. It has the mystery and suspense without straying into the more gross aspects of the genre. (Oh and what is is about creepy dolls that just strikes terror into the heart?) (less)
Dead rules is an interesting take on life after death for teenagers, but instead of focusing on the interesting setting and rules of being dead, Dead...moreDead rules is an interesting take on life after death for teenagers, but instead of focusing on the interesting setting and rules of being dead, Dead Rules gets stuck on a love triangle that borders (ok lands squarely) on obsession.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the setting and the interesting spin on the afterlife. It has Christian undertones but nothing specific so it can be appreciated by people of different faiths. I liked the set up for the school and the mystery surrounding it, but we never really learned the truth behind the mystery, nor do we ever really learn the rules of the different classes of students. We learn what makes a person in one class verses another, but none of the real rules associated with them. The whole mystery of the book is not explained enough for my liking.
The best part of the book was Mars and Waytt. They were the only characters that experienced any growth and with which I felt any connection even though they were the stereotypical paranormal romance "sexy bad boy" and "misunderstood bff". I loved their history that was revealed and how they learned from each other. I think the fact that Mars was physically perfect while Wyatt was seriously disfigured added an interesting dynamic to their relationship. True bromance.
The biggest problem for me were all of the other characters, and the female characters in particular. While some characters have interesting development, most are one dimensional fillers. The side girl characters only had one aspect to their personality which mostly depended on the state of their bodies after their death. The main character was just scary, and not in a good way. This part might get a tiny bit spoilery, but not too much. Jana is in love with her boyfriend who is still alive and on earth. And by love, I mean obsessed. Jana is crazy and seems very selfish. She says that Michael "completes her" and "makes her a better version of herself." WHAT THE FUCK!? That is not love, that is obsession, and it is not healthy as a human or a ghost. She has such an obsessive "love" for Michael that she (view spoiler)[ wants to kill him so they can be together. (hide spoiler)] Again I say WHAT THE FUCK. That is NOT love. I'm sorry, but if I was dead (view spoiler)[KILLING MY BOYFRIEND (hide spoiler)] would NOT be the solution to my problems. If Jana had learned that she wanted Michael to live a long and happy life and THAT was true love, then I would have been ok with it, but THAT NEVER HAPPENS. She just jumps to the next guy. Seriously, messed up.
Overall Dead Rules is a paranormal romance that had a lot of potential to be a very exciting mystery but fell short because it was stuck on the love triangle aspect of the story. Completely ineffective satire. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book was a major disappointment for me, and this review may get a bit ranty but I'll try and reign it in. Now, I'm not saying that it was bad or...moreThis book was a major disappointment for me, and this review may get a bit ranty but I'll try and reign it in. Now, I'm not saying that it was bad or poorly written. But I was expecting an exciting and fresh murder mystery/ghost story, and what I got was an overdone and tired paranormal romance. It's not a poorly written paranormal romance, but it was unoriginal. People who liked Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick will really enjoy this. I think if I had read this book in January or February, which is when I first started reading YA, I would have absolutely loved this book. However I feel like I've read way too many YA books that go down the same road TUoMD did.
This book divides into two parts for me. The first part is a ghosty murder mystery where we don't know what is going on with Mara and it full of WTF moments (it's the part I really loved) and the second part falls into the stereotypical paranormal romance. That's when TUoMD lost a lot of appeal for me. It became predictable and I started to care less and less about the characters because the focus shifted from an awesome mystery to a boring romance.
I'll start with the things I liked. I loved the mystery around why Mara was in the hospital, what happened to her friends, and what the hell is currently going on. I loved all of the scary stuff that happened and I wanted so much more of that. When this book is good, it's damn good. Which is why it was so frustrating too. I don't understand why this book couldn't have been a paranormal mystery or even horror book. It had SO much potential and great marketing. I also LOVE the cover, it's so cool and mysterious.
I had problems with the ending, mostly because I had a very hard time understanding what was going on. I have pretty good reading comprehension skills and I found myself re-reading paragraphs because I was trying to understand what was happening. Now, part of this was probably because I finished the book at around 3am, but it also was the unclear writing. I think this was partially due to the fact that the story hadn't focused on the mystery for so long that at the end when it tried to go back to that it was underdeveloped.
The other parts that I had an issue with was how the relationship was handled and how the friendships developed (or didn't). Mara made a friend at school but he really seemed like a device to introduce Noah, the love interest, and once that relationship had started he was unceremoniously dumped from the story. This pissed me off. I hate it when romance=no other character is important in the MC's life. I kept expecting the friend to make another appearance, but he never did. He was just gone. The romantic relationship between Mara and Noah was very Twilight-y. Noah was too perfect (hot, smart, rich as balls) and Mara was too insecure about him and her feelings. And then the paranormal aspect of Noah was also too convenient. It literally was like "oh, you have magic powers? I have magic powers! What a coincidence!" Their whole relationship and the plot devices used to move their relationship were frustrating, illogical, and too perfect to be realistic.
The final issue I had is a minor one that I didn't like but many people may, and that's the writing style used to create humor in conversations. I know the author was trying to be amusing and teenager-y but it came across as too crude for my taste (and that's saying something because I'm a pretty crude person). There were just too many immature boner jokes and sexual innuendos that didn't really fit with the voices of the characters nor the overall tone of the book.
Now, don't let this review get you down. I still really enjoyed this book, even with all of the complaints I have. I think I feel this way because I was hoping for something amazing, and what I got was a story I'd already read in 20 other books. Many people will love TUoMD, I just wasn't one of them.(less)
3/13/2012 COVER! I love the font, but I'm not 100% sure about the models. I was expecting something more artsy, maybe more of a drawn cover and less of...more3/13/2012 COVER! I love the font, but I'm not 100% sure about the models. I was expecting something more artsy, maybe more of a drawn cover and less of a fashion magazine style cover. However, I'm still EFFING EXCITED for this book and can't wait for it to release!
OMG I HAVE NEVER WANTED SOMETHING MORE FROM NETGALLEY IN MY WHOLE LIFE.
OMG this book...I tell ya, it is so unlike any YA I've ever read. It's got all of the elements of YA books and horror movies that I love. It's well balanced while still being freaky as shit. Oh and Velvet is amazeballs.
Update 10/19/2012 You guys. Velveteen is freaking AWESOME. FOR REALZ. This is probably my #1 most anticipated book of 2012, and I know this book doesn't come out until October, and of course I have it already pre-ordered, but I could not resist reading it as soon as it landed in my Kindle (thanks netgalley!!!!). And Velveteen does not disappoint. If you guys watch Danny's youtube channel (and you should, shame on you if you don't!) you know he is sarcastic, intelligent, eclectic, and a little bit creepy (and I mean that in the most admiration filled way possible) and this is exactly what you get with Velveteen.
The very best thing about this book is the main character, Velvet. She is fan-freaking-tastic. Of course I love her snarky and rude attitude that's wrapped in a bad ass goth exterior, but Velvet is SO MUCH MORE than that. This character is deep, yo. She's gone through some hardcore trauma and even though she acts all tough, I think she's a lot more wounded than she wants to admit (and you would be too if some sadist tortured you to death!).
I wanted to mention the world building too. I absolutely LOVED this interpretation of purgatory. The descriptions of purgatory aren't just descriptions, they're brush strokes. Seriously, Marks has one of the best vocabularies in YA literature. His writing is SO creative and descriptive. I found myself googling a lot of stuff just so I could get a clearer visual in my head, and I almost never bother to do that.
There are a few things I wanted to change about the story. I really wanted more Bonesaw! I really liked that character and I liked how Velvet reacted to him and I wanted more. It honestly felt like two books were being shoved together, and sadly my preferred story got neglected. (side note, when I read this back in April the synopsis made it seem a lot darker and a lot more of a revenge story, it has since changed to better reflect the actual story within which I think was a really smart move. The original synopsis would disappoint people who were looking for a horror book and got PNR and scare away people looking for an urban fantasy or paranormal story.)
I also could have done without Nick all together to be honest. I guess he was there to help bring out Velvet's soft nougat center or whatever, but he felt very one dimensional and kind of a crutch. I would have rather seen Velvet deal with her demons on her own.
All in all I really loved this book, but more so I really loved Danny's writing. I am extremely excited for whatever project he puts out next, be it another Velveteen book or something completely new. You KNOW I will be reading it! (less)