Category Archives: Fiction

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

by Evan Roskos

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets coverJames is trying to stay positive. He’s letting the positive influence of Walt Whitman guide his through his day. He starts with a YAWP and, maybe, a poem or two as he does his best to avoid his parents, survive the awkwardness of school and girls, and try to keep his anxieties and worries in check.

At the top of his anxiety list is trying to get his sister, Jorie, reinstated to school and their house. But as he starts to look at why she was expelled, new mysteries arise.

I so enjoyed this book. It’s tragic and heartwarming and heartbreaking and lovely all rolled into one gorgeously-covered package.

It would be a total error on my part not to mostly spend this post gushing about how much I loved James’ voice. How it showed his strengths and weaknesses, as well as his wholehearted attempt (with both the success of, and failure) to embrace a Whitman lifestyle.

I loved his friendship with Derek. And Beth. I loved how he wanted to help Jorie, out of both selfish desires and guilt. I also loved how he knew Jorie as a younger brother knows his older sister – and that the actual discovery of a few of Jorie’s secrets shocked him, but didn’t push him away.

I loved that he had a real therapist (that he paid for. himself.) and an imaginary bird therapist (The Dr. Bird of the title). I loved that he hugged trees. And took photographs with real film.

And I loved the Whitman piece. The last chapter made me want shout – er, YAWP! – with joy. BUT my knowledge of Whitman is actually quite narrow (think your basic Dead Poet’s Society references), so I’m not the best person to judge how well Roskos did bringing Whitman into the story. But it worked for me!

Out of the Easy

by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy cover imageJosie works in a bookstore and a brothel. Her mother is a whore in the French Quarter in 1950s New Orleans. Josie has no plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She has only one plan: to get out and go to college.

And while there are a number of people rooting for her and helping her out, Josie may not be able to escape the problems her mother has created.

 

Okay, guys. I’m just going to be blunt about this at the very beginning: I was so bored for the first 100 pages. That’s a lie. I loved the first page. But everything else: bored.

Believe me, I’m as surprised as you! First, this book has been receiving raves! Second, I LOVED Between Shades of Gray.

So, I thought about it. A lot. And I think the reason I was so bored is I found Josie to be incredibly dull. Which meant that I didn’t care about her desire to go to college. Or her desire to attend fancy parties. Or why she cared about a dude she had a five minute conversation with in the bookstore. In fact, the parts I found the most fascinating about Josie (cleaning the brothel, her relationship with brothel-matron, Willie, her care for the bookstore’s ailing owner) weren’t as focused as I wanted them to be. And if the story had focused one THAT, maybe I would’ve understood what made her so interesting?

Either way, I stuck through it and ended up loving the last 2/3rds-ish of the book. The mystery starts to kick in, and the tension ramps up as Josie continues to tempt fate. It was a slow burn, for me, apparently.

While there is romance in this book, the relationships I found most enthralling were Josie’s connections with the adults in her life. The adults vary in how they are connected to Josie, but they all are dynamic – even if they are only present on a few pages. When the romance aspect DID come up, I found myself thinking – but what’s going on with WILLIE right now?!?! Which, I can assure you, is not my normal book reaction (Team Kissing!).

There were a few plots that I didn’t care for. And while the mystery’s increased tension helped draw me into the book, I actually think the murder was a bit pointless and utterly too convenient. If things had ended just a bit differently, I probably would’ve thought differently, but they didn’t and here we are.

I did really, really, really like the secondary characters (esp. Patrick!). They had such a vivid quality, no matter if their page time was a handful or a few chapters. (I also suspect their vividness sucked the life from Josie.) I loved the varied support they provided Josie. I loved how they interacted with each other. And I loved how they all helped bring to life the mid-century French Quarter. (I could go on and on about Sepetys’ ability to writing setting. Just know that she’s a master at it.)

As I mentioned, tons of people have been loving this book. And so did I…eventually. So pick it up! See what you think!

Have a lovely one, and stay warm!!!

P.S. This was a Cybils book, although I’ve been eyeing it since it showed up at my door with that gorgeous cover and Ruta Sepetys’ name on it.

P.P.S. I promised twitter I would post this yesterday, but I got distracted writing a post about the Harry Potter love triangle that wasn’t. (DOES THIS SURPRISE ANYONE?!?!) And then I decided to wait to post THAT until the actual interview has come out. So, I guess there’s that to look forward to? But anyway, sorry, twitter, for being a day late.

Fangirl

by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl coverThe Simon Snow books have brought together Cath and Wren through the ups and downs of their lives.

Cath, specifically, has found a home in the Simon Snow fandom – writing incredibly popular fanfiction to an adoring audience that includes twin Wren.

But it’s time for college. And Wren wants to test out being an individual, away from her twin and Simon Snow. Cath is at a crossroads and must determine which road she will take as the last Simon Snow novel nears.

I loved Rowell’s debut, Eleanor and Park, but I loved Fangirl more.

I started Fangirl on a red-eye from Ohio to Seattle and finished it on the flight from Seattle up to FBX. Because, at the time, I was living in Alaska, I had some frequent flyer miles to bump me up to first class on that first leg. And I can now tell you – First Class Passengers will give you pretty significant side-eye when you spontaneously giggle/burst into tears during a red-eye. So, apologies to those strangers. (FWIW, the second flight I sat next to a sleeping child [the easiest way to find me on a flight is to look for a sleeping child] who didn’t seem to mind my weeping/laughter. So that worked out.)

BUT IT WAS WORTH THE SIDE-EYE, PEOPLE.

As usual, let’s just lay this all out on the table: there was a lot about this book that was going to make me like it. Twins. Fandoms. Fanfiction. Transitioning from High School to College. Mean roommates with a heart of gold. Cute boys.

That is a very long list of Things I Like to Read About.

But what, in the end, really made me adore Fangirl? Cath’s insecurities. Well, really just Cath as a whole. There was a lot I could relate to in Cath. (Wren, no one will be surprised, drove me bonkers.) I loved how slowly she adjusted to her new way of life. And how much she tried to cling to her old way of life. I loved watching her struggle with coming out of her comfort zone and taking risks and chances. (See above re: transitioning from HS to College. I work with freshman. Part of my job is helping people grow into adults.) She gets a lot wrong on her way to figuring out how to, maybe, get it right.

And I loved the fandom spin. Again, some frankness. You don’t see a LOT of the fandom in this book (there aren’t any cons, or really in depth interactions with fellow fans, etc.). And Simon Snow is, essentially, Harry Potter’s dimensional twin. But what I loved about the fandom element in Fangirl was Cath’s use of it as a security blanket and crutch. And how she clearly defined herself as a fangirl but kept her prominent position in that social group hidden away from the new life she was supposed to be exploring. Such an interesting contradiction.

(Let’s not even talk about the whole storyline of Cath and her professor on plagiarism, borrowing creative ideas and original works vs. fanfiction. It DELIGHTED me.)(And it was way more interesting than how boring I made it sound, btw.)

Rowell showed in E&P her deft handling of relationships that were mostly familial or romantic in nature. I think Fangirl showed how well she is able to capture other types of relationships (roommates, friendships, classmates, etc.) in addition to the family and romantic ones.

And, as I look back on reading it, I’m so impressed with how complex the storyline is. Maybe one could argue that it is too complex – there are a lot of storyline threads weaving through this novel – but I thought it made it well-rounded. I thought, for sure, a certain, cliche ending scene was the end of the book and was THRILLED when I discover I still had roughly 80 pages left.

I just really, really liked this book. It left a very warm spot in my heart and I cannot stop recommending it.

So. Yeah.

 

Your Flyleaf is Showing : Alice in Zombieland

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I have absolutely no clue how this is going to look. Is the app smart enough to turn it into a gallery? Guess we’ll find out.

Hi, everyone! After 3,000 miles and a crap ton of packing and unpacking, I am officially bringing you this latest blog from Ohio. That’s right! I have made my triumphant return to the Lower 48 from AK. Now, when I post late at night, it will be late at night East Coast Time, not Alaska-Seriously-No-One-But-Me-is-Awake-in-the-World Time.

And due to my long absence as I brought 2 cats, a car, and over 500 books over two borders (okay – the car was shipped – but that might have been the biggest hassle of all!), I am returning with my series: Your Flyleaf is Showing. A look at the gorgeous book art hiding beneath the jacket.

I’ve been holding onto this post since Alice in Zombieland fell into my hands. Holy geez is the book design gorgeous. I have to apologize for the blurry photos – I was about to put this beaut in a box and was a touch rushed – but I hope it shows the awesome detail the latest from Gena Showalter contains beneath the dust cover. I am basically in love with it.

The story itself is a good one – zombies that only a few can see. Alice, quite suddenly and tragically, being one of them. To be perfectly honest, I was hoping for a few more parallels to Wonderland, since the book title and series title, (The White Rabbit Chronicles,) clearly invokes the children’s classic. Since there are more to come, I’m hoping the connection becomes stronger as the world builds. We shall see.

Otherwise, this is a fun and creepy – remember, we’ve got Zombies! – book to gobble up. The romance, while predictable, had me grinning ear to ear in parts. I did struggle with Alice – she’s so abrasive with her father at the beginning and her character turn around took longer than I hoped – and it took awhile to start rooting for her. Once I did, though, I wanted more!

Interestingly, I had a harder time with Alice’s gal pal Kat. Which, normally, I love side kicks. And she had me at parts. But on the whole, she was a lot to handle. And most of my eye-rolls came from something she did/said/instigated.

You may or may not have noticed, but I don’t cover a lot of zombie books here. It isn’t my fave genre, to be blunt. So I can’t tell you if the zombie world created here was original or unique or anything. But I can say that I quite enjoyed the non-zombie baddies. Usually, I think. Zombies are the bad guys. MORE THAN ONE SET OF BAD GUYS HERE.

Mostly, though, I really wanted y’all to see the gorgeous work put into this book. Cause man, it is beautiful.

Now that we are back up and running, you should be hearing from me soooooooon!*

* this is my first post using an app. If it looks wonky or awful, blame that? And I’ll fix it tomorrow on an actual computer. But fingers crossed it works the first time!

The Reece Malcolm List

 

The Reece Malcolm List coverby Amy Spalding

Devan’s life changes in a blink with the death of her father. Moving across the country. No more best friend. No more beloved high school theater. And she’s going to live with her mother. The reclusive, famous writer Reece Malcolm. Whom she has never met. And only has a small list of (Internet-sourced) information about.

Her list is bound to get longer if she’s actually living with Reece, right?

Look. Let’s just put this out there riiiiiiight from the start. I am a musical theatre* junkie. I mean, I like theatre in general. But musicals? Musicals are my jam.**

So, clearly, there’s a special spot in my heart for books about musicals. And The Reece Malcolm List is one of those books. The opening paragraph name-checks the Hair track, Aquarius. Troy Bolton and the closed-to-soon Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson are mentioned. This is a big deal (and super varied) for me. As Kelly sometimes says, this is a Kellie book. It’s just good to get this information out there, I think. I am genetically predisposed to like this book. Or positively, absolutely hate it.

Luckily, I felt the former, not the latter. Oh, Reece Malcolm, you made me very happy.

I know with the introduction I just gave it seems like this is All Musicals All the Time. And there are a lot of references and situations involving theatre – the main character is trying out for a production of Merrily, We Roll Along – but it’s not ALL about theatre. In fact, it’s really about a mother and a daughter trying to figure out who they are separately and together.

What I liked best about Spalding’s book was the way she spread out the drama. It’s a book about relationships and theatre and the drama isn’t DRAMA all the time. There was an ever-changing subtlety to the tension, or lack thereof, between characters as the book developed. I keep wanting to use the word “pitch” to describe this. The pitch of the tensions changed flawlessly.

I’m not even sure that made sense, but there you have it. It’s just how I feel, guys.

Just incredibly well-done all around. Enjoyable, heart-breaking and -warming. A delight. Just a delight.

Also – for those, like me, who are musical junkies, Amy does a kick-ass blog series called Musical Theatre Mondays on her website. I highly recommend checking it out.

*I am that person that spells it “theatre.” If you’re going to the theater – it’s the movie theater. The theatre is a stage. It’s just how I roll, guys, for clarification.

**Just ask my coworkers who are frequently subjected to the awesomeness that are broadway cast recordings.

 

Butter

By Erin Jade Lange

Butter coverButter is morbidly obese. Over 400 pounds. And not popular. Online, though, he can be whoever he wants – including a friend-and-maybe-something-more to the popular and pretty Anna. 

Knowing Anna’s waiting for him online is nice, but doesn’t help when Butter’s dealing with bullies, jerks and anyone’s snide comments at school. He snaps. And decides to eat himself to death. Live on the Internet. On New Year’s. For all to see. And judge.

 

So, Butter. An interesting one. I want to put this out there from the get go: Lange can write. And the premise is incredibly fascinating.

Unsurprisingly in this day and age of reality tv, Butter’s (aka JP) popularity soars when his website goes live. And he’s suddenly grappling with liking the attention, but understanding the attention is still to do with his weight – not his personality.

Like I said, lots of interesting things happening in this book. And the story is engaging and maintains a pretty even pace – all things I like.

I had to say all of that first because the ending RUINED the book for me. Entirely. Massive spoilers ahead, guys.

So, when JP is in the hospital after trying to kill himself with food, he is weighed and realizes he’s lost a lot of weight. The reason he lost the weight? He was STARVING himself while he hung out with the popular kids. Luckily, he acknowledges the fact this is a really, really bad and unhealthy way to lose weight. But it’s that initial starved weight loss that encourages him to continue. SUCH a mixed message. Do not like. At all.

Also – and this is the thing that got me REALLY fired up – JP is friends-with-a-possibility-of-more with Anna online. When he gets popular, Butter also becomes friends with Anna – but never tells Anna he and JP are one in the same. However, Anna finds out (which leads to other things I will not spoil) and, unsurprisingly is upset. BUT. At the end of the book, she let’s him off the hook! She tells him that she’s mad (at him, but not the online him – shwha?), but that they can continue to possibly pursue something! What?!? He gets what he wants even though he lied and deceived to get it? Because he’s a nice guy? That is NOT the definition of nice I would use! Ugh. Anger.

So, yeah. I had problems with Butter. But it was a highly thought-provoking book. Would lead to some interesting discussions in a book club, I would think. It certainly exposes some scary truths about high school.

So, read it for yourself and see what you think!

Your Flyleaf is Showing : The Diviners

Hello, people of the Internet!

Today you are witnessing a Moment In History. And by “moment” I mean a thing I finally decided to do. And by “in history” I mean it may never happen again, so it is unique.

I have created a series. For this blog. That I’m really excited about. It’s called Your Flyleaf is Showing* and this is the first entry** in the series.

What is this series about, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. It is about book binding. Not the art of. But a celebration of the books that embrace that art. That relish in it. Knowing FULL WELL the population at large will never see or embrace the love that went into it. So I want to expose this injustice! Set the Binding Free! Strip them of Their Clothing! Embrace the Hidden Book Art! (etc.)

I also will include a brief review of the book I’m covering (unless I’ve reviewed it before). It’s probably just going to be easier to dive right in. So let’s do that. The very first book in the series is (drum roll, please!):

The Diviners, Book 1
by Libba Bray

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I frequently compare this book to The Avengers because it is about a group of awesome people – with different origin stories – assembling. Set in New York City in the bustling 20s, this tome (it clocks in at just under 600 pages) kicks off Bray’s new series featuring the occult, speakeasies and awesome 20s lingo.

It is A LOT of book. And there are A LOT of people, places and things (read: nouns) the reader has to track throughout the book. Evie, who mostly serves as our main character, brings it all together as the nucleus of the story. Most of the connection threads running through the various stories run through her and she is certainly the focus of the book’s action.

What I think Bray does best in this book is merge elements of fun with elements of creepiness into the same plot. The mood of the book isn’t interrupted because there’s a funny scene or a creepy scene (and there are PLENTY of these), nor does Evie’s lightheartedness take away from her reaction to those creepy scenes.

I think the “problem” with Evie – or, at least, a problem I can see people having – is her slang. It’s like a second language, but one I found appropriate for Evie. She wants to be the bees-knees SO BAD and her language (and attitude) completely reflects it. She is That Girl. A touch annoying, a little selfish, but always well-meaning.

On the whole I really liked The Diviners. Bray’s writing is always lush and always makes me laugh. While it is the start of a series, it doesn’t leave you with that awful unfinished feeling other series have at times. Also, I hope it instills the proper amount of fear in Ouija Boards that I firmly believe all people should have.

* Title courtesy Brynne!
** And possibly the last. We all know how I roll by this point.