Category Archives: Humor

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.

Keeping the Castle

by Patrice Kindle

Keeping the Castle coverAlthea, in her falling-apart-beneath-her-feet family castle, has to marry well. Not only because of the aforementioned castle, but also because her family is depending on her marriage. To be a good one. Involving a rich husband.

But just because he’s rich, doesn’t mean he’s worthy. And Althea’s witty nature is more than put to the test with the line of unsuitable suitors that are put in front her her.

This review will be brief – shocking! I know! – because it’s pretty easy to sum up my feelings about Keeping the Castle: a delightful, tongue-in-cheek nod to Jane Austen and Regency era novels about the trials, tribulations and oddities of courtship.

I struggled a bit to connect with Althea, but she’s witty, observant and always seems to be plotting. And I can admire those traits and enjoy the consequences and retorts that come from them. If I had to put a finger on what my issue was with Althea, it was how we were introduced to her: the situation came off as cold and calculating instead of witty and smart to me.

I was a big fan of the characterization of the two ugly stepsisters. (How can you not call them that?) And of all the suitors. A bit on the unbelievable side – but just over that line.

And I loved the Castle. I loved how decrepit it was. It wasn’t just gusty and starting to slightly crumble. It was seriously, 100% falling down. And yet Althea loved it. And wanted to save it.

Like I said – a fun, delightful read. (And a quick one, for what it’s worth.) A great historical read for those who may not like the flowery language of the Regency novels.

Where this book came from: galley copy from ALA

Unspoken

The Lynburn Legacy #1
by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unspoken coverWhen the mysterious and much-discussed Lynburn’s return to their creepy manor in Kami’s small town, everyone is aflutter, sure the return will mean dark and sinister things are soon to be afoot.

For Kami, though, it’s another mystery to pursue. But Kami doesn’t exactly roll like the rest of her town. You see, Kami has an imaginary friend in her head. Like, for real. She’s always been able to hear the disembodied voice of a boy since she was a child – reverberating through her mind, responding to her thoughts.

You can imagine what this does to one’s social status. But it allows her a certain freedom from the usual gossip – a freedom to investigate and explore.

Oh, Sarah Rees Brennan. You got me on this one!

Holy geez, talk about a driving me crazy with an ending. When does book 2 come out, again?

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. The ending, I mean. No, we’re here to talk about how much I enjoyed Unspoken. Because I really did. It completely helped that Kami is the kind of character I can 100% get behind: plucky, resourceful and laugh-out-loud funny. So many elements of the ever-awesome Veronica Mars. But crossed with a marshmallow. Because Kami doesn’t quite have VMars’ mean streak. (This is not a bad thing.)

I also really appreciated the consequences of meeting the voice-in-your-head-since-birth in real life. Talk about a shock, amiright?

There were some bumps in the story, for me, though. And by bumps I mean sometimes it just lacked a certain flow. Occasionally an action or scene just didn’t fit for me. And some of the scenes really screamed “GOTHIC” and “CREEPY” to me, while the next immediate scene had a cheerful and happy vibe, which was…odd, for lack of a better term. Overall, though, the desire to figure out what the heck was happening was enough to get things back on track.

This was a book I plowed through in one sitting because of two things: 1. as mentioned above, to figure out WTH was going on and 2. Because Kami is such a delight to follow around. And I plan on doing the same for the remaining books. Because I still don’t really know what’s going on (in the larger scheme of things) and I hope I will always be delighted by Kami.

A super, super fun and creepy book. Highly recommend checking it out!

Published by: Random House BFYR
I came upon this book: due to an egalley from the publisher.

*I always seem to say it, but another awesome cover.

Middle Grade Roundup #1

Recently, I read a couple great MG books and really, really enjoyed them.

First up is a set of two short stories by the generally amazing Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass. Two Crafty Criminals cover imageIn this new volume, Two Crafty Criminals!, we venture into the late nineteenth century London to join the New Cut Gang on adventures of detecting and capturing criminals lurking around the South Bank.

The volume contains two adventures, both of which are enjoyable, witty and smart. Are they The Golden Compass? No. But if you’re a fan of Pullman’s other short stories, you won’t be disappointed. And, as usual, he excels at taking random events and merging them into one epic conclusion. This would be an excellent read-aloud book and will be especially timely with all the focus on London this summer.

The second MG reader I picked up recently was Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s Peter and the Starcatchers.Peter and the Starcatchers cover image This guy has been sitting on my shelf for AGES. A few weeks ago, I made a pilgrimage to the Great White Way to catch some shows and had tickets to see Peter and the Starcatcher, (Singular.) which was based off the book. Wanting to stick to my Read the Book First mantra, I finally picked up and finished this delightful tome.

For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s the origin story of the boy who becomes Peter Pan. There are pirates and fairies and orphans and islands and etc. etc. etc. It’s quite clever in how the characters of the book develop into the characters we all know and love. I was pretty impressed by it, to tell the truth. I did find it a bit slow it parts (it’s a few hundred pages), but was won over by it for the most part. I especially loved Molly and her gumption.

For the record, I ADORED the play version. A. Dored. Holy geez. It is ridiculously imaginative and wonderful and funny. If you have the chance to see it, go now. If you have the chance to see it before Christian Borle (who plays Black Stache, the future Captain Hook) leaves on June 30, DO IT. It’s a fun adaptation that remains true to the heart and imagination of the book. Loved.

I don’t often review MG books on here, but these were both fun reads and would be great for any summer reading program! Check them out!

Two Crafty Criminals was written by Philip Pullman and published by Random House Children’s Books’ Knopf Books for Young Readers imprint. I received a galley copy of the volume for review.

Peter and the Starcatchers was written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It’s the first book in the series of the same name. Published by Disney, I got this book from my own shelf.

Past Perfect

by Leila Sales

Past Perfect coverChelsea’s summer job every year is as a historical reenactor at the Essex Historical Colonial Village. She’d rather be selling t-shirts at the Gap, but a job’s a job. And there’s something comforting about returning to Essex every summer.

Until her ex-boyfriend, Ezra, shows up as a new employee, thwarting her plans to seriously get over him during the break.

And her co-workers have just named her an assistant in the on-going war with the OTHER historical reenactment site across the street.

Needless to say, this summer won’t be the boring one Chelsea anticipated.

I think it’s worth mentioning that I have been enamored with the idea of this book since I read a blogger review of it (I think it was Forever YA). So imagine my delight when Past Perfect was a Cybils book!

As expected, PP was a fun read. Chelsea, our main character, was funny and made some fun observations about her life in the reenactment village and her life outside of the workplace.

One of my friends used to work at a historical reenactment village and, when pressed, it appears that Sales got many of the details correct – the constant having to be in character; the crazy photo-ops with strangers (aside: at one point Chelsea wondered how many family albums she appears in. I thought that was an absolutely weird and wonderful thought); the period clothes, etc. And that aspect of the book was so much fun to read about. Seriously.

The only thing that particularly bothered me was the book’s unevenness. In some scenes, Chelsea hated working at Essex, and in the next she loved it. I’m all for changing your mind and/or being fickle, but this made it hard to really grasp Chelsea’s affection (or lack thereof) for Essex. I think the tone Sales was trying for was, to Chelsea, Essex was like going to a family reunion: the ramp-up is dreaded and awful, but you actually do like seeing everyone, awkward and awful moments included. I just think Chelsea was too black and white from one scene to the next to really get that feeling across.

Another uneven issue that bothered me was how dramatic some scenes were that…weren’t terribly dramatic (or shouldn’t have been) to me. There’s a scene towards the end when Chelsea goes into the reenactment camp across the street and it was so…violent…it confused me. I just couldn’t believe that actually happened. Or would happen.

Those issues aside, I enjoyed PP. It would be a great summer read on a road trip with your family. The romance was cute and there were some super funny scenes. I found Chelsea’s interactions with her ex well-done, interesting and realistic.

Like I mentioned above, however, the highlight of this entire book is the crossroad of teenager meets reenactment camps/villages. The details were awesome and, as expected, the combination of the two usually led to pretty hilarious or crazy circumstances. Definitely a good read for any teen who has been dragged to one-to-many historical sites.

Where this book came from: Publisher, for Cybils
Published by: Simon Pulse

p.s. A note on the cover: that cover is freaking adorable. Truly. But…it doesn’t have anything to do with the book. Do you get historic reenactment villages from that cover? No? Neither do I. But, it does get props for being cute.

The Name of the Star

(Shades of London #1)
by Maureen Johnson

Name of the Star coverRory’s first day in London for boarding school is epically timed: someone has been murdered in the exact fashion Jack the Ripper killed his first victim. Down to the exact detail.

Police are stumped, Ripper-mania has taken over London and Rory’s struggling to figure out this London boarding school thing. As bodies pile up, Rory finds herself as a witness to one of the murders – putting her at the heart of a bizarre, and dangerous, investigation.

We’re going to start this review anecdotally (new word?).

This summer, I was lucky enough to spend roughly two weeks in Great Britain. Nearly one entire week was in London. Since then, I have really enjoyed reading books set in London. It warms my heart to have my own memories associated with the setting of a novel. So, obviously, Johnson’s latest played right into my heart with that.

While I was in London, however, my traveling peeps and I stopped at the Piccadilly Waterstones. I went in to pick up the redesigned Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone for my collection (naturally), but also wanted to get a fiction book set in London, preferably by an English author. Unsurprisingly, I ended up leaving with 4 books, in addition to the HP [which joined the latin HP I had picked up in Oxford]. Two of those books were by the author Ben Aaronovitch, a writer for Doctor Who Classic, and the first two in a series about London with absolutely stunning covers.

I ADORED Rivers of London, the first of the two books, and was pleasantly surprised to see some awesome similarities between that and NotS. Not everything, mind you, but both involve a branch of the London police force dealing with supernatural elements. Both have witty and amusing characters. Both were a bit on the creepy side. Just a win all around for both books.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I adore Maureen Johnson and there isn’t much she can do wrong, in my eyes. She writes characters I enjoy reading about and cheer for constantly. And, like New York City in the Scarlett series, London is a huge feature in this book. No generic locations mentioned in this one.

She’s ventured into the supernatural before (Devilish, her third published novel, I think?)¬†and it is apparent how much she has developed as a writer since then. I also love an author that changes genre-hats frequently and changes them well.

I had some minor issues with NotS: Rory’s motivations seemed….false to me sometimes, and she almost crossed into the Louisiana VooDoo Swamp People Stereotype (is that a thing? It’s the only way I can think to describe it) a few times, but it was usually okay.

I also didn’t find Rory’s rival in school (or, for that matter, her romantic interest) to be particularly interesting next to the real villain of the story.

Which brings me to the Jack the Ripper storyline – LOVED. Holy geez, creepy. And the supernatural element was a fun twist, for me. Fingers crossed that Rory figures out who the real romantic lead should be in the next book.

I am a bit confused how this trilogy is going to continue? I mean, I GET where the plot is going, but I thought it was billed as a Jack the Ripper trilogy? Maybe I misread? I have some guesses, but, I’m still not sure? Which is a good thing?

Either way, I’m pretty excited for the next book to come out – the action really started to pick up at the end of the NotS. I don’t think this set will appeal to all of Johnson’s contemporary readers, but her comedic styles are ever present and the premise is totally fascinating. A fun, fun read with an interesting twist at the end, just for kicks.

Where this book came from: a signed copy flew across two countries from NYC to live in my library forever!
Published by: Putnam Juvenile

p.s. the second book, The Madness Underneath, doesn’t come out until 2013. Sadface.

p.p.s. While I don’t think the NotS has the most awful cover ever, I do find it odd. I much prefer the UK version.

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters coverKelsey and her three best friends are days away from entering high school and Kelsey has made a decision: this year will be the Year of Dreaming Big. She’s going to get a starting spot on the JV soccer team! And finally get her crush, Jordan, to notice her! And not let her mom embarrass her!

But it’s never that easy and Kelsey will need her positive attitude and BFFs to get through this crazy freshman year.

 

This book seriously grew on me. I was having some major issues with it for about 50 pages, but Kelsey’s Never Say Die attitude finally won me over and I gave in and started to enjoy it for what it is: a fun read about the embarrassments of high school and the awesome friends that get you through it.

My biggest issue was how predictable the love triangle was – I immediately knew what was happening, what was going to happen and how it was going to play out. That was unfortunate. Since this started so early in the book, it was really off-putting. It also didn’t help that I found the characters to be acting/talking/being older than 14 years old. I really would have liked it better on the whole if this was their junior year, rather than freshman.*

As I mentioned before, I started out feeling super apprehensive about where this book was headed. But Kelsey, among other things, really won me over. She is a charming, naive and slightly spastic character. She is constantly getting herself into embarrassing situations – and does her best to make the most of it. She wasn’t selfless, nor was she selfish. I thought Zeitlin did a great job of indicating that Kelsey cared about her friends, but still worried about her own issues just as much. (There was a scene with Kelsey on the phone with her friend who was gushing about her boyfriend and Kelsey’s mind wandered to her OWN issues with guys. Selfish, sure, but pretty spot-on.)

Kelsey’s quirks may have won me over, but the icing on the cake, for me, was Zeitlin opting to include both sports and the arts as activities for her characters. Kelsey plays soccer AND tries out for the school musical (incidentally, it was the musical stuff that really made me adore Kelsey), and she has both good and bad experiences with both extracurriculars. There are a lot of books about sports and a lot of books about the arts – but to have 1 book include them both (and not in an My-Main-Character-Is-Just-That-Awesome kind of way) was great.

So, in sum, I had some major reservations but ended up enjoying this debut. I also really, truly think the reservations were mine alone and if you put this into the hands of a YA, chances are good they’ll enjoy it.

Where this book came from: e-galley review from the author
Published by: Putnam Juvenile, available now

*Digression: This is a gripe I mostly blame Gossip Girl for: mis-aging the characters. I don’t doubt there are some freshmen who act like all the freshmen act in FY&OUD, or even in GG, but having them all be 14 and super-mature seems bonkers to me. Every time I am reminded of the character’s age, I am completely thrown off. I also understand that this is a thing that bugs me in particular. It’s a ME issue. I am not 14 years-old and haven’t been for awhile. So, you know, take it with a grain of salt. Digression over.