Category Archives: Mystery

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.

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.

The Dark Unwinding

by Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding coverKatharine has been sent to the mysterious Stranwyne Keep to declare her eccentric Uncle a lunatic, thus claiming the inheritance he is apparently squandering.

But, upon arrival, Katharine quickly realizes something is afoot at the sprawling Stranwyne Keep. And in a very unexpected way. Her investigations lead to startling revelations about her Uncle and the world – and machines – he has created.

 

This debut from Cameron was AWESOME. Steampunk-esque everywhere. Mysteries. Disappearing inheritances. Forbidden roller skating parties. Fancy dresses.

How could I not like this story?

Katharine was an interesting character. And by interesting I mean: not the type of character I normally love. Throughout a large portion of the story she’s torn between duty and freedom and she doesn’t always pick/do/say the right thing because of it. A few times I wanted to shake the living daylights out of her. One time in particular. At the beginning, I kind of hated  her, to be honest.

BUT. She totally won me over. She is not in an enviable position, given her station and the fact she’s female in the time period. And her acts of rebellion (both tiny and large) are quite ass-kicking.

What I really, really liked, though, was this wasn’t just a story about Katharine trying to get her inheritance from evil elder-guardian. No. There is a mystery afoot. And one that I sort of, kind-of guessed but wasn’t completely sure until the reveal. Which was awesome. It made the plot BIGGER and darker quite effectively. (There was one reveal I SO did not guess. And it made me chuckle. In a good way.)

I had one gripe: as I mentioned above, there are some epic steampunk touches in The Dark Unwinding. Which led to some technical discussions of how things worked and my brain did not compute those scenes. They kind of brought the quick plot to a halt for me a few times. But only a few. I also haven’t had a science or math class in nearly ten years, so, there is that.

Overally, I enjoyed Cameron’s debut – dark, mysterious, intriguing – and very much look forward to the sequel. (I have to assume there’s a sequel. Otherwise. Anger.)

Oh! And! You all know I love when the author includes an afterword about the book. And Cameron’s was awesome AND revealing. I spent at least an hour on Wikipedia after reading about the ties to reality. Heart!

Where this book came from: egalley from publisher
Published by: Scholastic

P.S. It has to be said. That cover! Is! Gorgeous! Esp. if you can see it nice and big (or in person). Also gorgeous? Cameron’s website. Love it.

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.

I Hunt Killers

by Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers coverJazz has murder inside him. How could he not? His father, notorious serial killer Billy Dent, has been training him to stalk, kill and hide bodies since birth.

After Billy was caught, Jazz became determined to remember people are important. That they matter.

He can’t help but be drawn to murder, though. Especially when a body turns up in a local field.

I Hunt Killers is, thus far, one of my favorite reads of the year (Which, granted, isn’t very many. I’ve been slacking. Whoops). Holy geez. Creepy, intense, gory, funny – if you like these things, pick it up immediately.

Jazz (full name: Jasper) is Complex. Capital C. He doesn’t want to be a killer like his father. But, and he admits this – if only to himself, the impulses are there. He was raised to think of people as potential targets. As things. Not as living, breathing, contributing humans. But Jazz tries. He has a best friend, he has a girlfriend and he constantly tries to remind himself that people matter. (So do his friends. It’s very Nature vs. Nurture.)

The star, in my eyes, however, was Howie. Jazz’s hemophiliac best friend. How much do I love him? Let me count the ways. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Howie will become the coolest hemophiliac in literature since Prince Alexei (of Romanov fame). I just…I can’t. I can’t explain how awesome he is. And how awesome he and Jazz are together. Ugh. I can’t stand it.

The mystery was so well done, as well. Lots and lots of intrigue. Bodies piling up left and right. Tension. Watching Jazz attempt to put the pieces together and getting more and more frustrated when he can’t was awesome.

Just. So good, guys. So very good (if you don’t mind gore. Lyga does not shy away from the horror side at all). The ending is def. set up for a series. So, yay! More Howie!

The only issue is people may struggle to connect with Jazz. I think it’s natural to be repelled from people constantly thinking about murdering people. There is also A LOT of information to process and, likely, we only are getting a bit of it. So, fair warning there.

Really, though. Loved. Team Howie!

How this book came into my world: ARC, courtesy of the publisher
Published by: Little, Brown.

Grave Mercy

His Fair Assassin #1
by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy coverIsmae has been branded since birth: she is a daughter of Death himself and, therefore, has been the victim of psychological and physical abuse her entire life.

She finally is given the chance to flee after her arranged marriage goes terribly, terribly wrong. And flee she does, into the capable hands of the convent of St. Mortain – where she embraces her parentage and is trained in the art of death, unaware of the burden she is accepting in her future missions.

On GoodReads, someone said in their review that while they might not like this book, they know EXACTLY who will. And I totally thought I was going to be one of those people who would.

Historical tome? Check. Girls training to be assassins? Check. Verbal sparring? Check. Royal court intrigue? Check!

Seriously, it was like lining ducks up in a row. So, I was a bit surprised when I was a bit let down by this novel and I had to do some serious thinking on what was bugging me about it.

I finally determined that Ismae was my biggest problem. While trained in the art of Death, in practicality she spends most of the book incredibly weak and naive. Which is completely understandable given the amount of time she spent shunned by her fellow villagers and then living in a convent. But still, it bugged me. Possibly because I’ve been reading so many strong female protags lately, that encountering a weak one made her seem even weaker.

She was constantly worrying about what other people would think, to the point it got a bit repetitive. Why isn’t she taking action? Oh, right, she has to consult, like, 50 people. I also guessed who the bad guy was within pages but it took Ismae 500 pages to get there.

Like I said, though, this naivete is, in all actuality, completely understandable given how Ismae was raised and her seclusion. And, as I thought about it, it was kind of intriguing: a girl is trained in the arts of Death, but so sheltered and unaware of her own mental strength, she struggles to trust herself and her gut. But that didn’t stop me from really wanting to throttle her a few times when it was PERFECTLY OBVIOUS she was right and didn’t have to consult her various peeps.

She does end up becoming incredibly strong-willed by the end of the book, which was such a relief to see. It just took so long to get there. (I could see the argument that, in actuality, the development of Ismae’s character was perfectly timed because it takes a long time to trust yourself. I agree – LaFevers did a great job making it a slow process and not having her kick ass overnight. However, it lead to some pretty repetitive dialogues about consulting people and worrying that she hadn’t consulted the right person. I’m not saying this wouldn’t really happen, just that it was a bit boring to read. In actuality, I skimmed those parts after a bit.)

Other than that very big issue (for me – I’m not sure this would be nearly the issue for other people), there is So Much to be applauded about this book (and, I assume, about the series). Grave Mercy is a Historical Novel and it takes no prisoners. I LOVED that LaFevers didn’t shy away from the political intrigue and court dynamics in a YA novel. YAs (and readers of YA) are smart! And the books written for them should be just as smart! Gorgeous, gorgeous all around.

In reality, I read this book in one sitting. All 500-some pages. It is super plot driven. (This also might be why I was so annoyed with the Ismae-worrying passages: it got in the way of the ACTION.) LaFevers doesn’t focus on the few years Ismae has spent at the convent learning, rather she moves us ahead and gets right to the killings…err…action.

I became incredibly invested in the fate of the duchess, even if the duchess seemed WAY too benevolent and perfect at times. There is one death that absolutely GUTTED me. (Although, was anyone else shocked the duchess was 13, I believe? That was..weird. Actually, I’m really confused about the ages of the characters from start to finish.) I really, really hope we get more of the duchess and her future in the coming novels and this wasn’t a storyline just meant for Ismae.

While I had some pretty big issues with Ismae, it wasn’t enough for me to not like what the book was trying to achieve. (Like I said, I was a bit disappointed. I think the whole “assassin trained in death arts” set me up on that one, even if the rest of the book’s description does explain that Ismae struggles to really figure things out.)

Honestly, of the three girls that it appears each book will feature, Ismae is/was the least interesting to me. So, I’m very much looking forward to the intrigue of the next two!

How I came into contact with this book: e-galley from publisher
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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.