Category Archives: Thriller

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.

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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.

Mystic City

by: Theo Lawrence

Mysic City coverAria and Thomas are the perfect star-crossed lovers. They met in secret – down in the dangerous underworld where revolutions are hinted at – and kept all knowledge of their relationships from their warring, ruling families. But, due to their cannot-be-parted lives, they became engaged and put an end to decades worth of fighting and political maneuvering. Truly, a tale for the centuries.

   Except Aria is having memory problems. Huge gaps, actually. And, for being so much in love, she doesn’t seem to be able to stand Thomas for long periods of time. And she keeps seeing a mysterious stranger…

Read in one sitting. Late into the night. And that description? It didn’t even get into the fact MAGIC is involved. Yeah.

So, clearly, there’s a lot going on. We’ve got a dystopian society. Within the society there’s the warring between families and the rebellion of the underworld (read: magic) people. We’ve got an interesting take on magic (and fancy gadgets!). Some memory issues. Lies. Deception. Hot dudes. Girl fights. Etc. Etc. Like I said, a lot. Going. On.

Which isn’t a bad thing – the plot moves at a quick pace and manages to mostly keep everything in order. There were a few twists and turns (esp. at the end) that probably weren’t necessary, but it wasn’t enough of a wrench to really throw me off the storyline.

It’s always interesting to merge a dystopian society with magic elements. Which technically means it’s really not a dystopian – unless magic was discovered between now and the time of the book. But, that’s really neither here nor there. Just know there are elements of present day society (and it’s theoretical eventual ruin) reflected in this book in addition to supernatural elements. And, if I’m being honest, I wish the world building had been a bit stronger towards the beginning.

Lawrence dives right into the intrigue – which totally works! – but because the world is kind of…presented as we go, some of the elements can be seen as convenient rather that a restraint of the new world.

I liked all the main characters. I thought some of the secondary characters (Thomas, specifically, and all of Aria’s friends) were a bit thin and stereotypical. I also want my villains to be robust and I was left wanting in that category.

But, as I mentioned above, this is a very fast book. Action ALL OVER THE PLACE. And quite a thriller. I’m very, very interested to see what happens in the second book. I just hope a lot of these sort of sloppy elements are cleaned up a bit.

Oh, and as a note, I’m not particularly on board with the comparison blurbs to The Hunger Games. Aside from a fast plot, a teen girl protag and being set in a possible future, nothing else is similar. And there are A LOT of books that have those same elements. I get wanting to make that connection, but no. It’s a bad one. Shrugs.

Available: Now!

Code Name Verity

by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity coverTold in two halves, Code Name Verity throws us directly into the dark side of World War II. The first half is a gripping, stream of conscious confession of a captured British, teenage girl spy.

The second half brings us the flip side: Maddie’s story. The spy’s best friend and pilot, ferrying planes back and forth across the British countryside.

And that’s all I feel comfortable saying.

So. Code Name Verity.

I loved this book. I really, seriously adored this book. I mean, whoa.

I’m not exactly wordsmithing this post, but here’s the deal: it is so hard to figure out what to say without giving too much away. Without completely ruining the book. So. Hard.

Here’s what I will say: I love reading books about strong, resilient teens. Specifically teen girls. I also love when those teens have flaws and do things wrong and must rise to the occasion. Code Name Verity had all of this.

But what I love most of all is when a story centers around a friendship. And Wein’s gorgeous novel is grounded in the story of two best friends. There may be a hint of a love story, but it doesn’t even matter. What matters is the relationship between these two girls and how they interact and help each other through the war.

Clearly, this is a historical novel. So, if that’s not your cup of tea, then maybe Verity isn’t for you. I’ve also read a few reviews about how the book can be boring/dragging. And I understand that, especially in Part 1. The stream of conscious writing can seem full of random, unnecessary details and suffer from a lack of editing. But let’s be real. The confession she’s writing would not have been edited. But I do get it.

Also, on the fair warning front, there are some pretty graphic descriptions of torture. So, there’s that.

I think it’s amazing, though. And how Wein handles the storyline is super impressive. This book both gutted me and gave me hope. Just a lovely, lovely read and one of my Top 5 of the year, so far.

Published by: Disney/Hyperion; Hyperion Books for Children
How I Stumbled Upon this Book: egalley provided by publisher

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.

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.

Divergent

(Divergent #1)
by Veronica Roth

Divergent CoverIn the future, people are sorted into a lifestyle. Based on an aptitude test, where a person came from, or desire to embrace another life, a person can commit themselves to a life of selflessness, bravery, honestly, education or harmony. The selected faction becomes more important than family – it becomes a person’s everything.

Which is why Beatrice’s inconclusive aptitude test and indecision about where she belongs is so problematic. And dangerous.

I have wanted to read Divergent for a really long time. You all know I love a good dystopian novel (I am tossing around the idea of doing the Occasional Dystopian of the Month. Up for debate.), and Divergent did an excellent job of kick-starting my reading habit again.

When it comes to dystopian novels (and fantasy/SF, for that matter), one of the most important elements to me is the world building. When specifically dealing with dystopians, I also think the world building is better if I understand how present-day society evolved into the future society the author is presenting. Roth did quite well the world building, providing excellent descriptions of the various factions and who populates them. I’m not sure I fully understand why society decided to split into factions, but I loved the nods to present-day Chicago as it crumbles and decays.

Divergent is commonly compared to The Hunger Games and, in this case, I think there’s a validity to the claims. There was actually a moment late in the book when I thought Beatrice was about to do something exactly like Katniss and I was pre-outraged. Luckily, Roth put Beatrice on her own path and the outrage was stopped immediately. Ultimately, I think Divergent stands on its own, only sharing common themes and ideas with THG.

Beatrice, or Tris, was an engaging character. I loved her struggle to understand who she is, where she came from and what she wanted to be. (Another thing that good dystopians do well is showing basic struggles are still the same.) I also wanted to stand and applaud Roth for taking an entire novel to develop a romance, instead of a single chapter (or page)(or paragraph). It was so very refreshing.

I’m very much looking forward to the second book in the trilogy, which comes out in just a few months. I highly recommend Divergent as a fast-paced, interesting take on the future.

Where this book came from: my very own bookshelf
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books