Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day (@LoriRaderDay)

Recently, I was wandering through the bug room at a museum. In the back corner, there was a wall of butterfly boxes. I turned to my friend and said, ‘If I’d grown up somewhere different, I wonder if I would have known that there were jobs like this. If I’d lived in a different town, I think my life might have taken an entirely different path.” And for a brief moment, I resented the life that brought me to this place where I wasn’t tacking these beautiful bugs in boxes. Then I got over it, because I was out with people I wouldn’t know on that life path. But the characters in Rader-Day’s “Little Pretty Things” are stuck in this cycle of life resentment. Especially Juliet. A once promising track star, she now cleans rooms in a rundown motel off the interstate. Her life is not sunshine and roses.

Small towns are… well, if you’ve never lived in one, you can’t really know. Literally. It is inexplicable to people who grew up in cities. I equate it to working in an office. You basically know everyone, and you have to be careful what you say where, cause information will always get back to someone it’s not supposed to. But in the small town scenario, there’s no going home. Home is just more people that you know. There’s no anonymous trip to the store. You buy tampons, you’re buying them from someone in your class, or the child of someone you work with, or the woman who’s been working behind that counter longer than you’ve been alive. If you’re trying to get pregnant (which everyone already knows), the town will soon know that it didn’t happen this month. If you don’t want people to know you’re having sex, you leave town to buy condoms. It’s a strange microcosm of awfulness. But for some people, small town life is exactly what they want. They like having the lack of anonymity. They like knowing their neighbours. They find security in it. Continue reading

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

I heard about The Library at Mount Char through my book club. We always do a little what-are-you-reading-besides-the-club-book round table. One of the girls talked about Mount Char a couple times. I was immediately attracted to the name. She could never really describe what the book was about, but said it was worth the read. So when I saw the audiobook pop up on hoopla, I immediately downloaded it and settled in, prepared for a certain kind of read. This book club focuses on young adult books. Even though I knew this wasn’t YA, you know, I had perceptions (that were totally made with no supporting documentation). Have I mentioned that I’m also terrible at reading book blurbs? Especially on books that are recommended to me? I typically read the first line or two and then just open and read the first paragraph of the book. I was unprepared.

What the fuck did I just read? I now understand why she couldn’t explain the book when she was recommending it. For the first 2-3 hours of the book, I wasn’t sure that I was going to keep listening. Not that I didn’t want to keep reading it, but there was so much going on and there were so many characters that I didn’t know if listening was the best way to imbibe this particular novel. But I persevered and it got easier. Kind of.

This is not an easy book. Maybe it is for people who read a lot of fantasy and are used to all that information being thrown at them, but for me – holy crap this brain made my brain hurt in the best possible way. The reader is dropped right into this world – which is finely balanced between our own world and the fantasy world – there’s no gentle submersion here. This is hard and fast.  This is not a book for the light hearted. It is full of death and destruction and people doing terrible things to each other, even their family members. Continue reading

We were liars by e. lockhart (@elockhart )

“Tragedy is ugly and tangled, stupid and confusing.”

This book. Oh man. This book! It was not what I expected. So not what I expected. It did me in. It’s fresh and new and yet unbearably familiar. Before I get into what I was expecting from the book, I’m going to address something right up front. If you have any interest in reading this book, just go do it. Go in blind. You shouldn’t know what to expect. Let the story build as you read it. Just ride the wave. I’d noticed in reviews that people weren’t really talking about the book content in their reviews. I didn’t really understand why. They were all saying what I’ve just said – go in blind. I didn’t really understand why so many of them were saying this. Now I do. You just can’t really talk about any part of this book without ruining it for the new reader. Even I won’t talk specifics, and I am an unapologetic spoiler reviewer. I’m not going to do that here. I’m only going to talk about the concepts in the book. But you shouldn’t even read those. Just go get it and read it. It will take you somewhere if you let it. Continue reading

Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff (@brennayovanoff )

I finished my first Yovanoff novel in a day. This one took me several weeks. On its face, that might seem like a bad thing, but it’s not. This book was just as intriguing and strange and good. It was just so weirdly removed but still within reality that I had to take breaks to let me head wrap around the content. Magical realism always takes me a little longer to absorb than other genres. But Yovanoff’s incredible strength at creating atmosphere got me through. So spooky and strange is this world that I just wanted to know more and more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Yovanoff is a master craftsman of mood.

Based on the title alone, I had expectations for this book. I kind of expected that our main character would be imbued with titular quality. That she would be evil. Let’s set the stage for Fiendish (as always, I’m going to talk about the content, so spoilers) – as a child, Clementine is bound and hidden in a closet while her home and family burn around her. Ten years later, she’s still sitting in this cupboard, waiting. How can she not be the fiend in the title? How could this happen to a person without them becoming a raging ball of anger. But that’s not Clementine. She knows time has passed, but not how much. She can see, but not really. She has visions she can’t explain. Her time seems verge on comfortable. A boy her own age, Fisher, finally finds and saves her. Both know they were drawn to each other, but they can’t explain what’s causing the pull.

In the YA genre, girl meets jerky boy and instantly falls for him and helps to make him better is a trope that’s been done to death and often done poorly. So, when I realized that this would be a major focus of the book, I took it with a salt shaker’s worth of salt. Yovanoff had done it well in Paper Valentine, but could this book live up to what she’d done there? I’d read some reviews that panned this book for being nothing but a girl saves boy and finds the love of her life story. I gotta say, I do not agree. Yes, there is a relationship in the book, but there’s more to it than simple sexual attraction. Continue reading

Memoirs: The Good, The Bad, The Mediocre

A couple years ago, I went on a memoir reading binge. The idea of people who have ended up in some kind of celebrity status talking about their lives and how they got to where they are seems like good fluff reading. I don’t want gossip magazine stories. What I want is interesting stories that are well written. I eventually stopped reading these because they were all pretty much the same. Vague, non-specific stories that glossed over the truth. I just got bored with them. But in early 2014, I read that Jason Priestley was releasing a memoir. I never liked the Brandon Walsh character, but I really like some of the work he’s done as an adult (especially in Haven). And he’s Canadian. This was a book I wanted to read. When I plugged it into my Goodreads, and got my list of books I might also want to read and Jennie Garth’s memoire popped up. I liked her in 90210 and What I like About You. The library had it, so that went on my list as well. And then I went on the very long waiting list for Neil Patrick Harris’ new take on the memoir. Three memoirs. Three very different responses.

NPH

The Good – Neil Patrick Harris – Choose Your Own Autobiography

Written in the style of the popular 70’s & 80’s Choose Your Own Adventure series, this book allows the reader to pretend they are NPH. It reads in the very strange second person POV – something rarely found in fiction, except the aforementioned book series. You get to choose your way through Neil’s life and rise to fame. Sexual discovery. Wild nights with Stephen Dorff. Sensible parents. Tony Awards musical number. Drowning in quicksand.… Not everything in the book is true, but it’s very, very clear which parts are fiction. Continue reading