Binge Reading

I am a binge-reader – I don’t savor books. In fact, I’m really bad at it. When I want a book to last, I resign myself to gulping through it and then immediately starting it for a second time. Or I will re-read from a part somewhere in the middle that I really liked so I can enjoy the build up to the resolution without having to go through some of the background stuff again. I resign myself to finishing a book and then slowly trolling back through it to mark the parts I want to refer back to, make note of, or share with someone else.

I have always read quickly and retained well (which was helpful for my ACT and SAT scores in high school) but sometimes it does take the enjoyment out of things. I read at a pace akin to skiing down an icy mountain with no idea how to slow yourself down or stop. When I get into a story my pace is breakneck – it’s the only speed I know.

I also binge in groups – if I read a good book by an author I hunt down one and then another and then another until I have read their oeuvre and can then feel prepared to read whatever they are coming out with next. Or if I find a series I read all of the series. I savor nothing. I am trying to stop this habit too, but it isn’t working.

How do you slow down?

I am a devourer of words.

Girl of Nightmares

What price would you pay to save the one you love? Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake.

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake was released in 2012 – I read it October 21-22, 2016.

My initial thoughts:

  • Anyone who thinks this should be more than a duology is crazy. The only justification I can see is that the third book’s cover would have Anna facing full forward. I have imagined the third image in my mind and it looks badass, but alas, this has ended exactly as it should.
  • If the first book made me scream, this one made me cry.
  • I’m kind of okay with this version of the afterlife.

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Girl of Nightmares picks up almost 6 months after Anna Dressed in Blood. Cas can’t let Anna go. He starts seeing her and the visions are awful and violent enough that he begins to believe she’s calling to him from the other side. Anna is not safe, and this time it’s Cas’s turn to do the rescuing. Girl of Nightmares takes the gang to London and then the Scottish Highlands where the true history of Cas, his powers, and the athame are revealed.

This book is a bit more gore over creep factor than Anna, but it was always justified and further created the power and the tension in the story. The tension creates intentional frustration – the reader feels what Cas is feeling about the lack of straight answers and information, or even truly understanding what the athame and the other side are. Cas is his usual reckless self, and everybody else seems a little bit more at peace with that, if a little less tolerant of it. I liked him even more in this book because I felt like his journey was more internal – there were things he had to figure out about himself, revisiting his knowledge of his identity and his place in the world, and I liked knowing that I could trust who he is at his core.

Like all good horror, we explore regular life via the supernatural – love, loss, and change. It had to end the way that it did – it was the realistic and the powerful way to end it. If it had ended differently, it would have really ruined both books for me and I would have felt that it was very unhealthy. The reality of life is that things don’t always work out and we lose people – sometimes to change and sometimes to death. The power is in letting go. There are so many specific tiny moments that would be total spoilers during the final battle that I find so powerful.

Most important line, from new and dynamic character Jestine:

“Your morality isn’t the only morality in the world. Just because it’s yours doesn’t mean it’s right.”

Also, I think Cas totally should have yelled at Carmel. And I was frustrated by that storyline in general – maybe because it was what an unsure teenage girl would do and I expected more of Carmel, or maybe because it felt pushed in to create extra conflict. However, I did enjoy that we see Cas-as-third-wheel to Thomas and Carmel. I don’t think we get the perspective of the third wheel who is also the narrator very often in a way that isn’t whining or pining after one half of the couple, and his frustration over Carmel but holding back is something I think everyone has experienced at some point. It points out in a subtle way why it’s hard when your friends date. When they hurt it hurts you too.

Blake is an excellent writer and a craftsman of story – there’s just no overloaded exposition – you discover things instead of being told them, you inhabit Cas very completely and feel what he feels, and she trusts her reader to take leaps. On that level alone Blake has earned a fan for life – a pre-order, book signing, tell-everyone-to-read-this fan.

On a personal level, this book spoke to me the way Blake’s other books have because of my own loss. One of my best friends died unexpectedly in February – it’s part of the reason I started this blog – and I have been using books (and Criminal Minds for some reason) to help me move forward. Anna and Girl did that because while I am a religious person, the view of the afterlife presented felt very grounded and unattached to any school of thought and that was comforting. Three Dark Crowns did that for me because I can just feel it would be a book that we would have obsessed over together (she would be Team Arsinoe, I have embraced being Team Katharine) and it makes me feel connected to her again.

Anyway, read. Go to your library, get tons of books, and read! But especially read Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares.

 

Between the Spark and the Burn

“How can a person be so good and so bad at the same time? How is that possible?”

I couldn’t wait for it to come in the mail so I checked it out of the library.

Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke was released in August 2015. I read it October 20-21, 2016. I am just burning through books right now, but it’s also the quiet part of the year for me when I have a lot of free time at home.

First reactions:
Have their ever been two more differently lovable brothers than River and and Neely?
And as much as I personally am drawn to River, I absolutely wanted Violet to push him off a cliff.
Everybody is both Violet. Everybody.

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After River left at the end of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Violet’s life settled a little – her parents, her brother Luke, and their ward Jack paint and exist and Neely comes in and out of the guesthouse after going on River-hunts. Finally, Christmas Day, Violet decides she’s going with Neely to find River. The group have started listening to a radio program – Stranger Than Fiction – and they follow the clues in the program to potential locations of River, his evil brother Brodie, and maybe even other gifted Redding siblings. They journey to Virginia and save another stray – Finch Grieve, the Forest Boy. Then they head to an island off the coast of North Carolina and finally find River, but not as they expected, and pull native-islander Canto into their motley crew. No one is safe, everyone is breaking, and they head to Colorado to confront themselves and their future.

There’s definitely room for more books in this series, but even without them this would be a satisfying conclusion. It’s not always about the resolution of the greater plot as it is about the resolution for the main character – the end of this feels like a shift for Violet, and that’s what this whole story has been about.

Violet is such a true character. People are not all black and white, and this book demonstrates that perfectly. There are so many layers and twists of both beauty and ugliness in them all. You don’t know what side of them you’ll get in a given situation. But Violet is the most true, for a girl her age and temperament. There isn’t an easy decision and everything feels like life and death and sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Violet tries to balance the rational with the emotional, and to find a way to do the right thing. I really enjoy reading her, and I will likely visit this world over and over.

I had my suspicions about where Brodie was from the beginning, and I didn’t like being right. However, how that all plays out is bone-chilling. I didn’t even realize what was about to happen and when I did I wanted to shout “no!” but no luck.

In this book I came to pity River as much as I loved him; he’s like a magnet that’s drawn and draws in random and dangerous things. He takes on more than he can handle and it comes back to bite him. He’s still a really compelling mix of hero and villain.

Which leads to my own large complaint about this duo – we never get a resolution to the Redding patriarch. Did I say I wanted River pushed off a cliff? He can go too.

Once again, the sins of the parents become the scars on their children. I don’t think any of those hard-partying kids in the 20s and 30s ever thought about how damaged their children would be, and how that would carry on well beyond their mistakes. Children, especially in families like the Reddings and Whites, pick up the burdens of their family not just themselves. When Violet learns even more of the truth, she feels like once again it is hers to fix. The change here is that instead of trying to be like Freddie, Violet is trying to succeed where she failed. I’d like to think that she does.

This was the heartbreaking, semi-soul crushing, leaving you with questions but somehow conclusive ending to this duology. If Tucholke decides to revisit the Between world I will devour it with relish and pain. Because that’s kind of the point – there can be both.

Come Closer or How I Choose What to Read

There’s an itch.

I don’t want to do a review of Come Closer by Sara Gran because there’s no way to talk about this book without giving away too much. The short version: Amanda might be possessed by a demon. I got this from the library and returned it in the same day (10/20) because it only took two hours to read and I didn’t feel safe having it in my house. It’s that good/scary. So yeah, it’s 5/5.

I don’t know if other people are like this, but when I find the book I want to read it’s a feeling – like a tug from my brain to the title, the cover, or the synopsis. I go from mood to mood but I try and follow where it takes me. I can’t do TBR jars like some people because I know as soon as I would pick the piece of paper it would make clear to me what I actually wanted to read. I need that feeling or I can’t finish the book. I put it away and wait for the feeling to come.

For example, this past summer I wanted a book like Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves but didn’t want to do the mental gymnastics of reading House of Leaves again. (I also want to note that for a time I was so spooked by HoL that I turned it spine-in on my bookshelf. I’d get a shiver just seeing the title.) This caused me to start googling for best haunted house books.

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My book seance.

And that’s how I found the Elementals by Michael McDowell which has become one of my favorite books ever. It was everything I was looking for when I started that google search, and it satisfied the itch in my brain for a scary story about a scary house and all I can hear is “Savage mothers eat their children up!” and it’s wonderful.

Then I just wanted to read more horror – it’s a genre I explore more in film than in reading although I do love reading scary stories. So I followed recommendations based on the Elementals which got me to Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix and then A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. After A Head Full of Ghosts my need for horror was slightly abated because sweet jesus it ruins you at the end. I read a few more cheerful things after that.

But the cool thing was that Paul Tremblay included a little appendix at the end of the book with reading and viewing recommendations and sharing the works that shaped his book.

One of those books was Come Closer by Sara Gran. It was one of the things on the list I thought was interesting, made a note of it, and moved on.

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In the last week, somehow that book has come up twice on another blog about books, and then in a movie review. And I took that as the sign that I needed to read this book. The itch was light, but I knew that if I could find it I would want to read it right away. It was in the library, I had extra time during my lunch break, I checked it out immediately. I got home from work and in a trance-like burst read the whole thing, took a picture, and then took it back to the library. I had other itches to scratch.

But that’s how I choose what to read, and what to read next. I never make myself stick to a plan because the books all tie together somehow, even if it doesn’t always seem obvious. Even to me.

Review – Gilt Hollow

Girl meets boy. Boy goes to prison. Boy gets out of prison. Boy and girl solve murder. A review of Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon.

Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon came out September 27, 2016.

Because of Gilt Hollow I get to revise my Spookathon reads – this was published in 2016 so I’m counting it for that, as well as for the original thriller category I chose it for. I expected it to be more of a thriller than it was, but I think it’s because the scary catch the murderer plot is overshadowed by the super hot love story plot. I read Gilt Hollow on 10/17 when I couldn’t sleep because of my joyous dental work. It had been a long time since I read two books in a day, so that tells you how nice and quick of a read this is.

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Willow Lamott’s best friend was sent to prison when he was 14 for murder; a murder that Willow staunchly believes he didn’t commit even as it cost her social standing and options in their small community of Gilt Hollow. Now Ashton Keller is out of jail and back in Willow’s life. Not only does he want to move on with his life, he wants to find out who really murdered his friend Danny, and why. Gilt Hollow has a lot of secrets, lies, and pain. Ashton is going to rip open those wounds to find the truth, and he might just let Willow back into his life.

This review is going to get pretty spoilery, and maybe a little judgmental. I just want to say that right off the bat.

I liked Willow, and not in personality but in story it kind of reminded me of Veronica Mars (which is my all time favorite show.) Willow is experiencing the backlash for disagreeing with popular opinion and perception. Some of the isolation is imposed on her, and some if it is imposed by her. Willow’s friend Lisa starts pulling her out of it, and then Ashton returns. It’s all so polarizing and I like Willow’s loyalty and steadfastness even when it’s a struggle. I appreciated her integrity as a character. I appreciated that she forgave her mom for some of the choices that were made, and she pushed for people to see Ashton as more than a criminal and give him another chance. The chapters from Ashton’s point of view show that he deserves it.

The scenes between Willow and Ashton have such palpable steamy tension. I read the scene where they first kiss in the janitor’s closet at least three times. The struggle against their attraction to one another versus what the is the right thing to do versus the advantageous thing to do was enjoyable to read.

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Ashton has barely contained violence, and I think that violence would have been in him even without going to jail. He’s got a wild streak, and the author does a good job demonstrating that wild doesn’t always mean violent, or violence for the sake of violence. I feel so badly for this poor kid – he was set up to fall long before the murder, and there would have been a crash for him somewhere even without it. He knows he’s walking on a fine edge and that he needs to retrain his instincts after being in a cell; he also knows what  he’s to blame for even if he’s being awfully stubborn about moving on.

The thing I did not like about this book is that the characters so often failed to clearly communicate, or ask the obvious questions. While yes it moved the plot along, I am a person who gets frustrated when things get illogical. There were other ways to move the plot that did not involve the characters being silent or ignoring the obvious. It’s one thing when I know something the characters don’t, its another when they know things and just don’t talk about it. It makes the story feel contrived.

This is where the spoilers begin.

There’s a reason that high school villains are often the cruel jock type – entitlement often leads to violence. There’s a reason it’s easy to see it’s Colin from the beginning – he’s so empty as both a person and a character. I think he’s shallowly written and there’s no feeling of betrayal about him being the bad guy, but it’s also the most logical option. He’s threatening enough to have created a conspiracy around his actions – he commits violence and disguises it in excuses . There could have been other twists to this reveal, but for the story it was trying to be this made sense. The twist on it I did enjoy though was his own parent’s betrayal. That was a nice touch as once again people’s integrity was what led them to their choices – and they as parents make a nice contrast to Ashton’s parents. Same actions, different reasons.

Overall, I’m going 2.5/5 – a quick read, a very steamy romance, but nothing new to the genre. If you’re looking for a good YA love story, this is absolutely your book. If you’re looking for a thriller, not so much.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

When you can’t trust your head, you fight from your heart. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke.

On 10/16/16 I read a A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas, but I don’t think there’s anything I can add to the obsession that already exists around that series. Except to firmly say I am Team Tamlin, even though I have not yet read A Court of Mist and Fury. I doubt I will change my mind.

On 10/17/16 I was trapped at home after a visit with my dentist that left me with a severely aching jaw and totally unable to sleep it off. So with the beginning of Spookathon I destroyed my first book. It meets the creepy word and red cover criteria. I read Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke – it was published in July 2013.

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And I am so fictionally in love with River West. I have not been this twitterpated over a book character since Mr. Darcy in 9th grade. In my head he looks like Matt Shively.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is about Violet White and her twin brother Luke, living in their Grey Gardens-esque mansion on the coast, semi-abandoned by their artist parents. Violet puts up a post to rent out the guesthouse to make money and one day River West shows up to do so. There’s something immediate between Violet and River, and Violet also knows that River is a liar. River fits into Violet’s world faster than he should, but dark and violent things start happening. River isn’t like other people. River opens a door into another world for Violet, and it isn’t a good one.

As much as I love River, the end of this book frustrated me so much as a reader. It felt incredibly rushed and unexplained – and even though there were these small moments that were supposed to be hints at how insidious the villain is they all just felt like incomplete sentences. I had no idea how this book was going to end because things kept getting more intertwined and complicated (in the awesome way) and then the ending just kind of splat out like a drop of blood.

This book is really layered – nothing is random. Everyone is connected, everyone has a history, and the children must pay for the sins of their forebears. I loved the mood of impending doom that creeps across the entirety of the novel – it makes the good moments feel so important and fleeting.

Freddie was a fantastic character – when you’re in Violet’s head you miss her too. For a character we never really see alive on the page she is so powerful and complete; I can imagine her so clearly. I love that Violet wears her clothes, and I love that Freddie was passionate and stormy, and probably way ahead of her time. I like that we see hints of the storm inside Violet, she just doesn’t know how to let it out.

Violet is also a great character to follow – she often ignores her own feelings and tries to deal with the situation at hand, and its so tender the way she falls for River. There’s something so nostalgic about remembering the first big crush when they crushed you back. It makes you as forgiving of River as Violet is, and not because of the glow.

All the teenagers in this book – Violet, Luke, Sunshine, River, Neely, and their child companion Jack – make up a kind of group of Lost Boys. They are basically children lacking in supervision just trying to survive and figure out their lives. It’s both amazing to realize that we don’t really need parents to survive, but also painful to read how hollow that can scrape you.

I am really pumped to get Between the Spark and the Burn (and oh how cool that title is once you’ve read the first book) on my next trip to the library. I want to see what becomes of them all.

I’m giving Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and 3.5/5 for a lackluster ending – however, depending on how the next book ends I might revisit that. They are likely two halves of a whole. River ❤

 

Anna Dressed in Blood

What happens when the one boy who can kill ghosts falls in love with one?

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is the kind of book that attaches to you. My blog name has never been more appropriate because this book, Cas and Anna, are taking up residence to haunt my bookish heart.

Shortly after finishing I went down a hashtag rabbit hole and learned they’re making a movie. For the first time in ages I was actually picturing a specific actor while reading.  Tanner Buchanan was the Cas in my head, which ended up being kind of hilarious because every time I would get really anxious I’d say “Charlie Gardner!” like Maya from Girl Meets World – which was often. I am actually really happy with the casting of Cameron Monaghan (I love a talented ginger) and Maddie Hasson (the Finder was so underrated). Either way, I hope the movie is scary as shit and that I cry a little because I’m scared. Is that too high of an expectation for the adaptation of the book that scared me so bad I screamed out loud? That I thought my growling stomach was my attic door opening and I was about to be killed by a ghost? Probably.

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Anna Dressed in Blood is about Cas Lowood, who has inherited a magically imbued athame and a talent for killing spirits. Cas goes after the dead who kill – he leaves benign spirits alone. The thing is, his dad was killed by a spirit, and so Cas picks up the legacy with the hope of one day avenging his father. Cas and his mom move around for his “work” and when they head to Thunder Bay, Ontario so Cas can take out Anna everything feels different. First, Cas makes friends. Second, Cas makes enemies. Third, Cas meets Anna and knows she is unlike any spirit he’s ever faced. Just when he thinks he can save the day…his past comes back to bite him.

It took a bit for Cas to grow on me, mostly because he appeared to be kind of a weenie to his mom. However, the more you learn about them both and understand their dynamic, the more obvious it becomes that they both do this to protect themselves. Cas has to do this, even when they’d rather he didn’t. Cas loves his mom, but it hurts him to show it because it might seem like he doesn’t love her enough to stop.

The tension-building in this book is fantastic. When the start of the third act comes, wooo. Things are happening really quickly and you only have enough information to have suspicions but not enough to understand what that suspicion means and then when the scary things comes you don’t even know what the scary thing IS you just know you’re really effing scared. Blake is masterful at only giving you as much information as you need to keep you reading, so you never have a moment of calm knowing. You are always facing the unknown.

I love that she doesn’t over-explain the mythology – I have a feeling that is one of her trademarks – she assumes her readers are smart enough to make the logical leaps about what things mean. I know enough to understand why the plot proceeds the way that it does and to know when things are not going the way they planned. Exposition is used sparingly – it’s all action.  She is also really talented at getting me to feel super righteous anger at jerkfaces. Take that, Will.

At this point, I have basically become smitten with Kendare Blake. I had checked Anna out of the library and less than 24 hours after reading it I had purchased a copy (hardcovers even!) of it and Girl of Nightmares, and put Antigoddess on hold at the library. I’m sunk, y’all.