Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners
by Libba Bray
Read: October 2 - 8, 2013
September 18, 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Source: Library
Category: Historical fiction, Supernatural, Horror, YA

Series: The Diviners book 1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

Confession time

1) I waited over a year from when it was first published, to read The Diviners. My reason for this is that I am a shallow girl who likes HEAs and I've clued into the fact that Libba Bray does not often grant them - at least in the way I want them to happen. I was afraid of investing in a series and being destroyed at the end of it. I'm still slightly fearful of this. But I don't regret reading The Diviners.

2) It took me an entire week to read this book, which may not sound like a big deal, but it's a long time for me. Not only is The Diviners nearly 600 pages long, but it is richly steeped historical fiction, spine tingling horror, as well as a large and complex cast of characters. I loved every minute of it. 

This book made me feel 

Transported to New York City in the 1920s.
The Diviners is incredibly well researched, from the sights and sounds of New York in the mid 1920s to the dialect and popular phrases - giggle juice, cloche hats, bobbed hair, flapper dresses, Ziegfeld follies. All of it was a feast for my senses and brought this story to life.  I am astounded by the amount of careful crafting that went into creating the context for this story. Not only is The Diviners accurate historical fiction, but it also captures the spirit of the roaring twenties. The rush of excitement in this time period, the focus on the spiritual, but also more sober areas of tension and unrest. 

Afraid of what lies in the darkness.
This book freaked me out, which is one reason that it took me so long to get through it. The Diviners is not for the faint of heart. A serial killer is on the loose in New York, enacting strange cult like murders, and no one can find our catch him. Probably because it's clear from the beginning that the killer is already dead. How is that possible? Some of the things that happen are pretty dark, and I could only handle so much of it at a time, before I had to put it down and remember it's just a book. However, this was the perfect spooky story to usher in October - and the perfect review with which to say good by to the month. 

The characters 

Mesmerized me with their complexity
The Diviners has a large cast of characters, and details about them are revealed deliciously slowly. Most of them have yet to be unraveled completely, but I've already fallen for so many of them. I enjoyed finding out the different ways they were connected to each other in the past, speculating how they'll connect in the future, and especially trying to figure out their special talents and secrets. First impressions aren't always reliable, and friends or enemies can be lurking around any corner. I wrote out a detailed list of more than ten characters with the hopes of working them into my review, but then decided that it got to be too much information, and it's more fun to discover them all for yourself, anyway. 

One character demands that I talk about her.

You might say the star of the show is Evie O'Neil, or at least she'd want you to think that. When the book begins, Evie lives in small town Ohio. One night she goes to a party, gets drunk and wants to impress her friends. You see, she has the ability to touch an object that belongs to someone else and read their secrets in it. But the truth she reveals about another person gets her into trouble. As punishment Evie is sent to live with her Uncle Will in New York. To Evie, this is much more of an opportunity than a punishment. Little does she know that everything about her life is about to change. 

If I'm honest, I wasn't the biggest fan of Evie in the beginning of this story. She seemed a little too silly and shallow for my tastes - more interested in herself and having a good time than anything else. But one of my favorite things about this book is how much I fell for her throughout the course of it. Evie doesn't really change tremendously within this book. But I got to know her better, realized that there was much more to this girl and ended up falling for her flaws and all. My impressions of Evie were mirrored by another character in this story, whom I will not name but also fell for. 

Now I can't wait for Lair of Dreams to find out what Bray has in store for us next. I don't doubt it will be brilliant. 

Love Triangle Factor: So hard to rate in a book with this many characters and POVS. But I'll say MILD for now. There's one potential love triangle brewing, though I hope it doesn't turn into anything too strong. I'm also not convinced it will actually be one. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Low

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Dial

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine 
that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to read.

This week I can't wait for:
Dial Books for Young readers 

According to, "In fiction for middle grade and young adult readers, Dial's focus has always been on stylish, genuine, character-driven writing."


I'm really liking that this series is going to be a duet, but I'm hoping this book is not going to turn triangle-y. 

by April Genevieve Tucholke
Published April 14, 2014

The conclusion to Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, this gothic thriller romance with shades of Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier is a must-read for fans of Beautiful Creatures and Anna Dressed in Blood.

Freddie once told me that the Devil created all the fear in the world.
But then, the Devil once told me that it's easier to forgive someone for scaring you than for making you cry.
The problem with River West Redding was that he'd done both to me.

The crooked-smiling liar River West Redding, who drove into Violet's life one summer day and shook her world to pieces, is gone. Violet and Neely, River's other brother, are left to worry—until they catch a two a.m. radio program about strange events in a distant mountain town. They take off in search of River but are always a step behind, finding instead frenzied towns, witch hunts, and a wind-whipped island with the thrum of something strange and dangerous just under the surface. It isn't long before Violet begins to wonder if Neely, the one Redding brother she thought trustworthy, has been hiding a secret of his own . . .


I love this author. I love purple. I love the beach. What's not to like?

by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Published April 15, 2014

From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.

Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

A magnetic, push-me-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.

This book has no description or cover, but it's by the same author who wrote The Sky is Everywhere, so YES!

by Jandy Nelson
Published September 11, 2014

What book are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Belated Recap: 2013 Boston Book Festival

Boston Book Festival 2013

Last weekend (well 2 weekends ago now) I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Boston Book Festival in Copley Plaza. Not only was it a lovely fall day to visit the city, but I got to attend two very different - but surprisingly complimentary - panels, and meet some favorite authors. 

A view of Copley Plaza from the steps of the Boston Public Library. You can see Trinity Church and all of the participants booths. Although, it was fun to explore the tents, the best part of the event for me was the panels. 

I adore the Boston Public Library - fountains, frescoes, statues and one of my favorite places to study.  Festival sessions were held in this building as well as others in the surrounding area. 

The first panel I attended was 

YA: Legends Revisited 

Panel Description: Everything old is new again in the hands of these gifted storytellers. Marissa Meyer gives classic fairy tales a sci-fi makeover in Cinder and ScarletMaggie Stiefvater takes her inspiration from Welsh mythology in The Dream Thieves, the sequel to The Raven BoysNancy Werlin guides readers through the land of Faerie in Unthinkable, the companion to Impossible; and in Ripped, debut novelist Shelly Dickson Carr sends her modern-day heroine back in time—and to a harrowing hunt for Jack the Ripper. Hosted by Robin Brenner, teen librarian at Brookline Public Library.

Authors above L - R: Maggie Stiefvater, Nancy Werlin, Shelly Dickson Carr, Marissa Meyer

I really liked this session's discussion on how these four authors have taken (generally) well known fairytales, myths or themes and turned them into unique tales solely of their own making.

YA: Legends Revisted Panel Recap

Below is a recap of the questions and responses from YA Legends Revisited (or at least what I wrote down.) I tried to be as accurate as possible. Please forgive me if I misrepresented anything. 

Question: What makes a story something that lasts? Why did you choose yours?

Nancy Werlin: Who based her story Impossible on the ballad of Scarborough Fair, wanted to choose a legend that leaves room for questions.

Shelly Dickson Carr: Who wrote about the infamous Jack the Ripper in her story Ripped, loves that her subject is still mysterious, with many lingering questions to explore. 

Marissa Meyer: Whose Lunar Chronicles is science fiction based fairytales, says that she chose fairytales because they are relatable. Cinderella's story is something we all dream about.  

Maggie Stiefvater: Who based her Raven Cycle on Welsh myths, found themes in the original stories that she thinks are relatable to us today. She also puts myth in contemporary setting to make true things truer.

Q: Why did you choose your setting (historical, contemporary, future).

Stiefvater: "I like contemporary settings because in the past there was gruel and now there are cars. I like cars."

Meyer: "Why have cars when you can have spaceships?"

Werlin: Wanted to explore how someone from the 17th century would react to modern freedom for women. 

Q: What did you use to cement your world to make it real /potent for this story?

Meyer: Likes to piece together many different cultures into one. Cinder takes place after World War IV, and the world has been split into 6 nations. Cinder lives in what is now known as China, but in the book it is called the Eastern Commonwealth and features a complete mix of cultures. 

Carr: Looks for the tiny details in her story. Like what did people use for toothpaste in the 19th century? She actually made the concoction and told us it is gross. She likes exploring how sensory details are different in another time period. 

Stiefvater: For The Scorpio Races she actually made butter tea, which was disgusting. When writing, she tries to make things that are true, as real as possible so that she can get away with the bigger details. To do this in The Raven Cycle, she grounds story in Virginia mountains. 

Q: For whom do you write your stories?

Stiefvater: "My books are so self indulgent now." She used to think about audience more, but now just writes for herself and thinks about others when editing. Usually this pertains to how many car related details she can get away with keeping in her story.

Werlin: Also writes for her self, but always tries to think though pacing in details. Like, as much as she might want to spend a few pages describing a ball gown, she knows it would slow down the story too much.

Carr: This is where she had a long discussion on the horrors of evisceration in the Jack the Ripper murders, and how she had to be careful about how graphically she presented the details, when writing for a YA audience. 

Meyer: Always imagined her first book would be fantasy and was surprised to find it's actually scifi. When she started writing the Lunars, they had very fantastical powers, like throwing fireballs. Meyer eventually had to rethink her story and take out those details because they had no basis in science. 

Q: Did your characters come out of setting? How did you come up with them?

Stiefvater: "I cannot write a character unless I've met them in real life. I can paint them and change it later. But not before." She went on to talk about the fact that she couldn't write The Raven Boys earlier in her life because she hadn't met enough people. Stiefvater steals every character always. She's also spent a lot of time "researching" by visiting boys boarding schools to accomplish this. 

**I asked Stiefvater to clarify this point when I talked to her at the signing. She said that all characters she writes exist in the world - looks AND personality wise. Kavinsky and Cole St. Clair. too. But, looks and personality of her characters don't always match up with the real people. Once she meets them, she will mix and match. 

Meyer: "Characters, when lucky, pop in my head." She doesn't take from others. For Cinder, Meyer had a dream and when she woke up, she knew that Cinder was a cyborg and second class citizen. Cinder sprung fully formed, but some characters take a few drafts to get to know. 

Carr: Sometimes characters change from what you originally intended of them. Bad guys become good, and it comes out thru writing. 

Werlin: This is where she told us how her publisher didn't like a character once, and Werlin turned the person into a cat. It worked much better for the story. 

Q: On the process of writing. Editors? Go to experts? What do you count on the most?

Meyer: Has 3 beta readers that she found thru writing Sailor Moon fan fiction. She trusts their perspective, and they always read her drafts before she sends them to formal editors. 

Carr: Strongly encouraged the audience to find a writers' group. But she also thinks you should also have a reader on hand who will think everything you write is wonderful. Her husband thinks everything she write is great (though she realizes it's not true). 

Werlin: Has several layers of groups of readers that she trusts. But her general philosophy is that, if ONE person doesn't like something, Werlin might be right. But if TWO don't agree with something, Werlin is wrong. BUT Werlin completely retains the right to change a story how she sees fit - i.e. she doesn't automatically take the readers' suggestion as valid. This is where the cat story came up again. Her editor wanted the character removed, Werlin decided the character would work best as a cat. Everyone lived happily ever after. 

Stiefvater: When she started writing, she had a lot of writers groups and didn't agree with anything they said. But when her editor gave the right kind of critiques, she realized that her writers' groups were just wrong for her. She looked hard to find critique partners who read and write similarly. If you are looking for writing partners, check Stiefvater's website, as she has a link for that. 

Werlin: Has used the same editor for many years - longer than most of us were alive, or at least reading YA. When Werlin submits pages for books, the editor sends back a 6 paged single spaced letter back that Werlin takes very seriously. 

Stiefvater: Could not believe that Werlin's editor NEVER includes curse words in her responses. Stiefvater's editor is David Levithan.

Q: What was your favorite myth and fairy tale when younger? Has it changed as an adult?

Stiefvater: Katharine Mary Briggs, Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures. Basically, everything you could know about fairy tales. That's also where she first read about cannibalistic water horses. That info did not leave her and she wrote about it in The Scorpio Races

Werlin: Andersen's Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Szyk. The most fascinating and horrifying was The Girl who trod on the loaf.

Carr: Always liked the macabre, especially The Little Match Girl and the story of the unicorn (where only a virgin can catch the unicorn that is eventually killed). 

Meyer: Used to love Sleeping Beauty. But then in college she took a class on the symbolism for fairy tales, where she was told that the story of Sleeping Beauty is symbolism for sexual maturity. It was rather disconcerting and she never saw the story the same way after that.

Q: Will there be a sequel or a movie for The Scorpio Races

Stiefvater: NO to a sequel. The movie rights have been purchased, but movie creation is a long process, and nothing is certain until it's in theaters.

Q: What is your opinion of nanowrimo? (National Novel Writing Month in November)

This question was specifically asked by the audience to Maggie and Marissa. 

Meyer: Supports NaNo. She thinks it's a great way to encourage deadlines and springboard writing. She's participated many years and will be again this year, when she'll be writing a prequel novella about Queen Levana. Meyer will also be hosting a contest for your own writing. Check her website for details. 

Stiefvater: Basically, doesn't support it, because she thinks that you should not need a month to start writing, or create deadlines for yourself. It should be something that you're doing all the time Stiefvater is a regimented writer all year round. 

Random statements by participants, that I can't remember where they fit in the discussion. 

Stiefvater: "I used to be an equestrian portrait artist."

Carr: Was once told by Kate DiCamillo, "you have to want a character more than sleep." If you find a character like that, than you know you're on the right track. DiCamillo also tries to write 2 pages a day, and Carr shoots for that as well. 

Stiefvater: When she writes, she asks herself "what kind of book do I want to live with for the next year?" When she began Mercy Falls, Stiefvater had just read The Time Traveler's Wife. Cried buckets at the end of that book and wanted to recreate the same feeling with her story. 
The YA panel, Legends Revisited took place in the Boston Public Library Abby, a gorgeous room. But it was too small for size of the crowd, which lined the walls. The signing line was also enormous. YAY for many people reading Young Adult books!!


There were a few other YA panels, but I did not attend them. Instead I went to a session featuring two innovative artists. 

The second panel I attended was

Art and Technology

This panel featured two artists, Clifford Ross and Abelardo Morrell, who use technology in their work. What I loved best about these artists and this panel, is how they've both used photographs as the basis of their art, creating something new and visionary in the process.  Both Mr. Ross and Mr. Morrell use photographs of the world around them to make creations all their own. Sort of like the authors above have all chosen known myths/stories/legends as the basis of their own stories. To me, these two sessions connected very well to each other. 


Federal Courthouse, Austin, Texas 

Cliff Ross talked about the stained glass wall he created for the Austin, Texas Courthouse. He used a photograph taken in Texas Hill Country as the basis for the design. Working with a company in Munich, he combined stained glass techniques that have been around for centuries, with 21st century digital technology. 


Abe Morell is well known for his use of the camera obscura, and has designed a tent that - using periscope type optics - makes it possible to project a view of a nearby landscape onto the ground under the tent. Then he uses a camera inside the tent to record what he sees. Above, you can see a photograph of the tent camera. Below are two Tent-Camera images. One is an image projected on the desert floor, the other on a rooftop in NYC.  

Note: All but the bottom four images were taken by me. The artwork discussed by Clifford Ross and Abe Morell is owned by them, and pulled from their websites. The links below each image will take you to the source. Please visit them for more images and information on these artists and their work. 

Only a few more days left to enter my SPOOKTACULAR GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a book of your choice worth up to $15 (US + INT)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

by Veronica Roth
Read: October 23 - 24, 2013
October 22, 2013 by Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins) 
Source: Copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Category: Dystopian

Series: Divergent book 3
Find: Goodreads | Amazon

One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

NOTE: I don't directly mention any major spoilers below, but it is easy to infer some things from my reaction to the book, so please be cautious if you've yet to read Allegiant

1) Allegiant has some really beautiful language in it. I think the writing is stronger than it was in the first two in the series, or at least this one felt the most planned out. Lovely, poignant thoughts on forgiveness, grief, love, sacrifice, bravery. Especially as Tris and Four reflect on themselves, each other and different characters in this book. This story more than the others is thoughtful and poetic, and I can tell that Roth had a lot of things she wanted to say. Still, it doesn't quite retain the fire that was present in Divergent

2) This story was not a particularly fast read, especially in the first half. There was a lot of time spent explaining the broader context for this world and tying up loose plot details from the first two novels. The second half is more action oriented, and focused on a direction/problem. I appreciate that Roth took time to close up plot holes, though it did make the series feel much more information focused at the end, and the final book not as quickly paced.

3) This book made me realize that I'm weary of dystopians. Government secrets, everyone trying to control or subvert everyone else. Resistance movements. Revolutions. High body counts. Dystopian trilogies are starting to feel like an endless cycle of the same thing to me. Basically, there is no perfect world, and trying to fix it by controlling people in some way just makes everything worse. The further I got into this series, the more the dystopian sameness was revealed. 

4) In many ways I think this book belongs to Four even more than Tris. For one he shares the narration with her so we finally get inside of his head. Four is even more introverted than Tris, and we learn a lot about him here - his obsessions, fears, insecurities and strengths. 
Although Tris has matured throughout this series, the major growth in this story arc belongs to Four. 

5) I know people have complained that Four seems different in this book. I'm not an expert on this series - or on Four, whom I know is beloved by many, but I'm not convinced that's the case. Or at least, I think it is impossible to get the full picture of him without being inside of his head. Like Tris, he presents a hard front, and internally thinks a lot that he doesn't share. But, I can understand frustration with some of his choices, as if he and Tris were rehashing what they'd gone through already in the previous book. 

6) Sometimes I had to really pay attention to tell whose voice I was reading. Even though Tris and Four’s reactions to situations are often different, their tone is very similar. Still, I do like that we got both their perspectives, and I loved seeing how well they truly saw and understood each other, as well as complimented and supported the other. I liked seeing Tris through Four’s eyes and vice versa.  

7) I had some trouble conceptualizing and understanding all of the “science” presented in this book. I’m also not sure I could ever really see the differences between Divergent and non-Divergent people, beyond how Divergent people react to simulations. I guess that’s the point, though someone remarks in this book that one particular person displays some Divergent characteristics and not others. I don’t think I could ever see that. 

That said I really like the discussion in this book about how responsible people are for their actions when they're genetically predisposed to act certain ways. Does it give them an excuse for their behavior? 

8) My emotional reaction to how a series ends affects my overall feelings of it, almost more than anything else. In hindsight the conclusion of Allegiant is not all that surprising, and I get it. Roth made the point she was pushing in this book. But it is not at all what I wanted, and still it didn't make me happy. That is important to me, as petty as it sounds. Roth said in an interview that she hoped that readers would find the end of this book satisfying. I can't say that was the case for me. But I think that's a very subjective thing for a reader, and Roth was effective in her choices at least.

9) Although I hate spoilers being broadcast all over, I’m actually glad that I got wind that this book might end differently than I hoped, because I was able to prepare myself for it. However, I’m also glad that I didn’t just pass this book by when I found out that it might not be what I wanted. Still I will be very careful about whether I recommend it to anyone else, and I know I won’t be able to handle re-reading it again. 

10) I could have done without the epilogue. I do appreciate  that we got to know the result of these characters' actions, but emotionally it was too much for me to handle at the time that I read it. Perhaps I'll feel differently with time. 

If you want to see the spoiler things I had to say about this book, look at my review of the book on Goodreads

If you're interested in what author Veronica Roth has to say about her ending, including spoilers, see her MTV interview, HERE.

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Series conclusion

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