A Favourite Exc…

BLOOD-STARLIGHt

“As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance things will get better.”

“Or worse,” said Liraz.

“Yes,” he conceded. “Usually worse.”

Hazael cut in. “My sister, Sunshine, and my brother, Light. You two should rally the ranks. You’ll have us killing ourselves by morning.”

– Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor

***66 days until Dreams of Gods & Monsters!***

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Harry and Hermione?!

Harry and Hermione?!

So J.K. Rowling’s apparently acknowledged what I’ve been saying for years – Harry and Hermione were the better match.  And yeah, yeah, yeah opposites attract and whatever. I’m sorry the chemistry was always better between Harry and Hermione. And now Ms. Rowling has finally validated my thoughts! VINDICATION!

I know I care way too much about this. But watch the scene below and then tell me I’m wrong.

The Spectacular Now – Film Review

“Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of the middle of my own spectacular now”

“Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of the middle of my own spectacular now”

The Story
Based on the book by Tim Tharp and starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley The Spectacular Now tells the story of lovable yet hopeless teenage lush Sutter Keely who would rather live in the now than deal with the future. After being dumped by his girlfriend Sutter befriends the timid Aimee Finecky (Woodley), as their relationship develops both Sutter and Aimee find themselves navigating a relationship neither was expecting.

The Review
A Sundance darling, this little indie film will blow your mind with its sheer perfection of the quintessential teen coming of age story. Book to film adaptations are sticky territory, book people can be, well, crazy…possessive…obsessive and are always ready to tear an adaptation apart. Navigating the thin line between artistic creativity and fan pleasing can’t be easy, but in the case of The Spectacular Now, director James Ponsoldt and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (the writers behind 500 Days of Summer and the highly anticipated adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars) totally deliver.

Myles Teller as Sutter Keely
Teller’s Sutter Keely is part Ferris Bueller/part Lucas (from Empire Records) and one hundred percent the Sutter Keely you can’t help but love from the book. As in the book the film version of Sutter maintains all of the depth, charm and vulnerability that make him such a great, full character. Teller’s portrayal is executed with the perfect amount of bravado and feigned immaturity necessary to make the peeling back of Sutter’s many layers that much more potent, especially when the powerless, sad, scared and angry boy is finally revealed. Something of Teller’s performance continually brings to mind James Dean in East of Eden (perhaps slightly less dramatic.) His impotence and fear, hidden behind his cup of whiskey are all the more compelling when you realize how high the stakes become (specifically as his “non-relationship with Aimee matures.)

On a purely superficial note I think when I read the book I imagined Sutter as being unbelievably good looking – now I’m not saying Teller’s a dogface or anything because he’s not – it’s just in my head part of why Sutter could get away with a lot of his behaviour was because he was so good looking people kind of just overlooked his epic failing at life. Obviously this is something I may have projected onto the character myself and therefore has no bearing on Miles Teller’s portrayal. And in fact I really liked Teller as Sutter. He had the perfect mixture of bravado and sheepishness that embodies Sutter. He’s a good ol’ boy, always shaking everything off – I would think that it’s incredibly difficult to portray indifference or ignorance and Teller does it perfectly. Most importantly he’s likeable. The movie would not have worked if you hated Sutter and Myles Teller has so much charisma it would be impossible to hate him in this role.

Shailene Woodley – the face of YA film adaptations
Having not always been the most enthusiastic when it comes to Shailene Woodley (I can’t say I was overly excited when I heard she was cast as Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars) and I won’t lie, this is mostly because I can’t separate her from that God awful Secret Life of the American Teenager show (Oh Molly Ringwald, how could you stoop so low?) It’s quite possible that The Spectacular Now has changed my mind about her because she was quite possibly the best manifestation of Aimee Finecky I could imagine.

Amy’s not a nerd. She’s quiet and a little bashful, but she’s not a nerd. Her mother’s put so much on her that in a lot of ways she doesn’t have time to be a teenager. Which is why she jumps at Sutter’s taking such an active interest her. Also she’s a pleaser – hence the boozin’ and schmoozin’. Woodley picks up on these attributes and exemplifies them beautifully. She’s equal parts charming, goofy and heartbreaking. And even though this is Sutter’s show you can’t help but root for Amy. That comes down to great writing and great acting. Woodley delivers on her end for  sure.

Direction and Writing
Like the book it’s based on the film version is wonderfully written, sharp, witty, charming (there’s that word again) and completely relatable. There’s a freshness to this film. The story feels real, honest and earnest without being saccharine. This should excite a lot of people because as I’ve already stated writers Weber and Neustadter wrote the screenplay for The Fault in Our Stars. Okay? Okay.

*SPOILER*
My only gripe with this film (and this is saying  a lot, usually I find myself fighting the urge to eviscerate film adaptations of books, especially those of books I love, and if you’ve been following my blog then you know I love TSN (hmm, that acronym can definitely be misconstrued – I love The Spectacular Now. I’m fairly indifferent to The Sports Network.) I digress. My issue with the film, and it’s a doozy, is that they changed the ending. THEY CHANGED THE FREAKING ENDING. I’m sorry but that’s just sacrilege. Part of what makes the book so good is the ending.

The point was that in the end Sutter really is an addict. He’s an alcoholic, though he wants to change in the end living in the now is more advantageous because he doesn’t have to face the future. He doesn’t have to grow up. He can live in his own spectacular now. Not run off to whatever school Aimee decided to go to and try and make things work. That’s not who Sutter is!

Despite this obvious desecration of one of the best endings in a YA book ever, this movie is wonderful. If anything The Spectacular Now sets the bar pretty high for the new generation of teen films. What Ferris Bueller was to the ’80s, Rushmore was to the ’90s and Mean Girls was to the ’00s The Spectacular Now will be to the ’10s. Despite one minor (MAJOR) change, this is one of those rare movies that manages to elevate the original text – which was amazing to begin with – and bring something new, something more to the story. Really stop reading this review and just go watch it.

Check out the trailer below.

A Favourite Exchange

E&P

“Nothing before you counts,” he said. “And I can’t even imagine an after.”

She shook her head. “Don’t.”

“What?”

“Don’t talk about after.”

“I just meant that… I want to be the last person who ever kisses you, too…. That sounds bad, like a death threat or something. What I’m trying to say is, you’re it. This is it for me.”

– Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

maradyer

“If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them. If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want to make you mine in each one.”

Author: Michelle Hodkins
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: September 27, 2011
Number of Pages: 466
Series: The Mara Dyer Trilogy, book #1

What’s It About?
Mara Dyer wakes up in a hospital bed only to learn that she is the only survivor of a building collapse that claimed the lives of her best friend, her boyfriend and his sister. Wracked with survivors guilt and suffering from major PTSD Mara and her family moved to Florida to start over. Only Mara can’t. In a fragile emotional state Mara constantly has visions of her dead ex-boyfriend and his sister, terrible nightmares and hallucinations. It’s not until she meets Noah Shaw that she begins to suspect she may not be quite as normal as she once believed.

***Spoilers abound beware***

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is one of those books that has a great beginning. It opens with a confession – Mara Dyer (our heroines assumed name) is a murderer. How and why is yet to be determined. Mostly because Mara herself doesn’t know these answers. But she’s on a mission to find out. The set up is perfectly executed. From the very first page you’re hooked – you need to know the circumstances, you need to know Mara’s secrets. Author Michelle Hodkin starts the suspense high and manages to maintain it throughout.

How she does this though is both invigorating and frustrating as all hell because Mara Dyer you will soon discover is not the most reliable narrator. The fact is she’s suffering from PTSD, brought on by the major bought of survivors guilt she’s suffering from. A guilt that’s so encompassing it has her seeing things that aren’t there, suffering from nightmares and all around going loopy. To help assuage her precarious emotional state Mara’s parents decide a change of scenery may help and so the family up and moves to Miami, Florida.

The move however does nothing to help Mara, in fact it only seems to aggravate her precarious situation because soon she finds herself seeing her dead boyfriend all over the place. Stressed, depressed and convinced she’s totally lost the plot Mara’s life is in a seemingly endless downward spiral.

That is until she meets Noah Shaw – of course as YA trilogy’s dictate he’s beautiful, a real dream boat, wanted by every girl in the school. He’s smart and has a cute British accent to boot. He’s also apparently the school man-whore.

Now it just so happens that I’m a sucker for a well-written male love interest (I mean I’m not opposed to a female love interest but since that’s not the case in this book we need not discuss this further.) And Noah Shaw easily captures your “aw shucks” gene and refuses to let go. From the beginning the chemistry between Mara and Noah is intense, clever, witty and everything you kind of want. As Mara and Noah’s relationship develops – in, despite all of the crazy surrounding Mara, a relatively normal way. Noah pursues Mara, and eventually wins her over by protecting her from an incredibly awful high school mean girl.

This is all set up though, apart from showing the strength of the connection between the two characters, and revealing Noah’s true nature (mainly that he’s nothing at all like everyone says) it has little to do with the real story at hand. But it does set up what will no doubt become an incredibly heart-pounding and intense love story.

The real story develops slowly, with an increasing sense of urgency and creepiness. Weird things are afoot in the life of Mara Dyer – she keeps seeing her dead ex-boyfriend, objects in her room move around, and her father just so happens to be the lawyer for a wealthy man accused of brutally murdering a young girl.

As the story progresses more is revealed about that fateful night that Mara’s life changed. Hodkin uses dreams as her medium for major revelations, and because of this fact you can never be sure if Mara’s dreams/visions are true or if her mind is trying to come to terms with a terrible accident. Mara becomes convinced that she is the cause of the building collapse, that she somehow has the ability to kill people with her thoughts and is therefore a danger to everyone around her.

But as the reader you can never really be sure if what Mara believes is true or not, and Noah is no help in this matter. He’s indulgent to the point of detriment. Quite honestly you begin to question his sanity too.

But this is the brilliance of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Hodkin keeps you guessing. Right until the end you can never be sure if you should believe Mara or Noah. What is reality and what is not flips back and forth, it’ll have you pulling out your hair and screaming “WHY? WHYYYYYYYY?!” But in the best way possible.

Add to this a great antagonist in Mara’s ex-possibly still alive, but probably not because a building totally collapsed on him-boyfriend Jude. Whether he’s real or simply a figment of her imagination he will give you the willies. Something about the brief flashback’s that allude to Jude, the small moments when he pops up in everyday life or when Mara suspects his existence tell you he’s an absolute skeeze. He is skin crawlingly demonic, and not knowing whether or not he’s there or not at times has you looking over your shoulder as you read. There’s nothing more delightful than a well written, creepy, scary, sociopathic foe. And in Jude you get one.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is the first book in the Mara Dyer trilogy. Author Michelle Hodkin sets up a story full of proverbial twists and turns, with a main character who’s fragility is equalled only by her thirst for the truth. Add to that a swoon-worthy love interest and the most unreliable narration you could possibly imagine, Mara Dyer is as frustrating as it is thrilling, and comes highly recommended.

Book Review: World After (Penryn and the End of Days #2)

world after

“It’s amazing how many times we need to go against our survival instincts to survive.”

Author: Susan Ee
Publisher: Susan Ee (Skyscape)
Date Published: November 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 320
Series: Penryn and the End of Days, #2

After managing to survive the initial onslaught of the Angel apocalypse through an unlikely alliance with the enemy, Penryn finds herself, along with other survivors trying to salvage some semblance of a normal life camped out with the resistance a group of civilians set on taking down the Angelic invaders. When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige thinking she is a monster the spectacle leads the newly created scorpion/locusts hybrids to the survivors. In the ensuing chaos Paige escapes, leaving Penryn and her schizophrenic mother searching the streets of San Francisco to find her.

Meanwhile Archangel Raffe (Raphael) believing Penryn dead continues to search for the fallen Angel Beliel in order to seek vengeance and get back his wings. As the story unfolds Penryn makes some shocking discoveries about the Angel’s plans and privately longs to reunite with Raffe.

World After the second book in the Penryn and the End of Days series proves that Susan Ee is most definitely not suffering from the sophomore slump. This is one of the best follow ups to a great first novel I’ve read in a long time.

Picking up right where the first book left off, World After doesn’t feel like a sequel because it flows so seamlessly – Penryn’s story is so perfectly laid out, Ee ensures you remember how the first book panned out without rehashing everything.  Even better is that this series truly sets itself apart from the other major female led, dystopian/apocalypse/fantasy series out there  and that comes down to Penryn.

Penryn puts other major female heroines (Katniss, Tris, etc) to shame she’s neither so tough and self-righteous that you can’t identify with her, nor does she complain about her current lot in life. She is unapologetic for the things she’s forced to do to survive as she navigates this new, apocalyptic, angel run world. Penryn’s sense of self-preservation knows no bounds – she will do whatever it takes to protect her little sister and her mother. She is a perfect mixture of vulnerability and steeliness.

In the first book Angelfall a big part of the story revolved around the relationship between Penryn and angel Raffe. In World After Archangel Raffe doesn’t make a proper appearance until more than halfway through the book. A great choice on Ee’s part – this is Penryn’s story and though Raffe is a great character (I mean he is particularly swoon worthy) she’s not allowing him to become Penryn’s sole purpose for survival, nor is she allowing her to become dependent on him, either physically or emotionally.

That being said I found myself waiting with bated breath for their reunion – Raffe despite his incredible piety and status as an Archangel is slowly but surely developing a great sense of humanity, his interactions with Penryn, their connection and the feelings he has for her that he never truly acknowledges nor denies only makes him more accessible and real as a character.

Though it’s obvious Penryn and Raffe have feelings for each other (I mean holy chemistry Batman!) Penryn never allows herself to become so wrapped up in Raffe that she forgets what she needs to do or what she’s capable of. Part of what makes their relationship so great is that despite Raffe’s otherworldliness he treats Penryn as an equal – because he knows she’s got his back. I love that when Ee creates these intense moments between Penryn and Raffe – with all this unspoken subtext Penryn always finds a way to remind herself of what’s important – survival and protecting her sister. She gets these great moments of being a teenage girl but never dwells because she knows at the moment there’s more important things to deal with.

Ee creates a broad range of interesting and unique characters, deeply entrenched in the realism of the world she’s created. Through Penryn’s little sister, Paige who despite being “Frankensteined” maintains her sweetness and love for her sister while dealing with her newly developed savagery, their mother who in her paranoid schizophrenic state demonstrates more clarity and know how than those of sound mine, and the members of the resistance exhibit both the good and bad of human behaviour this new, dark, and cold world takes shape.

Ee weaves numerous stories into the fabric of Penryn’s overall tale – the resistance, her mother’s struggle with mental illness and Paige’s struggle with her new form only enrich the story. The Angels and their fight to be messenger – the mixture of power, politics and heavenly bodies heightens the drama and adds a sense of urgency to the fight. *Slight spoiler* the creation of the locusts to act as a sign of the apocalypse to help push for the angels agenda and dominate the world is a really great, unexpected twist.

Ee’s appropriation of Christian angelic hierarchy and the new elements she’s created (the warrior’s connection to their sword, the lightness of angels despite their power, their regenerative powers) adds to the angelic folklore we already know.

Ee is a great storyteller, she’s creating a world that readers can identify with and get lost in, with strong characters – and particularly a great lead it’s no wonder she’s become a self-publishing phenomenon. Also, little side note here, the book covers for both Angelfall and World After are amazing – dark, dangerous and beautiful they offer a perfect, wordless explanation of what to expect when picking up these books.

Susan Ee’s Penryn and the End of Days series is shaping up to be a great addition to the YA fantasy/dystopian canon – it’s a fascinating story with the right amount of edge, fantasy and romance. I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Magnus Bane Quotes

10. “I was alive when the Dead Sea was just a lake that was feeling a little poorly.”
City of Ashes  partybane

9. “Pointless, needless suffering and pain? I don’t suppose it would help if I told you that was the way life is. The good suffer, the evil flourish, and all that is mortal passes away.”
Clockwork Princess

8. “She wasn’t very pleasant the last time I saw her. Of course, that could be because I’ve got an eighteen year-old boyfriend with a stamina rune and she doesn’t.”
City of Lost Souls

7. “Let me say to you what I said once, in an entirely different context to Catherine the Great,” Magnus declared. “My dear lady, you cannot afford me, and also, please leave that horse alone. Good night.”
The Midnight Heir

I found this online - let's just bask in the amazingness of fan art.

I found this online – let’s just bask in the amazingness of fan art.

6. “Raziel’s sixty feet tall?”
“Actually, he’s only fifty-nine feet tall, but he likes to exaggerate,” said Magnus.
Isabelle clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Valentine raised an angel in his cellar. I don’t see why you need all this space—”
“Because Valentine is just WAY MORE AWESOME than me.”
City of Lost Souls

5. “Every teenager in the world feels like that, feels broken or out of place, different somehow, royalty mistakenly born into a family of peasants. The difference in your case is that it’s true.”
City of Bones

4. “Nerd love. It’s a beautiful thing, while also being an object of mockery and hilarity for those of us who are more sophisticated.”
City of Lost Souls

3. “It is always better to live the truth than to live a lie. And that lie would have kept him alone forever. He may have had nearly nothing for 5 years, but now he can have everything. A boy who looks like that…”
Clockwork Prince

2. “One can give up many things for love, but one should not give up oneself.”
Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale

HotelDumort

1. “How can you not care?”
“Practice,” Magnus said, looking back to his      book and turning the page.
– Rise of the Hotel Dumort

Year End Review

As 2013 comes to an end I wanted to look back on the books I’ve blogged about this (my first year of book blogging!) year. This was a year of great highs (The Silent Wife –  If you’re in the mood for something not YA this is the book to read. It’s amazing.) And some major lows (Beautiful Creatures) and some disappointments (*cough Allegiant cough*.) But all in all it was a great year of reading. Here’s to 2014 and the all the new literary gems to be discovered!

What was great

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell EleanorPark_thumb
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

In my opinion, Eleanor & Park is one of the best YA novels of 2013. Perceptive, funny, sophisticated and touching, Rainbow Rowell’s charming misfit lovebirds melt your heart and make you yearn for the excitement and turmoil of first love.

Clockwork Princess, Cassandra Clare CP2_cover
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The finale to Cassandra Clare’s prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices, has been a bit polarizing amongst fans of the series. Personally I loved it. And that’s saying something because I wasn’t overly keen on the first two books. I didn’t mind them, I absolutely loved the steam punk elements and the Victorian England setting, but this last book had me finally falling in love with Tessa, Will and Jem. I truly loved the way Clare ended this story. I thought it was strikingly heartfelt and absolutely moving. Plus *spoiler alert* that whole thing with Tessa morphing into a giant angel was super cool.

World After, (Penryn and the End of Days #2), Susan Ee WorldAfter
Publisher: Skyscape

I have yet to finish my review of this book but I needed to put it on the list. Susan Ee is a bit of a phenomenon – having self published the first book in this series (Angelfall – awesome) only to see it become a massive success. This is her follow up and it lives up to the hype. Plus Penryn kind of puts to shame other major heroines (Katniss, Tris etc.) she doesn’t complain, she just gets on with it. Her sense of self preservation knows no bounds. Love it.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand, Gregory Galloway adamstrand
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin Group)

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is one of those little gems you weren’t looking for but have the good fortune to simply happen upon. After reading a review from the A.V. Club I knew I had to read it. Existential is the best way to describe Galloway’s novel. Adam Strand is so frustrated with life, so overwhelmed with  boredom he kills himself. Over and over again. As his frustration grows at his inability to make death stick Adam takes us on a journey through the mind of an insightful, self-absorbed, too smart for his own good teenager. Macabre, witty and shrewd The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand has to be the most unsung YA novel of 2013.

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp
Publisher: Knopf Books

Okay it wasn’t a new release but who cares? This book is amazing. Incidentally so is the movie – except for the ending. Don’t get me started on the ending. Regardless this is a book I highly recommend. Tharp’s Sutter Keely has to be the most likeable teenage-alcoholic-ne’er do well in literary history. The best part of The Spectacular Now? The ending. Which I won’t spoil, you should go read it. Like now.

Days-of-Blood-and-Starlight-HBDays of Blood and Starlight, (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy), Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown

I’m in love with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy. In Love. Like hardcore. Obsessed? Probably. But definitely in love. I couldn’t wait for this book and when it finally came out I devoured it – twice, back to back. Taylor’s poetic prose coupled with her knack for creating characters you can’t help but fall in love with (or hate with the passion of a thousand fiery suns – I’m looking at you Thiago) makes this series more than worthwhile. Plus the blistering, heart-breaking and overwhelmingly quiet burning passion between main characters Karou and Akiva is kind of everything.

What was meh

Allegiant, Divergent Trilogy, Veronica Roth Allegiant2
Publisher: HarperCollins

Possibly the biggest disappointment of the year, the last book in Veronica Roth’s thrilling Divergent trilogy came in with a bang and left with an astounding fizzle. I don’t despise this last book. But I can’t deny feeling a little shafted. It’s not the choices Roth made that bother me, those I respect. It’s how bloated, convoluted and downright ridiculous aspects of the book were. There was just too much going on, story lines were stretched so thin there was no authenticity anywhere. And for the first time in the series I found myself not caring about Tris and Four. And really – there’s no way Tris would have left her gun behind. Never.

13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher ThirteenReasonsWhy
Publisher: Razor Bill

I know – I know, a lot of people really love this book. And I respect that. I really loved the overall concept, I found the way the touchy subject of suicide is discussed was done in a sensitive and appropriate manner. I also couldn’t help but feel 12 of Hannah Baker’s 13 reason’s for ending her life were a bit superficial. And quite frankly, there’s really no reason that’s truly acceptable.

Dead Ever After, Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Penguin

Ugh.

“Do you sometimes wish you could fast-forward a week? You know something bad’s coming up, and you know you’ll get through it, but the prospect just makes you feel sick?” Yes. This book.

To truly understand my complete and utter disdain for this book is nearly impossible unless you’ve read it yourself. Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries was never going to be one of the great literary feats of the 21 Century but when it began it was enjoyable entertainment. Sookie Stackhouse was a great, kooky, feisty and likeable heroine. Throw in some otherworldly-ness, smokin’ hot vampire love triangles and loads of shenanigans in small town Louisiana, this series was pleasantly thoughtless entertainment. But as the series progressed it became ridiculous and laborious. By the time the final instalment rolled around in the form of Dead Ever After I was reading the books out of sheer spite (and with some minor hope that they might redeem themselves in this final outing. Alas it was not to be so.)  Dead Ever After was the worst of the thirteen book series. THE WORST. And that’s saying something. Silly, boring, predictable and with the lamest copout ever it’s quite possible Harris herself had lost all interest in Sookie’s adventures in Bon Temps.

What I can’t wait for in 2014

Avalon, Mindee Arnett Avalon
Publisher: HarperCollins
On Sale: January 21, 2014

Science Fiction doesn’t get nearly the amount of respect it deserves. I’m hoping with the release of Mindee Arnett’s Avalon that might change. First described to me as Firefly but with teenagers this is the story of Jeth Seagrave and the group of teenage mercenaries he leads who travel the numerous star systems stealing metatech. Despite being a topnotch thief all Jeth cares about is earning enough money to buy back his family’s ship from his lethal boss and getting his younger sister Lizzie away from a life of crime.

Interstellar space travel, teenage mercenaries, criminal masterminds and mind control are just a few of the many elements that make up Avalon.

Dreams of Gods and MonstersLaini Taylor GodMonsters
Publisher: Little, Brown
On Sale: April 8, 2014

So we’re back to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. This is the third and final instalment in the series and naturally as someone with an unhealthy obsession I’m obviously counting down the days (101!). Taylor’s Karou is one of the best female heroines out there, tough, witty, resourceful and vulnerable she’s a class act.

CityHeavenCity of Heavenly Fire, Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
On Sale: May 27, 2014

I love the Shadowhunter world Cassandra Clare has created. It’s inventive and fresh, and really how could you not love a world where the fabulous Magnus Bane resides? This is yet another series finale, this time for Clary Fray and the shadowhunters of the New York Institute. With (dreamy) Jace filled (literally) with heavenly fire and the sociopathic demon-angel hybrid Sebastian on the loose creating evil nephilim this is bound to be one doozy of a closer.

(Don’t You) Forget About Me, Kate Karyus Quinn
Publisher: Harper Teen Forget About Me
On Sale: June 14, 2014

Okay truth be told I’ve already read this, but it’s on my list because I want others to know how good it is. Kate Kurys Quinn weaves an intriguing, spellbinding tale of two sisters with extraordinary powers living in an extraordinary town filled with secrets. This is a story that’s both haunting and magical, unexpected and refreshing. It’s also so tightly wound that unravelling the many secrets within the books pages is a truly thrilling experience.

Despite having read and blogged about all four of John Green’s books I’ve left them off this list because let’s face it if I put in one I’d have to put in all of them. Much like the rest of the world I’m a little in love with Green. The Fault in Our Stars has become one of my all time favourite books and there are times when I wonder how any of us every lived without the witticisms and philosophical insight of Augustus Waters.

Early in the new year expect reviews for World AfterUntil YouThe Rosie Project and Hemlock.

Book Review: The DUFF

Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Little, Brown
Date Published: September 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 280duff

Bianca Piper has no time for high school relationships – as far as she’s concerned love takes at least five years to properly develop. Cynical, sarcastic and too smart for her own good Bianca’s world is turned upside down when the school’s big time player Wesley Rush reveals her status as “the DUFF” (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) within her group of friends. Offended, hurt and already stressed by her parents crumbling marriage and the return of guy who broke her heart, Bianca finds herself drawn to Wesley and his ability to make her forget (if only for a little while) all her problems.

What initially caught my attention with this book was the title, The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend – it’s pretty funny and clever. That being said I didn’t really know what to expect from the story.

First – the DUFF’s lead Bianca is a bit of a breath of fresh air – she’s cynical, jaded, sarcastic and is (generally) more concerned with her own intelligence than how good she looks. This is not a story about a girl who’s nerdy and through a series of events/adventures grows into a beautiful swan. This is a story about a 16-year-old with major trust issues, who prides herself on her own intelligence and capabilities – which ultimately leads to friction when she becomes determined to deal with some big issues on her own rather than allow herself to depend on friends. In doing so Bianca becomes overwhelmed and turns to the schools resident man-whore Wesley Rush to help her forget her problems.

In a weird way this story is kind of like an unrefined version of Eleanor & Park, or rather it falls along the same lines in that it’s main characters are smart, funny, kids each dealing with their own familial and emotional turmoil. Despite appearing to not care at all about what people think about them both Bianca and Wesley are far more vulnerable and sensitive then they let on. What’s moving about the story is how (slowly and unwittingly) they let down their guards for each other – their relationship develops in a backwards yet organic way. What starts off as a relationship of convenience for Bianca – a means of escape from the collapse of her parents marriage, the return of the guy who broke her heart and Wesley himself opening her eyes to her role as “the D.U.F.F” – develops into so much more as she allows herself to trust Wesley.

At times it’s easy to roll your eyes at the stories obvious trajectory – there’s no surprise here about how the story unfolds, it’s pretty stock. But the two main characters are interesting, more insightful than expected and show a vulnerability that helps give some weight (but not enough) to the story.

It’s strange to think that a character like Bianca could have such low self-esteem but obviously her willingness to engage in a relationship based only on sex with the guy who told her she’s the ugly one amongst her friends suggests she does. A fact that unfortunately is never really addressed in the story. That being said the best moments in the book are those between Bianca and Wesley, mostly because their verbal sparring is full of witty humour, but also the development of their relationship, and that Bianca doesn’t recognize her own feelings reflected in Wesley is written in such a way that it deflects the stories arc in a good way. This unwillingness on Bianca’s part to believe someone like Wesley could reciprocate her feelings helps lead in to Bianca ending things with Wesley (because she’s afraid of being hurt, especially by someone she figures is incapable of caring about anyone) and moving on to a relationship with her longtime crush Toby Tucker.

The secondary relationship with Toby is no doubt necessary to help highlight how much of a better match Wesley is (and also a subtle way of noting that what you want and what you need are usually two very different things.) That being said Toby is so lame. I couldn’t help but find it strange that Bianca – who’s so tough and knows herself so well would like such a do-gooder.

The circumstances that lead to Bianca and Wesley’s relationship are issues that for many are easy to identify with – having your heart-broken, dealing with divorce, alcoholism – however in some ways it feels like Keplinger throws out a lot of different problems with the hope that one sticks. Since all of these issues way heavy on Bianca and are all traumatic in their own right none of them are ever truly explored as fully as they could have been. They have the tendency to come off a bit superficial because we never really see Bianca deal with them head-on. Especially when it comes to her father’s drinking. Possibly the most shocking and devastating moment in the book is when Bianca is confronted with her father’s abusive drunken behaviour (in front of Wesley) the situation quickly escalates to a point that would be traumatizing for any child. Yet the entire situation is easily forgiven and forgotten.

What’s missing most from this story is weight, real substance. It’s there in peaks and valleys but not consistent enough to really make the story shine. Though most of the major issues Bianca is dealing are either solved or in the process of being mended the lack of exploration as to how they affect her are never truly revealed. We know at first she’s using Wesley to help gloss over these issues but it would’ve been nice if as their relationship grew there was a little more discussion between the two characters about how their problems could be solved.

Overall Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF is an entertaining story with two interesting and charismatic characters. Though the story never really manages to delve past the superficial elements of its characters problems it does touch on sensitive issues that are easy to identify and empathize with.

Book Review: The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand

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“Live in the moment, just do it – those are phrases thrown around by people who don’t know what they mean. Just do it – it’s idiotic. You could slap that slogan on a picture of Hitler and it would make as much sense. He did it, all right.”

Author: Gregory Galloway
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin Group)
Date Published: February 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 314

Adam Strand is your average teenager – bored, malcontent with everything, only his boredom can seemingly never be overcome. To alleviate this intense sense of ennui Adam kills himself, he kills himself 39 times to be exact. Most often he jumps, but no matter the method he just can’t seem to stay dead. Frustrated, determined and totally unconcerned for the feelings of those around him Adam’s story remains the same until he’s forced to face the mortality of someone else.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is the second YA novel written by Gregory Galloway (though his first As Simple as Snow  was originally intended for an adult audience) both the book and the author would probably never have come to my attention had it not been for a great review posted by The AV Club.

39 Deaths is an interesting piece in the YA canon – as morbid as it is full of dark humour it deals with a difficult and relatively taboo subject with a bluntness that is almost unheard of. This is not the story of a suicidal teenager, this is an existential take on the disenfranchisement and ennui suffered by modern-day teenagers. Adam isn’t depressed, he’s bored, so bored that he would rather jump from bridges, swallow poison and do a slew of other things to facilitate his own death then continue on in a life he feels is pointless.

Adams proclivity towards self-annihilation strangely demonstrates just how much of your typical selfish, self-involved teenager he is. He gives little thought or consideration to how his actions affect those around him. It’s not until nearly the end of the book that he gives any real thought as to who it is that constantly finds him. Even when his friends confide how affected they were watching him jump from the back of a car Adam barely reflects on the damage he may have caused. His desperation to succeed, his uncontrollable urge and unwillingness to fight it are the perfect example of teenage self-indulgences.

Told out of sequence and interspersed with moments of everyday life – disappointment with friends, failed relationships, awkward familial relations, and littered with incredibly dry musings on everything from therapy to the high suicide rate of dentists (a fact brought about after being forced to sit and entertain the dentist father of a friend) 39 Deaths treats its readers with an understanding that Adam’s thoughts and feelings are his and his alone, they’re not a battle cry to do the same. The book never seeks to pontificate or lecture on the subject of suicide or depression. It is a fabulous example of existential literature.

Galloway’s major success is the duality of  how bold and subtle his writing is – it’s a feat that only helps to make the books premise more striking because really Adam’s predilection to cause his own death can easily be transferred to any number of analogies for how callous teenagers can often be.

As the story progresses and his relationships change, as he gains more responsibility – particularly when tasked with the job of taking preteen Maddy to and from the hospital for numerous tests – Adam slowly begins to see the world in a different life, and though the pull to continue on as normal remains strong he begins to see reason in fighting the urge. He begins to mature and understand that only he can control the intensity of his weariness. In essence in living Adam begins to see the light.

Strange, profound, dark, funny and striking The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is a bit of absurdist existentialism written to perfection. This book is a masterpiece in cleverness and originality that deals with one mans thoughts on suicide, death, mortality and “The Point, the bridge, and the emergence of the pestilence of Mormon flies and Troy Lidell” (the awesome title of chapter 7.) This book is one of those rare gems you somehow manage to stumble upon and once you read it you can’t imagine how life was before you found it.