Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Throwback Review: Eleanor & Park

Throwback review from July 2013 - this is a memorable read.

Eleanor & Park is a YA 1980s coming-of-age novel by Rainbow Rowell.

It’s 1986 and Eleanor’s brilliantly red, curly hair makes her impossible to not see as she steps onto the school bus for the first time.

It also makes her an excellent target when you combine it with her odd, eclectic assortment of clothing and the fact that she’s brand new.

Unable to watch the horror show, Park offers her a seat by him – in urgent, angrily embarrassed undertones.

And then everything changes.

This is the moment that Eleanor and Park met their first love – each other.

I really don’t want to give more details of Eleanor & Park than that. I didn’t have more, and oh what an experience this novel was!!

I loved the slow burn to the romance – that it wasn’t attraction based but initially built on kindness, like interests, and sharing small, but significant, pieces of themselves. Startlingly authentic and genuine, I think it might be impossible for Eleanor & Park to not tug at your heartstrings.

Park is Asian and Eleanor is a chubby redhead – I liked that. It’s different. More real. Relatable.

This is a book that is truly touching, showing the epic-ness of ordinary life. It’s an emotional coming-of-age tale in 1986 – heart wrenching and refreshingly authentic in both good and bad ways.

So sad, yet at times so hopeful, Eleanor & Park highlights bullying and a terrible domestic situation, while also making you smile at the joy of first love. Bittersweet.

And – oh wow! What an end!!

Oh, I wanted more – desperately – yet I knew there was a perfection to it that I didn’t want touched.

Eleanor & Park is one that will stay with me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Throwback Review: The Diviners

Throwback review from December 2012 - just got the sequel!

The Diviners is the first in a new YA historical supernatural series by best-selling author Libba Bray.

I am a HUGE fan of Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy. When it comes to my foray into her contemporary fiction? Almost a completely opposite reaction. So, when I heard about The Diviners I was hesitantly excited because I hoped it would remind me more of the former, not the latter. In fact, maybe it could make me forget all about Beauty Queens.

Maybe you’re a fan of that book. That’s great! I wasn’t, sadly, at all.

What’s The Diviners about?

Seventeen-year-old Evie O’Neill is a little too much of a wild child flapper for her hometown to contain, and as much as she tries to make herself normal she never seems to be able to. And this time she’s really gotten herself into a pickle.

She has a supernatural power that’s brought her nothing but pickles so far – and this latest round of excitement led her to drunkenly declare one of the town’s most admired young men of knocking up the maid. And of course she can’t prove it without telling the truth about her ability.

So, to let the scandal die down Evie’s family ships her off to New York City, which is preferable to Evie anyway. Because New York in 1926 is bursting full of speakeasies and her pen pal bud Mabel, as well as Ziegfeld girls and dangerously attractive pickpockets.

In order to come to the city, though, she must live with her uncle Will who runs a museum and classes on the occult. He’s a bit of an odd sort, but Evie doesn’t mind him – as long as his hobbies don’t dig up her guarded secret.

But when gruesome, ritualistic murders begin to occur and Will is called for in regards to his expertise, Evie realizes that she may be able to use her power to help catch a serial killer of the worst kind.

Meanwhile, we also meet Memphis, Theta, Jericho and other characters – each with their own mysteries, hidden pasts, and difficult decisions. This is, after all, the city that never sleeps!

What none of them know is that an unspeakable evil has awakened – and they all have a part to play…

The Diviners really brings Libba Bray’s excellent story-telling to the forefront. It has a smooth, cool, spellbinding element right from the introductory chapter, as well as an innate creepiness. She presents us with a large cast of dynamic, memorable characters that are increasingly three dimensional, often funny, and always interesting. New York City in 1926 is a setting that is alive with period details and descriptions that give just enough for the imagination to flesh it out.

As you can tell, I really, really liked The Diviners!

There is a TON of suspense and edge-of-your-seat tension. As the story develops we see a truly frightening psychopath as our villain. Every once in a while the level of how disturbing Bray allows it to get goes farther than I prefer, though. As an animal lover, I really hate seeing any violence to animals in movies or books. There’s about three specific scenes that go there, which I didn’t like – but I did understand how it underscored the pure evil we’re working with. I just still prefer it not to be there… That's the one hiccup I had with A Great and Terrible Beauty as well.

However, thankfully, the characters (especially Evie’s) humor lightens the heavier, spookier aspects of The Diviners and keeps it entertaining. Plus, a slow-burn, satisfying romantic tension is welcome too! Overall, I found The Diviners to be a first-rate, awesome into to a new series that I’m enthusiastic to follow!

*I received a review copy of The Diviners from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.