Hooch and Jazz Babies || The Diviners Review

diviners-review

Initial Thoughts: 

A 1920s romp in supernatural New York City, with an ensemble of uniquely gifted characters. Seriously. This is my kind of book.


THE DIVINERS

by Libba Bray
Little, Brown Books, 2013
YA paranormal, historical fantasy
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

divinersDo you believe there are ghosts and demons and Diviners among us?

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 unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…

I meant to read this book for October, because Halloween-ness and supernatural murder mysteries. But I may have gotten distracted somewhere along the line and only just managed to finish the book a few days after Halloween. Oops? Anyway, doesn’t matter, because I enjoyed my journey in the least?

What I Loved

“Oh, law, law, law,” Blind Bill said, patting his chest. “Ain’t that the way of the world, now? Good luck turns bad. Bad luck turns good. Just a big rolling craps game played between this world and the next, and we the dice getting tossed around. You go on home now, Mr. Campbell. Get you some rest. Live to fight another day. Plenty of time for regrettin’. Go out and have you some good times while you still young.”

The Roaring Twenties. The time period itself already had this book going for it, and you could tell Bray did her research on the ’20s, because whenever I read the descriptions in her book, I felt like I was being transported into the middle of the scene. I was sitting at the Hotsy Totsy Club listening to the jazz and sipping on some hooch or sitting on the piano while Henry DuBois played his catchy jingles. It was lovely, and the best part is that Bray added much of what made the time period alive: the good stuff and the bad stuff as well.

The monsters are real. It’s really disturbing how a bunch of the societies and cults in the ’20s are based off of real people. I think I was more horrified over the old-fashioned, backwards thinking that some of the people in the book had as opposed to the actual supernatural murders happening (though admittedly, those were super-gruesome, too). At some point, the stuff in Brethren pretty much just made me want to chuck the book out, or, you know, yell at stupid people. Because I got emotional like that.

Me every time someone from the cults opened their mouths.

Me every time someone from the cults opened their mouths.

The Diviners themselves. Can I just say how many awesome super-powered teens there are running around in New York City? Like, seriously, I don’t think I disliked any of the Diviners that were mentioned in the book. Henry was adorable, Theta is loooooove, and Memphis. Memphis’ storyline kind of became my favorite, and I totally dig his romance with another Diviner. There were even more minor characters that were mentioned (for instance, a Chinese girl in a restaurant) that I really wanted to know about.

The Pentacle Killer plot. Just…yikes. I admit I mostly read the book in the cover of morning light, because trying to read the thing at night was a little creepy. Especially with the Naughty John scenes. Those get super-scary really quickly. There was one point where I sat on the couch getting really anxious over whether one of my favorite characters would die or not, and eventually I had to stop right beforehand because I didn’t want to know quite yet. YEAH, I GOT TO POINTS OF HYPERVENTILATION, DAMMIT.

The overarching story. Aside from the Pentacle Killer plot (which was the main story), there were a lot of storylines that were leading up to some kind of catastrophic event in the near future. I want to know more, and it sucked that we only got glimpses of it in The Diviners. Like, give me MORE please?

Love/Hate Relationships

A pair of Blue Noses on the next bench glared their disapproval at Evie’s knee-length dress. Evie decided to give them a real show. She hiked her skirt and, humming jauntily, rolled down her stockings, exposing her legs. It had the desired effect on the Blue Noses, who moved down the platform, clucking about the “disgrace of the young.” She would not miss this place.

Evie O’Neill. What to say about Evie. Evie’s a hoot and a half, but sometimes she is over-the-top. She knows she’s over-the-top. She does it on purpose, because she likes the attention. Which could make her a polarizing character, because honestly, somebody who tries to hog the limelight gets really tedious to read about, and I will admit that at times, I had to roll my eyes with Evie. By the end, I liked her better when she was focused more on the Pentacle Killer case than when she was striving for the dramatic. Maybe in the next book she’s less of a highlight and someone else will get to be the main attraction, because as much as I actually like Evie, I think I could only handle her in small doses.

There are a ton of characters. Not gonna lie, I adored the characters, and honestly, I would have loved to have seen more character stories highlighted in the book. But I also felt like trying to include that many characters–and subplots (most of which weren’t even resolved)–slowed the story down a bit. There was an entire scene with Mabel and her pro-political parents that didn’t really add to any other plot than her own. It might not have helped that Mabel is probably my least favorite of the secondary characters, but hey, there had to be ONE person, right?

What I Didn’t Like

“Hey,” the cabbie yelled. “How’s about a tip?”

“You bet-ski,” Evie said, heading toward the old Victorian mansion, her long silk scarf trailing behind her. “Don’t kiss strange men in Penn Station.”

That random romantic turning point. Honestly, I didn’t think Sam Lloyd was going to get very far with Evie, even if he is a smooth-talking–and certainly attractive (according to several descriptive accounts)–lad. But there was a development between Evie and another that left me scratching my head. It just sort of happened with Evie, really. One minute she shares a Ferris wheel ride with the guy and suddenly she’s thinking about wanting to snog him. I mean, I suppose it fits with Evie’s character, because she does seem like a fly-on-the-moment type of person, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Honestly, I could have been fine if she hadn’t hooked up with anyone.

4 out of 5 cookies! I read the book jacket summary for Lair of Dreams and it looks like a Henry-centric book! (Well, Henry and the Chinese girl I’d mentioned wanting to know about.) Would totally pick up the next one.


diviners-thetaknight

Did you read this book? What did you think?

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Werecats and Urban Fantasy || Blood of the Earth Review

bloodofearth-review

Initial Thoughts: 

A wood-fairyish-woman who knows how to use a shotgun gets sucked into consulting for a paranormal investigative unit full of WERECATS and other non-humans. Um. YESTHANKYOUFORTHIS.

BLOOD OF THE EARTH

by Faith Hunter
Roc Books, August 2016
Urban fantasy
Rated: 4/5 cookies
e-ARC provided by NetGalley (thank you!)

bloodofearthWhen Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her.

Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville.

Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…

I’m pretty sure the book jacket summary is going to change a wee bit, because I don’t even remember any vampire being called the Blood Master of Nashville. I mean, the premise itself remains the same, but the plot itself may have been altered just a bit. So I’m going to go ahead and add a small-ish summary below:

After Nell encounters Jane Yellowrock, she is referred to PsyLED, a paranormal investigative unit with a case that takes them to Nell’s backyard. Turns out they’re looking for an organization that’s been kidnapping young women, and PsyLED thinks the organization may be hiding out in Nell’s old cult–God’s Cloud of Glory Church. Problem is, Nell has since separated from said cult, only to realize that in order for her to get the information PsyLED wants, she will have to go back inside the cult’s walls.

But this time, not without help. PsyLED is not only an investigative unit for paranormals, it IS a unit of paranormals, filled with werecats and other non-human magical beings. As a temporary recruit of PsyLED, Nell also holds a power, something that ties her deeply into her Soulwood property.

A Barrelful of Werecats

I vaguely remember adding a Jane Yellowrock novel onto my TBR last year, though it took me a while to actually connect the two (I remembered the Jane Yellowrock novel to be called Skinwalker, which is probably why it hadn’t occurred to me that the two books took place in the same world). When I read the summary for this book, my interest was certainly piqued. I’ve been looking for another urban fantasy series–and author–to get into, because I’ve had such a good experience with them since my entry into the Mercy Thompson universe. I do know some of my friends have been recommending a few other urban fantasies, and they ARE on my TBR, but I saw Blood of the Earth on NetGalley and figured: “Hey, maybe I’ll go ahead and start here!”

So that all said, this book.

It has an ex-cult woman who can use a shotgun. Meet Nell Nicholson, a girl in her twenties who, until recently, was part of God’s Cloud of Glory, a religious cult in the heart of Tennessee. Because of Jane Yellowrock, her life pretty much changes in the span of weeks, and after a raid conducted by both Jane and PsyLED in the previous months, her old church has been more adamant in trying to bring her back to the flock. But Nell isn’t a lassie to be reckoned with, because she has a power of her own, and it is rooted deep into the heart of her woods, Soulwood. She will not go without a struggle, and honestly, she’s not exactly hesitant with shooting someone if she has to.

It has werecats. I must have mentioned this a few times now, but only because I LIKE CATS, OKAY? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to read another book on sexy alpha werewolves, but sexy alpha werecats? YESPLS! The first introduction to werecats come with Rick and Paka, and while I wasn’t exactly loving either one, I thought this shapeshifting skill was absolutely cool. Paka as an African were-leopard was even BETTER. And then Occam comes along and I was sold. I was so done. Hem hem. I am totally not in the midst of fangirling at all (but I mean…he’s got a Texan accent. And he’s a werecat. And he’s a GENTLEMAN).

It has a pretty disturbing set of crimes. Honestly, it was hard NOT rooting for the good guys, because when the bad guys get bad, they are really effing despicable. When it finally got to the action-packed scary bits, the story was hard to put down, and I really wanted to know what happened next.

It has an eclectic cast of characters. Some of whom were likable, others are so-so. It being a first book of the Soulwood series, there’s not much character development in Nell’s team, other than Nell herself, obviously. I mean, I suppose if I’d read the Jane Yellowrock series I might have more perspective about Rick, but from what I read, I wasn’t too big of a fan. He was too much of a stickler for me. I wished there was more on T. Laine and JoJo, and Tandy’s power is pretty cool, all things considered. The most I saw of the team, however, was definitely when the werecats went out and got useful. Meaning Paka and Occam primarily…

It is a promising beginning to the series. Honestly, I’d read the next one after this. I would also read the Jane Yellowrock books ASAP, too, because the world and its creatures just sound so interesting!

4 out of 5 cookies!


bloodofearth-jojo

25 Reads: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The book cover alone was what spurred me on with interest for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, though admittedly, when I finally did pick it up, I had to do a double-take on it. Where was the horrific creepiness? Where was the promise of eerie, spooky children? But I’m getting ahead of myself.


MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

by Ransom Riggs
Quirk, June 2011
YA paranormal fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating/ 5 cookies

peregrineA mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography.

Gifly Thoughts

Old photographs? Eerie cover connotations and the promise of spooky children with spine-tingling histories? Yeah, I was game for it, even though it’s not normally the kind of book I tend to read. Horror and I don’t mix, at least, not unless there’s a great deal of Fantasy or Something-Else in it. But I did want to read Miss Peregrine’s because the cover called to me, and I was prepared to be spooked.

But a third into the book and I was a little confused as to what I was reading. I knew the pictures were going to play huge roles in the narrative (like, creepy additions that made the reader visualize without further explanation), but I didn’t think it would go along the lines of “I remember what this-and-this looked like from a picture I saw in this-and-this photo album.”

So I was slightly annoyed up until things finally escalated halfway into the book, where Jacob meets the children in the pictures. From there it got more into the realm of supernatural/horror to scifi&fantasy where *SPOILERS* a time-looped orphanage contained kids with magical abilities. Oh, and their headmistress/matron is a shapeshifter who can manipulate the confines of time itself. *SPOILERS*

And from there I read on, and on, and on, because it was entertaining. I liked the peculiar children in their little pocket of time, and I found them intriguing. I really want to know more about the ymbry-whatchamacallits, and I’m only bummed that the damn book is not a stand-alone and has a sequel. I’m glad Jacob did come to his own and conquered his doubts in the way that he could, and at least there’s some resolution toward the end–though, as the first in a series, obviously there are some cliffhangers as well.

Something that did come off as Blah, though: that romance. Ew. Not shipping it at all. I like Emma as a character, sure, but lordy. Also, while I did pick up the book for the stunningly strange pictures contained within, I’m not sure I liked that little tidbit at the end where the author passes the photos as “authentic save for a few touch-ups.” It kind of killed the speculation.


4 out of 5 cookies! I’d read the sequel.

25 Reads: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

So far, I don’t think I’ve rated a Gaiman novel (or graphic novel) lower than four stars on Goodreads, and this book is certainly no different. But I’m getting ahead of myself.


THE GRAVEYARD BOOK

by Neil Gaiman
HarperCollins, 2008
Children’s paranormal fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5

graveyardAfter the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

Jumbly Thoughts

There’s something to be said about story openings, and The Graveyard Book gives the opening of all openings:

graveyardopen

It just grabs you, that sentence. And that picture? Horrifying. In fact, some of my little voldies were so morbidly riveted by the picture that I was made to read the first chapter over and over for them. What’s amusing is that the few little voldies I read to were perceptive enough to ask the most poignant question: “Oh no! Does the bad guy get the baby?”

Too bad I never get past reading about ghosts. I’m sure they would have liked hearing about the ghouls and witches and night-gaunts and the Jacks. But then again, the little voldies are frelling three, and all they really cared about are A) ghosts, B) the bad man whose name is Jack, and C) monsters. Not too shabby, though!

Anyway, it took me some time to figure out how all the chapters fit into the bigger picture of things, because I felt the chapters were all great short stories on their own (“The Witch’s Headstone” and “The Hounds of God” I could definitely see as stand-alone). That said, by the end, things get tied up fabulously, with an ending that made me kinda sniff and sigh with sadness and satisfaction. Also, Silas rocks.

As I said in my Goodreads, Gaiman is a wizard.


4 out of 5 cookies!

Review: Artful by Peter David

To be honest, I hadn’t expected the vampires.


ARTFUL

by Peter David
47North, July 2014
Victorian paranormal fantasy
provided by NetGalley

artfulGoodreads: Oliver Twist is one of the most well-known stories ever told, about a young orphan who has to survive the mean streets of London before ultimately being rescued by a kindly benefactor.

But it is his friend, the Artful Dodger, who has the far more intriguing tale, filled with more adventure and excitement than anything boring Oliver could possibly get up to. Throw in some vampires and a plot to overthrow the British monarchy, and what you have is the thrilling account that Charles Dickens was too scared to share with the world.

From the brilliant mind of novelist and comic book veteran Peter David,Artful is the dark, funny, and action-packed story of one of the most fascinating characters in literary history.

With vampires.

In hindsight, I should have probably expected them, considering it’s a highlight in the summary of the book. But clearly I didn’t read the summary fully and only got past the first sentence about the Artful Dodger…

Jumbly Thoughts

The reading was a lukewarm experience, because while I don’t normally mind reading another vampire novel, particularly one that is set in the Victorian period, I did have certain issue with the execution of the tale. Part of it was probably because the dated language was rough around the edges. I guess the closest thing I could compare it to (and only because I’ve been trying to get my students to work on their Christmas show song) is a piano piece: Artful is to someone playing Schubert’s “Serenade” by plunking with one finger as Oliver Twist is to a smooth two-handed rendition of the same piano piece.

Not sure if that makes things any clearer, and the difference is stark, but in reality I did like the book enough to finish it.

The beginning did drag on, however, and it was only during my reading about Fagin and Mr. Fang that I actually perked up and got interested in the story. The Artful Dodger himself was an interesting character, and probably the appeal to this book is the fact that Dodger was a reworked character taken from a Charles Dickens novel. Certainly that was the reason why I was interested in a reader copy of ArtfulBut in the end, I saw Dodger’s back story and relation to the Oliver Twist tale as unnecessary. Dodger could have just been any random thief-anti-hero character created for a fictional historical during the days of young Victoria and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Sure there were familiar characters from the Oliver Twist tale that were probably cool to see, but they weren’t much more than cameos, so could have been taken off entirely.

The vampire conspiracy was something out of a Victorian pulp, which, for me, was the best part of the book. I liked that young Victoria had a slight role to play in the story, liked the inclusion of the young Helsing as well. I liked the little twist about Fagin’s storyline (and the epilogue bits about him), and thought Mr. Fang was rather diabolical, if not too far-reaching.

In the end, I couldn’t help but snort at the Drina-Dodger pairing development and the really didn’t see the point, considering nothing really ever amounted to it. The Bram-Dodger relationship was probably more interesting to see, since the two practically played off each other for the majority of the story, and it was always fun to see the next thing they would do to save the day–or kill some vampires.


3 out of 5 Goodreads stars!