Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jennavier Recommends: In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Last summer I found a book that I was dying to push on people but I couldn’t find anyone who’d let me push it. Now I get to dig it up and tell you all about it!

Let’s start with the heroine. Mary is awesome. She’s a woman at odds with her time. She wants to be a doctor like her mom, but it 1918 that isn’t exactly an encouraged career choice. Her father was a ‘sympathizer’ which in todays parlance would be a pacifist. He’s been jailed for speaking out against the war and Mary has to go and live with her twenty-something aunt. Mary isn’t perfect. Sometimes she’s really irritating. She’s bound and determined to do what she thinks is right even if it clashes with what everyone else wants.

Everything she is becomes tested when her boyfriend comes to her as a ghost. Last she heard he was on the front line. Now he’s dead. And something is bothering him so much that he can’t find any peace. Mary is determined to find out what that is no matter the cost.

This story has a crazy, out of control amount of things in it. Cat Winters doesn’t just find one cool thing about history, she finds a dozen. First you have the first world war littered with PTSD and all it means. Next you get the Spanish Influenza, the last great flu epidemic in the US. All of this triggers one of the greatest Spiritualist movements in US history, something Mary is, of course, wrapped up in. This is the world of spiritualism, and séance’s are the norm. What's awesome is that Winters uses her narrative to show you that it wasn't real, while at the same time implying that some of it was.

Now that all sounds really heavy, and it is, but Winters navigates it in a way that is really enjoyable. She takes this creepy world and ratchets up the tension, without having to resort to the ridiculousness that many stories rely on. I loved that she takes things about history I never knew and makes them fascinating layers in a believable world.

Before finishing I just have to make a note of the book itself. This is one book that I would recommend finding in physical, not digital, form. The design of the hardcover I read is a work of art in itself. It was the first thing I noticed when I opened the cover and it really enhanced my reading experience.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Being Legit On The Internet

Oh, the Internet. The beautiful thing where you get to be just as careful with everything you do and say as you wanted to be in middle school. Social Networking is often self-curation. It seems that every so often I find myself getting caught up in the need to pretend. The longer I facebook/tweet/pin the more fake I feel. So what to do about it? Honestly, the only thing I can think of is let it all hang out a little bit. As much as that horrifies my solid middle class upbringing:)

What is it about this online world that seems to demand perfection? Is it because the fantasy is easier to believe in when it’s pixilated? I don’t know. All I know is that I stalk various authors/friends/media personalities and all of their lives seem so perfect. How can mine not be perfect? And then with a few tweaks it all is.

Except it’s not. Sometimes what’s going on with my life is distinctly not awesome. Sometimes I’m terrible at writing. Or I don’t write at all. Or I choose to write in a genre that is Absolutely Over. I don’t do great crafts, have cute kids, or go on epic vacations. For all that I like my life. I feel like it’s one worth living. Maybe it’s just not one worth sharing.

So here I am, trying my best to document the semi-boring life of me. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jennavier Recommends: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

http://www.blackholly.com/thecoldestgirlincoldtown.htmlHolly Black isn't your average teen/tween writer. She does gritty and creepy in a way that is awesome instead of exhausting. Her characters are deep and their problems are real. I was introduced to her through her Curse Workers series but you probably know her as one of the writing duo behind The Spiderwick Chronicles. I have to say that when I came to Coldest Girl in Coldtown it was with a bad case of book burnout. Reading one this good made me glad I’m still reading.

Black writes a lot of short stories. I discovered the original Coldest Girl on a long day snuggled in a B&N couch and hated leaving the world behind. Sadly the book, while sharing the title and a world, doesn’t share main characters. Madeline’s story was over by the end of the short so it’s up to Tana to reveal hers.

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Tana is a fascinating character. The game she’s playing is rigged against her and she still manages to win. She fights so hard to hold onto her humanity in a world that feels like it’s losing it’s own. The love that she feels for the people that matter to her, even the ones who’ve hurt her, is strong enough to overcome her challenges.

So what’s the reason I’m so surprised that this book worked for me? Admit it, you were waiting for it. This time it’s monsters. Me+vampires= nausea. I really, really don’t like vampires. Including them is a great way to dampen my interest. That being said I learned to be more tolerant of them in the recent craze. At this point YA vampires resemble household cats more then they do the tragic monsters of my teenage years, much less the creeptastic beings from before Ann Rice. Holly Black pulls off the creepy factor while asking fascinating questions about what it means to be human.

Warnings: First off, the ending is a little up in the air. I liked it that way and felt if fit the story better. If it’s something you can’t stand no matter what you might want to steer clear. Second, this is a dark book so there’s everything that entails.

This isn’t a perfect book. It’s an original, exhilarating, and thought provoking book. I hope if you read it you get the same joy out of it that I did.
P.S. Don't want to take my word for it? Here's another review that talks about how awesome the book is.