Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Combine a run-down mansion by the sea, a family full of secrets, and a morally ambiguous love interest, and what do you get? A book that feels like it was designed specifically for me. And I'm probably not the only one who will feel that way about Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

I think possibly my favorite thing about this book is the setting, which is completely mind-boggling for me. I'm not a setting person; I'm a character person. I would rather have a vivid picture of the characters-- what they look like as well as who they are-- in my head than an image of the setting, which is why I'm amazed by Tucholke's ability to make me care about the setting here. It's as if Echo and Citizen Kane (the mansion, for those not privy to the lingo just yet) are characters in themselves. You can practically taste the salt in the air and the coffee wafting up from the guest house. You can hear the waves crashing on the rocks and the creaking of the Citizen's decaying floorboards. You can see the overcast skies and the iron gates and the town that does its best to ignore the existence of evil within its borders.

The rest follows naturally. The story is built on the foundation of Violet White's grandmother and her warnings about holding hands with the Devil. "You stop fearing the devil when you're holding his hand." Good luck forgetting that first line when River West comes to town and begins holding Violet's hand almost immediately. No, you'll never completely trust River. You'll wonder why every time Violet goes to confront him about something, she suddenly feels all warm and fuzzy toward him and can't quite think of why it is she thought she had to confront him. You'll think River is controlling and dangerous. But then he'll stand up for her against her sexist brother, or Violet will catch him looking at her with warmth and adoration in his eyes, and you'll stop trying to figure him out. River is a mystery. He's a devil you kind of want to be holding Violet's hand… and so does she.

Mixed in are some vivid secondary characters like Violet's neighbor, Sunshine, and a little boy named Jack and his Town Drunk of a father. They all, in addition to being unique and well-drawn, have stories of their own. Eventually there is one other character who was my personal favorite, but I won't spoil who it is-- I'll just say this character is an interesting and natural addition to the story, and he brings some of River's secrets to light.

I give Devil 4.5 stars because it doesn't quite live up to my 5-star expectations, but keep in mind that my 5-star expectations are very high. The characterizations were a little too on-the-surface for me sometimes, in that they didn't sneak up on me. I didn't find myself halfway through the book and realizing that somehow, without my knowing it, I became attached; my attachment to the characters was never a surprise, which is kind of a bummer for me. But, like I said before, I'm a character person. I have very specific needs.

All in all I can't wait for the next book (what?! I thought this was a standalone when I read it, and then I find out… but no matter. I'm not one of those people who is bothered by finding out a book is not a standalone but the first in a series), and for everyone else to read this gothicgothicGOTHIC cliffside horror mystery romance.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan (spoiler-free)

A little story about the cover: I like my covers to match.
I was upset when I found out it would not match the first book.
I still like the original cover of Unspoken better, but am happy to accept this one.
Oh, lawd, this book broke me.
And put me back together.
And broke me again.
Several times.

What is there to say about Sarah Rees Brennan's writing that I didn't already say in my Unspoken review? The woman is hilarious. This book may be even funnier than Unspoken. But the woman is also evil, and Untold may also be even more heartbreaking.


I'm a sucker for a good character. Any good character, really. But these aren't just any good characters. You're going to wish you had a Kami Glass, Lady Sleuth, in your life. Kami is not only witty and entertaining, but she has the endearing quality of being so objective that she sees both the best and the possible worst in everyone. She's no damsel in distress, but she's not an invulnerable stone either. You're going to simultaneously want your own Jared Lynburn and hope that you never, ever get one. He's a bad boy but he doesn't really know why. He's full of anger and despair but also lightness and vulnerability similar to Kami's. You're even going to love the overly-boy-friendly Holly, who most other books would have turned into a teenaged nemesis in a frenzy of girl-hate. She's wide-eyed but also logical, friendly but also lonely. All of the characters are so beautifully complicated, I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. Just. Yes. Good.
The above is a direct quote from my Unspoken review. Every single sentence of that still applies, but this time I won't spare you. Because now I have to talk about Angela, Rusty and Ash too. I love Angela because she's a total badass without even trying-- no, really, she does not try. If there's something that Angela has to try to do, she does not do it (I had a kind friend point out that Angela and I are spirit sisters in that way). That's the Montgomery way. People are scared of Angela because one glare says she can end you and then immediately take a nap-- not because it took so much effort, but because being awake isn't really her thing. Angela likes having people scared of her, because it means they won't mess with the people she loves. Rusty is similar in that if you make him do a thing, he will request a snack and a nap. He takes exactly two things seriously: Angela and Kami. If you make one of them cry, he will punch you. And then he will make a joke about his dashing good looks and irresistible charm.
As for Ash, I was never quite sure how I felt about him before, but I know now. He is a beautiful squishable puppy dog. He is the non-Lynburn Lynburn, where Jared is the Lynburn non-Lynburn. Don't make that face at me! I am making sense!

Pacing, plot and all that good stuff

Well, I stayed up until 3:30a.m. to finish it. So.

The hacky sack

I already mentioned the breaking and the putting back together and the re-breaking. The hacky sack is back. Literary masochists, I call upon thee to preorder this book right now! You will not be disappointed! You'll laugh (a lot), you'll want to strangle some people (mostly Jared, "the most infuriating idiot in all the land"), you'll dance with glee and throw imaginary sparkles into the air because finally everything seems good and right, and then you'll realize there are too many pages left. Too many pages. TOO MANY PAGES.
And once again you'll be lying on the cold, hard ground, shaming no one but yourself because you knew SRB was trouble when she walked in. You let yourself hope for too much, and then she did that thing she does, because she gets her lifeblood from your tears.

But it was fun, and I'd do it again. And not just for the part where Jared and Ash both decide they want Rusty.