The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) by Libba Bray

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) by Libba Bray
divinersThe Diviners is a surprisingly complex young adult novel about a returned evil, supernatural powers, secrets and mystery. It is set during the Prohibition Era in New York.

“A faint glow emanates from that dark, foul-smelling earthen tomb. Yes, something moves again in the shadows. A harbinger of much greater evil to come.” pg 10, ebook.

Evie, the heroine of our tale, has the ability to read people, emotions and past events from objects. She is a diviner, a snappy dresser and one of the most delightful characters I’ve read about this year. And how!

After an unfortunate reading of an object from one of the most powerful families in her hometown, Evie is sent to be with her uncle Will in New York. He runs a museum of the occult and supernatural. Jericho, his ward, lives in the museum with Evie’s uncle. Jericho has a, you guessed it, secret past.

“Last but not least, here is the place where we spend most of our time: the library.” Jericho opened a set of mahogany pocket doors, and Evie let out a whistle. She’d never seen such a room. It was as if it had been transported here from some spooky fairy-tale castle.”pg 34, ebook.

Evie’s best friend, Mabel, has a major crush on Jericho. Evie attempts to play matchmaker, help her uncle’s museum succeed and help solve the occult-related murders that are occurring all over New York City.

Meanwhile, Memphis is a numbers runner for the top man in Harlem. He has a secret past as well and a nightmare that haunts him each night.

Theta, a showgirl for the Ziegfeld follies, is running away from her dark past and towards the bright lights of New York. Her roommate has, gasp, secrets too.

As the characters’ lives begin to intertwine, they race to stop a killer and, potentially, the end of the world.

Highly recommended for fans of young adult fantasy. The Diviners is a magical trip through the past and a world where ghosts and supernatural powers are real.

Thanks for reading!

Bindings (The Books of Magic, #2) by Carla Jablonski

Bindings (The Books of Magic, #2) by Carla Jablonski

bindingsFaerie is slowly dying from a mysterious wasting disease. Tim Hunter, the new and as-yet-untrained magician, may be the only one who can save it.

But could Timothy Hunter, who briefly visited the realm of the Fair Folk, be the child of the prophecy?” pg 2

You don’t have to read the previous entry in the series about Timothy to understand this stand-alone story. Carla Jablonski does a good job recapping what has gone on before.

“Throughout all the journeys, it seemed like there were always people trying to kill him or take his magic.” pg 12

My beef with this book is, even though she uses Neil Gaiman’s characters, she doesn’t write with the magic of Gaiman.

The plot is incredibly straight-forward, the bad guys are sadly predictable and it just doesn’t sparkle.

Even Tamlin, the man who went to Faerie long ago and fell in love with its Queen, isn’t as complex as I wish he would be.

Tamlin knew that to the Fair Folk, as something was, it always would be. Nothing ever changed. The ability to see reality and to change was man’s magic. My magic, Tamlin thought.” pg 42

It’s not her fault. Jablonski has written a thoughtful young adult novel about reality not always being what it appears to be and explaining some of Tim’s origins.

She’s just not Neil Gaiman. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re going to write someone’s characters, you need to embody who they are.

Now that he was in a real-life fairy tale, complete with its own monster, he realized how unlikely those stories really were.” pg 111

Read this entry in the series if you’re a completionist. Otherwise, may I recommend The Sleeper and the Spindle.

See my reviews of the first entry of The Books of Magic on my blog or the third entry in the series, Free Country: A Tale of The Children’s Crusade.

Thanks for reading!

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3) by Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3) by Seanan McGuire

sugarskyBeneath the Sugar Sky takes readers back to the world of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, but not to a moment in time before the events of the first book. It is a sequel rather than a prequel.

I found it strangely satisfying in a way that Down Among the Sticks and Bones was not.

“They can be hard for their families to understand, those returned, used-up miracle children. They sound like liars to people who never had a doorway of their own.” pg 7, ebook.

And instead of just one world other than our own, readers get to experience a couple in Beneath the Sugar Sky.

The trouble begins when someone from a different world shows up in the everyday world and asks to see her mother. The thing is, her mother died in the real world some time ago.

The world that the girl comes from doesn’t pretend to follow time the normal way- it’s a nonsense world. Now, this visitor is disappearing and needs help from some of the residents of Eleanor West’s Home before she vanishes altogether.

“That makes no sense at all,” she said. “That means it may well work. Go, my darlings, and bring your lost and shattered sister home.” pg 29, ebook.

A new character in this book is Cora, a girl who went to a water world. She has an insightful way of viewing reality and seems able to see to the heart of people with little trouble: “They always had their shoes, their scissors, whatever talisman they wanted to have to hand when their doorways reappeared and they had to make the choice to stay or go.” pg 19, ebook.

Kade, Christopher and Nancy are in this book as well. “So many different doors, and yet here you are, all of you together, trying to accomplish the impossible.” pg 40, ebook.

I recommend reading Every Heart a Doorway before this book, to get the most enjoyment out of it. It’s perfect for young adults or readers who like fairy tales.

Thanks for reading!

Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn

Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn

whisperWhisper has a cleft palate. In this young adult dystopian tale, she and other deformed children are cast out of society because of their abnormalities.

This story is about how she survives and holds her new family, made up of other rejected children, together despite obstacles at every turn.

Whisper was a far darker story than I expected.

Terrible things kept happening to Whisper and I kept telling myself that it would turn around soon. And it didn’t.

If she wasn’t running from someone who was trying to harm her, she was freezing or starving. She’d get a modicum of security and then lose it.

I was really cheering for Whisper to embrace her special abilities, but she never seems to manage it.

Honestly, I was disappointed by the heroine’s decisions at multiple times in this story.

As one of the children tells Whisper: “You will never go far in this world if you don’t know how to rescue yourself.” And, in my opinion, she never did what was best for her own survival.

The author describes the setting as “near future” but if she had taken out the cars, refrigerators, and indoor plumbing, it could just as easily have been the recent past.

It wasn’t too long ago that superstitious people believed birth defects marked someone who would ruin the crops, bring bad luck, or comets shooting across the sky spelled misfortune. In fact, in some parts of the world, this type of thinking still reigns.

I think it’s human nature to try to explain the unexplained and to condemn others for their differences, the physical differences being the easiest to pick out. That doesn’t make it right.

My main complaint about this read was the repetitiousness. After short bursts of frantic activity, Whisper’s life would settle into a routine that was really uninteresting.

If I had to read about her messing up the homemade bread one more time, I was going to put the book down.

Maybe the author was trying to get the reader invested in the process, but I simply wanted the story to move on. I was already interested in Whisper- I was just over the baking and cleaning.

The same feeling hit me during the multiple music lessons and the days spent playing violin on the streets for change. I guess I prefer my dystopian novels with more explosive action and less daily slogging.

Fans of How I Live Now or Gated may enjoy the pacing and story line of Whisper. As for me, I’m headed back to more action-oriented dystopian reads.

I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. Thanks for reading!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2) by Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2) by Seanan McGuire

downamongDown Among the Sticks and Bones is the back story of the twins, Jack and Jill, and the dark world they wandered through.

It takes place before the events of the first book in the series, Every Heart A Doorway.

The reader learns why the twins are so different and how their strange and disturbing other world opened its door to them in the first place.

The majority of the problem was Jack and Jill’s parents. They had children for reasons other than love.

The father wanted to children to move up in his career. The mother wanted to improve her status with her group of female friends: “A person may look at someone else’s child and see only the surface, the shiny shoes or the perfect curls. They do not see the tears and the tantrums, the late nights, the sleepless hours, the worry. They do not even see the love, not really.” pg 13.

So, instead of loving Jack and Jill for themselves, their parents instead seek to mold them into a perfect of ideal of what they thought their children should be.

The one bright spot in the twin’s childhood is their grandmother, Louise Wolcott. Chester and Serena, Jack and Jill’s parents, call her in desperation after the birth of the children because they have no idea what they’re doing or how to balance their careers while raising children.

Louise steps in without complaint. She is quite easily my favorite character in the book: “There’s nothing tiring about caring for children you love like your own,” said Louise… pg 34.

Despite Grandmother Louise’s best efforts, Jack and Jill end up fairly emotionally stunted from their parents’ dysfunction. The twin’s discovery of another world leads to some hard lessons about love, belonging and consequences.

“The Moors were beautiful in their own way, and if their beauty was the quiet sort that required time and introspection to be seen, well, there was nothing wrong with that. The best beauty was the sort that took some seeking.” pg 171.

I enjoyed this story. But, I think it should have been combined with Every Heart A Doorway.

I felt like so much of the plot of this book was given away in the first, by what happens. It would have been more enjoyable to learn about Jack and Jill’s Moors in flashbacks rather than a separate story.

That being said, it is a good enough young adult tale for what it is. The fairy tale quality to it is undeniable.

Recommended for readers who like a dark undercurrent of emotion, coming-of-age and self knowledge in their fairy tales. If you liked this book, you may also enjoy A Monster Calls.

One may be better served reading this book before Every Heart A Doorway. I think, if I had read this first, I may have enjoyed it more.

Thanks for reading!

Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

wheretherockWhere the Rock Splits the Sky is the story of Megan, a girl who has lost both her father and mother and who lives on the edge of a strange, haunted area called “The Zone.” In this part of the world, people are driven mad by unknown forces and the world doesn’t follow the normal rules of physics.

The Earth itself has stopped spinning because it was invaded by an alien species that the surviving humans call “Visitors.” One day, Megan is told that her father is still alive and that he is in the Zone.

She has no choice but to go find him. And the adventure begins.

This story was a surreal, heart-pounding adventure from start to finish.

I loved the dystopian aspect of it- the aliens are truly terrifying because the reader isn’t sure what they can or can’t do. It’s not even clear from the start who is or isn’t an alien.

The guessing game makes for some exciting tension. That same unknown quality is extended to the “Zone” itself so that the story at any moment could pass from normal to totally bonkers.

That uncertainty makes this a great read, in my mind.

I did have some complaints- I wanted more to happen during the final, climatic scene. It felt like after such a great build up that things ended too quickly and neatly. But I suppose one can’t have it all.

Also, this book required a great deal of suspension of belief. I mean, for goodness sake, the world has stopped spinning. That’s some fairly serious physics law breaking. And that is assumed from the start.

This novel reminded me of The Gunslinger in that both have western themes and some horror elements to it. This is definitely a more young adult version while Stephen King’s novel was written for adults. It’s also a lot shorter

With those caveats in mind, fans of that series may enjoy this one.

Also, anyone who likes to read young adult, dystopian books might enjoy Where the Rock Splits the Sky. It’s an interesting addition to the genre.

I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.

Thanks for reading!

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

everyheartWhat if children actually fell into other worlds, like Alice in Wonderland or the Pevensies into Narnia, far more often than anyone realized? What if those worlds were superior in every way to the normal, mundane world- not in that they were in heaven, but the child felt finally at home?

And what if those worlds cast the children out, to live in the “real world” again? It might not be a pretty picture.

That is why Eleanor West started a home for children who went away, came back and didn’t belong anymore. All of those reasons, but also, because she went away once too.

“Eleanor West spent her days giving them what she had never had, and hoped that someday, it would be enough to pay her passage back to the place where she belonged.” pg 13.

I loved the basic premise of this story. All of the worlds the children went to were so different, but the fact that the worlds were “other,” tied them altogether.

“‘Real’ is a four-letter world, and I’ll thank you to use it as little as possible while you live under my roof.” pg 20

This story has the drama of a bunch of misfit children all trying to get along, but also the mystery of these other worlds. There’s also a deeper mystery that develops when one of the children seems determined to find a way home- at any cost.

“You will not all find your doors again. Some doors really do appear only once, the consequence of some strange convergence that we can’t predict or re-create. They’re drawn by need and by sympathy. Not the emotion- the resonance of one thing to another. There’s a reason you were all pulled into the worlds that suited you so well.” pg 97

I was concerned when I started this book that it would be too much like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. That was a needless concern.

They are similar in that both contain orphanages for extraordinary children and fantasy has a large part in the story. But that was where I felt the similarities ended.

I also found myself wishing that Every Heart a Doorway was written for adults rather than young adults. This was a fairytale that could have used some darker twists to it.

Seanan McGuire didn’t make this story all rainbows and gumdrops, but I would have liked it to be edgier.

I loved the “longing to belong” feeling McGuire wove into the book. It seems to me to be a quintessential teenage feeling, but I suppose everyone wants to feel completely at home- whatever that might mean.

For some people, that longing is attached to a place, another person, or to the drug addict, it’s the next hit. Other people crave a moment in time, or a particular period in their life.

I would say, on second consideration, “longing to belong” is perhaps the human condition itself.

Recommended for fans of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. If you’re looking for a darker, more adult fairytale, I’d recommend The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

Thanks for reading!