SECOND LOOK: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

12930909Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

-Summary from Amazon.com

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is an entertaining tale of the supernatural. I’ve heard it billed as a “gothic thriller” and I totally agree with rumors that fans of Beautiful Creatures will enjoy it. It has similar characterizations and an underlying storyline that screams “forbidden love.”

I honestly didn’t have many complaints about this book. I appreciated Violet’s ambiguous feelings towards River, even after she suspects he’s pretty a pretty shifty dude, not to mention potentially supernaturally evil. She has a very strong attraction to him, and has a hard time separating those feelings from the side of her that knows that River has done some pretty despicable things. Her emotions flip flop at least a dozen times throughout the book, and I’ve got to say I like that dynamic a lot better than teenage book characters who say, “I know you’re evil, but I believe you have a good heart and I’ll always love you for that.” NO. Let’s be honest here. I’m sure we’ve all crushed on at least one person we knew was trouble, but that probably didn’t stop us from wanting and hating that person all at the same time. Violet’s feelings towards River capture that back-and-forth fluctuation perfectly. As for the rest of the characters, I liked them all very much and found their attitudes and reactions to be very real. And I will say this for Tucholke… the girl created one incredibly hateable villain.

My only true gripe with the story is learning that Violet’s artist parents abandoned her and her twin brother alone in their gigantic, ramshackle mansion for the summer while they’re off painting in Europe. Really?! I guess that will go under the category of “Absent Parents in YA Lit.” It makes it easier for the teens to run the town, but it’s not terribly believable or relatable. I don’t know very many teenagers who’s parents literally disappear and don’t keep in touch with their kids for three months. Don’t take this as bashing, because I don’t mean it to be. It’s just one those things that stuck out at me and made me go, “hmm…”

The book was well paced with a perfect blend of suspense and intensity. I found it incredibly compelling and was eager to keep reading to see what would happen next (and for someone who doesn’t dig supernatural fiction, that’s saying something!) The writing isn’t terribly complex, but I don’t know that it would be suitable to reluctant or struggling readers simply due to Tucholke’s writing style. But if you’re in the mood for something that will keep you guessing, this is a great story with some awesome twists and turns. The last few chapters are fast paced nail biters for sure.

Even though Between the Devil has a satisfying conclusion, there is room for a second book to follow the characters and their continuing story. Goodreads confirmed it for me earlier today, as the site has this book listed as #1 in the Between series. Whatever that means. I guess we’ll have to wait and find out! As content as I was with this book as a whole, I’d definitely be eager to read more about Violet, River, Luke, Sunshine, and the all other characters from the town of Echo.

OFFICIAL RATING: 8/10

I received my copy of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke as a digital eGalley from NetGalley. I was not given any form of payment or endorsement for my review, including alcohol or cupcakes, nor was I kidnapped and held at gunpoint.

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A simply DIVINE time!

Have I recently mentioned my love of THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray? If not, you can read about my fondness for it in my review, or read about Ashley’s enjoyment of it here in her review.

Earlier today, I received an email from my boss telling me all about a contest in which libraries can win a prize pack to host a DIVINERS party during Teen Read Week (which is October 14-20). Needless to say, I entered and then passed it on to Ashley so she can enter, too. (Speaking of Ashley, if anyone else has noticed her absence, she unfortunately was suffering from death-like symptoms last week. But she’s better now.)

However, even though it’s just for libraries to enter (sorry everyone!), they also sent lots of cool tidbits along with the invite. Including a book trailer for THE DIVINERS, radio episodes, and a DIVINERS playlist. If you’d like to have a “divine” party at your library, ask your librarian to check out THE DIVINERS Teen Read Week Sweepstakes on THE DIVINERS Facebook page!

Isn’t that the most pos-i-tute-ly amazing book trailer?

And if anyone is interested in listening to the playlist Libba Bray listened to while she wrote THE DIVINERS, lo and behold… here it is!

  • BLUE SKIES, Al Jolson/ “The Jazz Singer”
  • AIN’T SHE SWEET, Richard M. Jones & The Blues Singers
  • CHARLESTON, Paul Whiteman
  • CREOLE LOVE CALL, Duke Ellington
  • DEEP RIVER, Paul Robeson
  • DOWN HEARTED BLUES, Bessie Smith
  • EARLY MORNING BLUES, Blind Blake
  • DEMON HOST, Timber Timbre
  • FIVE FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE, The Savoy Orpheans
  • MANHATTAN, Dick Todd/ “Garrick Gaeties”
  • RHAPSODY IN BLUE, George Gershwin
  • SOME OF THESE DAYS, Sophie Tucker
  • THE SONG IS ENDED, Louis Armstrong & The Mills Brothers
  • WANG WANG BLUES, Fletcher Henderson
  • MAMIE, Jan Garber and his Orchestra
  • FRANKIE BLUES, Mamie Smith
  • DO IT MR. SO-AND-SO, Mamie Smith
  • THAT’S NO WAY TO GET ALONG, Robert Wilkins Saxe
  • BUTTON UP YOUR OVERCOAT, Helen Kane
  • WILDWOOD FLOWER, The Carter Family
  • TUBULAR BELLS, Mike Oldfield
  • ORGAN DONOR, DJ Shadow
  • SWAMP MAGIC, Timber Timbre
  • DREAM WITHIN A DREAM, The Alan Parsons Project
  • THE RAVEN, The Alan Parsons Project
  • ME AND MY GIN, Bessie Smith
  • I MUST HAVE THAT MAN, Annette Hanshaw & Her Sizzlin’ Syncopators
  • LET’S MISBEHAVE, Irving Aaronson & His Commanders, Irving Aaronson & Phil
  • THE VARSITY DRAG, George Olsen
  • HELLHOUND ON MY TRAIL, Robert Johnson
  • GIMME SHELTER, The Rolling Stones
  • LEAVE HOME, The Chemical Brothers
  • IN EVERY DREAM HOME A HEARTACHE, Roxy Music
  • THE BARBER AND HIS WIFE, Len Cariou/ “Sweeney Todd”
  • EPIPHANY, Angela Lansbury & Len Cariou/ “Sweeney Todd”
  • I DON’T CARE MUCH, Alan Cumming/ “Cabaret”
  • IF IT BE YOUR WILL, Antony
  • GOOD MORNING BEAUTIFUL, The The
  • POSSUM KINGDOM, The Toadies
  • I GET LOW, Timber Timbre
  • CEMETARY PARTY, Air
  • CITIES IN DUST, Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • YOUR PROTECTOR, Fleet Foxes
  • YES SIR, THAT’S MY BABY, Ace Brigode & His Fourteen Virginians
  • BABY PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME, Buddy Guy
  • GEORGIA LEE, Tom Waits

Enjoy everyone! Remember, THE DIVINERS comes out on September 18! 

Second Look: TOUCHED by Cyn Balog

The Story: Nick has been hearing the “script” in his head for as long as he can remember. As long as he follows a script he hears in his head (“turn left, go down the hallway, talk to the girl in pink…” and so on) everything works out the way it’s supposed to. But if he goes off script, even a little bit, VERY bad things can happen. It’s not just the debilitating headaches he suffers from as his brain rewrites the script, but how his actions affect the future. Nick’s life changes when he meets Taryn, whose touch silences the script in Nick’s head. Not only can Taryn give Nick the peace his mind desperately craves, but she also knows more about his curse than he realizes.

The Low Down: As any of our regular followers may have guessed, the paranormal/supernatural genre is so not my thing. I’m more of a realistic fiction and disaster/post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction kind of girl. So when I attempted to read this, I figured I was going to have a hard time getting into it. OMG I was SO WRONG.

Touched is a very unique take on the supernatural. Nick has the ability to see the future, which truly is a curse, not a blessing.  Without giving anything away (because you know I don’t do that… no spoilers here, folks), the cause of Nick’s ability is revealed as the book progresses and is intricately weaved with other elements of the story. Balog’s story is original with lots of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and the ending completely blew my mind.

The only issue I had with Touched was the first chapter or so. The beginning is a little difficult to adjust to as the reader tries to separate the script running through Nick’s head versus Nick’s actual thoughts. The script is in italics (which took me a couple pages to figure out), but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy going. Also, the script isn’t as heavily present in the latter half of the book, so readers do understand the text to be Nick’s thoughts as he tries to navigate what’s real and what’s all in his head.

All in all, I enjoyed reading Touched. It is very different from any other supernatural story I have ever read, and I liked it very much. It held my attention and kept me turning pages (or, well, scrolling down since I read an e-galley from NetGalley). Taryn was a likeable and strong female lead, which is somewhat unusual in contemporary popular paranormal/supernatural romances (see: Bella Swan). While not necessarily a “romance” per se, Nick and Taryn have a chemistry that makes them feel compatible, but not sickeningly so (see: well… Bella Swan).

The Bottom Line: Touched is an intriguing supernatural story with an original premise. It’s a fairly clean read so younger teen audiences would enjoy it as well. While it takes a chapter or two to get used to the type of writing style used for the book, Balog’s story flows and compels readers to see what comes next and her character relationships are natural, not forced. Touched is not an action or suspense novel by any means, but has many surprise twists throughout. Readers who have a hard time staying stimulated may enjoy the creative turns the story takes. 

OFFICIAL RATING: 8/10

Second Look: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Libba, old girl, you are the cat’s meow.

I was extremely fortunate to get my hands on a copy of Libba Bray’s upcoming release when Ash and I went to BEA earlier this month. I started reading it on the bus home, and have been hooked ever since.

The Story: It’s 1926, and Evie O’Neill has been sent to New York City to live with her Uncle Will as punishment for some poor behavior in her sleepy Ohio hometown. Banished to the bright lights, speakeasies, and revue shows in the greatest city in the world. Punishment? Pshaw! For Evie, this “punishment” is the most wonderful thing to ever happen. At least until the dead bodies start appearing. The police enlist the help of Uncle Will, curator of the “Museum of Creepy Crawlies” (officially known as The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult), to assist in the investigation. Evie finds she can also help using a special -and very secret- gift: she can “read” objects just by holding them and conjure up images of the owner’s life. Evie, Uncle Will, Jericho (her uncle’s assistant), and Sam (a con artist working at the museum) just might be able to figure this thing out… as long as the murderer, known as Naughty John, doesn’t set his sights on them first.

The Low Down: Well. Where to begin. If you’ve ever read any of Libba Bray’s books before, you know she’s a very versatile writer (see: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Going Bovine, and Beauty Queens), not to mention an incredibly strong writer with a gift for amazing storytelling. The Diviners is what you would get if someone injected Stephen King into Chicago, shook it up, and let it percolate. Bray’s imagining of life in the 1920’s makes me feel like I took a time machine back to the Jazz Age, and the supernatural elements are outstanding and insanely creepy. The story is well structured and has a satisfying conclusion, despite leaving some of the storyline and character relationships open ended to ensure there will be a sequel.

Speaking of characters, Evie is a very strong female lead. She’s a flapper through and through, and lives for the high life and the night life. She can be a little haughty, and her bossiness sometimes rubbed me the wrong way, but that made her character that much more realistic. She’s not without her faults, but is determined to live the life she wants. Also starring in The Diviners are Evie’s old friend and pen pal, Mabel, and Theta, an up and coming starlet who’s hiding a major secret of her own along with her “brother” Henry (who is a current nominee for my Fictional Boyfriend List). Theta also makes the acquaintance of Memphis, who has a special gift of his own along with his little brother, Isaiah.

The Bottom Line: The Diviners is filled with a large cast of well rounded characters in a rich setting, not to mention a heaping dose of bootleg liquor and  supernatural horror. It may be a bit lengthy, but it’s also completely addicting. Capping out at a little over 600 pages, the fast-moving suspense and characters’ witty, sharp tongues will keep you eagerly soaking up page after page. But be warned… the sound of someone whistling will never be the same.

OFFICIAL RATING: 8.5/10

The Diviners will be released on September 18, 2012. It is reported to be the first in a trilogy, AND Paramount Pictures has already acquired film rights. 

AND LOOK! EVEN MORE GOODIES! 

If you think you’ll like The Diviners, you’ll probably also like:
Bliss by Lauren Myracle (A girl in the 1960’s befriends a classmate who may or may not be involved in cult-like violence similar to the Charles Manson murders that are all over the news. It’ll definitely leave you feeling creeped out.)  

If you love the Roaring Twenties, you may like:
Vixen (The Flappers series) by Jillian Larkin

If you’re a historical fiction fan, try:
A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle trilogy) also by Libba Bray (1800’s)
The Luxe (Luxe series) by Anna Godbersen (turn of the 20th century)
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher (1940’s)
What I Saw and How I Lied
by Judy Blundell (1950’s)

Strings Attached by Judy Blundell (1950’s)

Second Look: Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

PLOT:
Well, a naïve high school girl falls in love with a vampire… wait. You’ve heard this one before? Well, it’s a little bit different this time. Exotic Lucius Vladescu shows up in Jessica Packwood’s country bumpkin hometown with some very high aspirations. You see, Lucius seems to feel that Jess was promised to be his bride. Jessica, of course, dismisses him as crazy while all her girlfriends go gaga for the handsome new guy in town. Unfortunately, Lucius is right. Jessica discovers that she and Lucius were betrothed to each other as infants. Despite that, she fights his claims (and charms) with all her might while trying to get the courage to talk to the boy she’s been crushing on. As you may have guessed, it starts as a Battle of the Boys as the two compete for her affection, and ends with a very clear answer for Jessica.

CHARACTERS:
Jessica Packwood is literally the average girl next door. There’s nothing too extraordinary about her, except, well you know… The whole being betrothed to a vampire by birth parents who unbeknownst to her were also vampires. But aside from that, she’s just a girl who likes to ride horses. Lucius Vladescu, Jessica’s vampire fiancé, is like Edward Cullen from Transylvania. He’s supposed to be charming and handsome, and in my mind I gave him a heavy European accent, regardless of whether or not he was supposed to have one. However, I often found him to be very bossy and arrogant, and NOT someone I’d want to fall for. There are, of course, the other obligatory high school characters: Jessica’s best friend, her crush, and the obnoxious, stereotypical cheerleader that makes a play for Lucius.

EXTRA GOODIES:

  • Um…. there’s a hot vampire?

OPINION:
Ok, I have to be honest. I had a hard time finding any redeeming qualities about this book. I’m trying to be objective about it, but I’ve had it with the whole “high schooler falls for supernatural/mythical creature” storyline. I wanted to like it, I really did. The first quarter of the book, I had high hopes for it. I appreciated that Jess didn’t fall head-over-heels for the hot new kid in class, and she had very realistic reactions to what was going on. But then everything started to wear on me. Fantaskey’s humor and one-liners made me chuckle initially, but got old fast and just made me groan by the time I was halfway through. Jess began the novel as a strong character who was bursting with individuality. But by the end, she became an annoying, whiny teenager who reexamined her entire existence based on whether or not some boy liked her. And I just can’t be down with that. The story and characters don’t lack depth and complexity, but it wasn’t enough to make care about what happened to these characters. Needless to say, I will NOT be reading the sequel (Jessica Rules the Dark Side) when it comes out in January.

OFFICIAL RATING: 3/10