Bites

Oh hooray!  Another challenge down!  I’m feeling accomplished this year.  Not to mention I’m super close to finishing my Off the Shelf challenge as well.  The one that I failed to complete last year.  Hooray again.  I’m going to go throw more accomplishment at myself.  In the meantime you can check out my YA challenge list here.  Some of those books feel like I read them so long ago but it’s been mere months.  Not to mention it helps to have the memory of a gnat on meth.  Or not.

August 20, 2012

Pub date: September 11, 2012.

Author website.

Jane is not your typical teen. She and her best friend Lexi call themselves the Creep Sisters. Only Lexi knows why Jane is different from anyone else: Her own shadow seems to pull her into near-fatal accidents. Jane is determined to find out why these terrifying things happen, and to overcome her shadow enemy. Her sleuthing with Lexi connects her own horrors to the secret history of a serial killer.  (netgalley.com)

Hooray for YA horror!  Love it.

BEYOND taps into an aspect of horror that involves genuine creep factor.  It’s not about how much gore the scary thing can create but just how scary it can be in and of itself.  Personally a shadow, YOUR shadow, that tries to kill you is pretty high up there.

Jane has been subject to a slew of horrific “accidents” all of her life, the most recent of which involve her shooting a nail out of a nail gun and into her head.  All because of her shadow.  Death has surrounded her her entire life.  Literally her entire life.  She was a still born that was resuscitated.  And for as long as she’s known her shadow has been there trying to get her to kill herself.  I don’t want to give too much away because I think the reasons behind all of these incidents are truly creepy and give new meaning to a near-death experience.  It’s not all bright white light and happiness for some people.

Jane’s a solid character that you can immediately get on board with as a reader.  Despite all of her insane accidents, and despite the rumors attached to her as a result, she leads a relatively normal life in terms of her own views of it.  She’s not paranoid or overtly macabre.  She’s grown so used to being so close to death that she’s developed a nonchalance about it.  Almost a boredom.  She wants it gone already.   She wants to lead a REAL normal life, not just one where she tries to toe around a piece of her that’s actually trying to kill her.

Lexi is the objective third party in the equation.  She fills in the gaps with Jane’s lack of vision thanks to her sleep deprivation.  She serves a purpose, really.  I didn’t like her nor dislike her.  I really didn’t feel much either way.

But kudos to no love triangle and really no relationship at all!  Much to Jane’s chagrin but that plays too much into the plot so I won’t divulge.

BEYOND is another good addition to the YA horror market, adding in a decent ghost story where there’s definitely a hell of a lot of room for it.  It’ll make you look twice at your shadow and wonder what it’s doing behind your back.  The notion of it thinking at all is pretty horrifying if I’m honest.

Ban Factor: High – Horror gets filed automatically high.  In this instance it’s thanks to a killer shadow, a nail in a brain and a creep that buggers boys.

Published March 27, 2012.

Author website.

Fifteen-year-old Willo was out hunting when the trucks came and took his family away. Left alone in the snow, Willo becomes determined to find and rescue his family, and he knows just who to talk with to learn where they are. He plans to head across the mountains and make Farmer Geraint tell him where his family has gone. 

But on the way across the mountain, he finds Mary, a refugee from the city, whose father is lost and who is starving to death. The smart thing to do would be to leave her alone — he doesn’t have enough supplies for two or the time to take care of a girl — but Willo just can’t do it. However, with the world trapped in an ice age, the odds of them surviving on their own are not good. And even if he does manage to keep Mary safe, what about finding his family?  (goodreads.com)

There are very few stylistic things that’ll keep me from reading a book.  One is stream of consciousness.  Holy crap, even though we may not thing COMMA our natural thought process still involves pauses and full stops.  Let’s use some punctuation.  Another is phonetic voice.  And I’m not talking about a few lines of dialogue; I mean the whole damn book written phonetically.  Personally I think it lends to a very clunky, awkward reading experience that’s slow and labored and ultimately has me focusing more on how to say the words I’m reading than the story itself.  This is the only reason why I won’t read BLOOD RED ROAD.  I don’t care how good it is.  I can’t read phonetic voice.  This has been a personal preference for over a decade now and thankfully it’s very rare when I come across it.

Imagine my surprise when I open the pages of my ARC for AFTER THE SNOW.  I had zero indication that this could have been phonetic.  Had I known I would have absolutely passed on reading it for review.  It’s just not a style I can swallow.  And AFTER THE SNOW is in a very southern voice so after a couple of pages Cletus made his way into my head and wouldn’t get out.  I couldn’t get past the voice.  In the couple dozen pages I tried to read I can’t even tell you what happened.  I don’t rightly know.  But the language is so embedded in my brain that I can’t get rid of it.

The best example of why I just can’t read this –

But he’s my dad, like I said, and you got to respect your dad I reckon. My mum got dead when I been a baby still scrieking in my ass rags. That happen a lot up in here when the snow been deep and your breath freeze in the air. But Magda live with Dad now, up in our end of the house. Magda’s in charge of the little kids, and I don’t envy her that job. If it been me, I’m gonna bash them all.  (ARC page 6)

No.  Just . . . no.  I’m sorry.  No.  Not only is it incredibly stereotypical but it’s overwhelming.  I can’t read an entire book written like this and be expected to focus on anything other than the pronunciation of the words themselves.

So it’s a DNF for stylistic reasons.  It could be the greatest story in the world.  I can’t get past the phonetic voice.  Based on how popular BLOOD RED ROAD is I’m guessing a lot of people can.  Have at it, I say.

Ban Factor: Unknown – I could barely get past the words as they were written let along figure out what the hell was going on in the plot.

Pub date: August 16, 2012.

Author website.

The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Years later, when she returns to the woods where Tom was taken to say goodbye at last, she finds herself lured into a world where stunning beauty masks the most treacherous of evils, and strange and dangerous creatures await-creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with allegiances that shift as much as his moods. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack’s help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where nothing is what it seems, no one is who they say, and she’s faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice-and not just her own.  (netgalley.com)

Okay, this must be a joke, right?  This is my second book in just as many weeks that I’ve loved so much that I need to check myself.  That I need to reign myself in and feebly attempt to keep myself from blathering on like a ridiculous, incoherent fangirl.  Is someone screwing with me?  Because I can barely handle the awesome right now.  Barely.

The thing with THE TREACHERY OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS is that not only is it a wonderfully honest story but it’s filled with glorious WORDS!  Words here, there and everywhere!  Some of the most amazingly wrought words I’ve found in YA to date and it has revived my hope that YA still strives for quality, that YA readers have a taste for finely written words that read like listening to the most intricately woven concerto you’ve ever heard.  In reality Long is Irish and let’s face it, the people on that side of the pond have a tendency of weaving words of a higher quality as the Brits and Irish have a higher breadth of understanding of the English language than us Americans do.  Don’t believe me?  I consider myself above average in the intelligence department.  But nothing made me feel like a dumb effing American like sitting in an English (and I mean in London, English) classroom as the lone Yank and listening to them wax poetic about Derrida and Glas as if they’d been studying it since they were two.  So yes, when it comes to the written word I believe those guys are just inherently more loquacious than us.  I mean, c’mon.  Have you MET Sya?

So reading THE TREACHERY OF BEAUTIFUL things has me floored to the point of drooling on myself.  I can haz language?  Here, have some words –

07/25 page 27
7.0% “”She stared at another dart in her hand. She could see it clearly. Too clearly. The end finished in feathers, tiny strands of thread tying them to the shaft in intricate knotwork. She reached out with her other hand – huge and fumbling – and tugged it out. It was topped with a tiny, perfectly formed flint arrowhead. Her own blood glistened on it, and on her skin a red pearl formed around the wound.””
07/26 page 116
30.0% “”It started like a warm summer breeze moving through the trees in late afternoon, a whispering voice in the forest itself. Jack lifted his face to greet it, closed his eyes and inhaled. Sweet summer flowers, all thing in the fullness of life … and beneath it, decay, the moment where everything began to eat itself away.””
07/31 page 203
53.0% “People, just people, he tried to tell himself. It looked like a sketch done by a child, and yet at the same time, profoundly powerful, as if a great hand had reached down from the sky – or up from the earth – to scour its mark into the land, long brush strokes that glowed with light when the moon spilled over it.”
08/02 page 367
96.0% “A sound came from her, something between a scream and a clogged drain.”
08/01 page 270
70.0% “Every story, all those tales she loved as a child, all her escapes … were they all twisted and changed to something dreadful here? And yet, wasn’t that where they came from, all the oldest tales, from blood and pain and misery?”
07/31 page 218
57.0% “Dreams, some might call them. Lies with a kinder name.”

WORDS! GLORIOUS, GLORIOUS WORDS!  These words painted such a stunning visual setting throughout the story that my life lost sound when I was reading.  I was sucked directly into this fairy world and when I put the book down I often had to blink myself back into reality, rub the world out of my eyes and reorient myself with my surroundings.

With that being said the story isn’t without it’s faults.  Jenny is naive to the point of aggravation, making deliriously stupid decisions for the sake of being nice.  Seeing as how I literally just read Kat Kennedy’s review of this title, being on Goodreads to collect the WORDS samples and her review was right on top so of course I HAD to read it and now I can’t get it out of my head, dammit, she is very right in saying this is in line with old timey fairy tales that center around a virginal MC with the fairy world standing for hedonism that the maiden must fight against with every ounce of her being.  This is very true of THE TREACHERY OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS.  Jenny is reminiscent of a Disney princess with virtue flowing out of her ears, throwing self preservation to the wind and ultimately defeating evil with her wiles of love and caring.  It is a sickly sweet story and the pretty chick on the cover in the white tulle dress is actually relevant and it’s literally playing out a scene in the story.

With that being said the events that Jenny went through are exceedingly brutal.  There is absolutely no shortage of character screwing going on here.  Jenny does not go in one side of this story and come out the other without some dirt under her fingernails.  Look at the first quote I have above and what page it’s on.  Literally from the beginning Jenny is being abused and I love it so.  While she is unabashedly representative of a pure, light-filled queen she gets the high holy crap kicked out of her in the process.  She does suffer from Damsel in Distress Syndrome (DDS) and her requirement of being rescued runs some other characters rather ragged but I was so thrilled with the WORDS and the brutality of the situations that I could easily overlook the fact that I wanted to slap Jenny around for some of the things she did.

The fairy world is true to form in terms of its contradicting beauty and horror.  Couple that with the WORDS and you can only imagine what kind of scene Long is setting.  I was a little less thrilled with the Jack/Jenny relationship simply because it’s a deviation from an otherwise seemingly accurate depiction of Fae, especially since Jack didn’t have a heart.  Literally.  I found his fascination with Jenny odd.  If it had remained purely business that would have been one thing but I was a little uncomfortable with it’s development.

On the adverse side and to completely throw a wrench into my own opinion of the relationship I like where it went.  I like the role reversal Jack and Jenny went through by the end of the book.  While it didn’t completely cancel out Jenny’s DDS and her unyielding naivety it softened the blow to something more palatable and I was ultimately rooting for them by the end.

If you’re looking for a more true-to-form fairy tale that isn’t shy about it’s own brutality but at the same time really sticks to its own morality path throughout you’ll find it in THE TREACHERY OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS.  But above and beyond that it’s so incredibly beautifully written and Long has such an amazing way with words that you’ll be mesmerized by the lyrical prose the second you start reading.  Jenny isn’t really your kick ass heroine.  She makes some incredibly dumb decisions for the sake of being nice and she needs to be rescued more often than not but when the situation calls for it Jenny stands on her own.  She has more strength than what the story allows her to have and while she’s wrapped in this virginal shroud of old fairy tales there’s a modern fierceness about her that I think will appeal to someone looking for a story about a girl persevering, setting her mind on something and not backing down until she gets what she wants.  It’s a story of ups and downs and you ultimately need to decide how you’re going to process it.

That’s another great thing about THE TREACHERY OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS.  It’s a story with so many avenues of thought that you don’t have to settle on just one.  I absolutely agree with Kat’s assessment of it but I personally believe it’s so much more and that Jenny is just so much more than merely a bastion for virginity.  She proved herself within the story.  She could have said ‘screw you guys, I’m going home’ numerous times throughout and Jack would have gladly escorted her back to the Edge but she didn’t.  Bringing her brother home was her number one objective and not even Jack could come between her and her brother.  She made some really crappy decisions and her DDS showed A LOT but she made some really good decisions too and I applaud her for them.

Ban Factor: High – Pagan-ness.  So much Pagan-ness going on.  Fairies and old gods and witchy queens?  Oh noes!

Published September 27, 2011.

Author website.

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.


When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?  (goodreads.com)

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE ended up being a mixed bag for us YAcks.  I personally went into it thinking I’d love it so hard I’d slather the book in drool.  I was mistaken.  For many the appearance of Akiva was a total buzzkill and Madrigal is something most of us could have done without.  While the consensus was that the writing was pretty and filled with WORDS there was a bit of distance, to one degree or another, but it was supplemented by lovely world-building and some intriguing characters that require more face time in the sequel.  Lucky for Angie she wasn’t the lone downer of this book, as she was totally expecting to be.

Steph (one of Sya’s minions) was Keeper of the Book this month but seeing as how the YAcks have spawned their own website, we’re all congregating over there now.  LOOK!  And just for visiting you get a bonus YAcked book, inadvertently slaughtered by us.  Sorry, THRONE OF GLASS.  You lose.

Ban Factor: High – Anything that bastardizes Christianity is an automatic fire starter.