[744]: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

A sparsely told tale of murder in the eyes of three dissimilar narrators.


Girl in Snow
by Danya Kukafka

Girl in Snow tells a detailed story of a murdered teen who didn’t lack for friends and enemies. Though the author didn’t necessarily focus on solving the case, per se. It was more an account of her life through the eyes of three unrelated narrators.

Unfortunately, I was wholly removed from the story. The writing lacked a certain quality that evokes empathy or enthusiasm to see through the ending. I’ve never read something like this before, where the main character is dead and the story backhandedly revolves around her but because the narrator isn’t her, it really wasn’t.

There are three narrators that are directly and indirectly related to Lucinda Hayes: there’s Cameron Whitely who had this obsession about her. He’d been caught stalking her a number of times and yet the author wouldn’t be so lazy as to pin the murder unto him. There’s the token girl who hated her very existence simply because they were friends before but since Lucinda belonged in the popular crowd, their friendship suffered until they could no longer stand each other’s presence. And then there’s the investigator solving the case. His only relation to Lucinda’s case was through Cameron. Officer Russ used to be Cameron’s father’s partner in the force until his involvement in a case led to his ruin.

In truth, I had a hard time unpacking this book. There were threads in the story that I struggle to unravel, leading to my disinterest in the story. The characters left me cold, and the writing, beautiful though as they may be, was just unattainably circuitous. The author offered a few red herrings, for sure. But because of the narrators’ respective stories, I got easily distracted and eventually lost interest.

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[742]: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

A darker shade of YA; prevalently sinister, rich in magic and suspense.


The Price Guide to the Occult
by Leslye Walton

I was over the moon when I got this book even though at the time, the extent of my knowledge was that it was written by the same author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I was so excited that I started reading it right away. This book is darker than the usual YA. It has magic in spades and the persistent ambiance of an approaching mayhem. It’s ripe in history as well – which is surprising considering how slight this book is.

The book is about the generations of Blackburn women. Starting from the matriarch Rona Blackburn. All she wanted was to start a new life on a remote island and while she was received nonchalantly by some, the others have already pegged her for a witch that will bring down death and distraction in their small community. It didn’t end well, so she cursed them.

Fast forward to the present time, Nor Blackburn’s mission in life was to lay low and live a normal life. But because she’s a Blackburn, her last name comes with a baggage. Her childhood on the island wasn’t the best: her mother saw her as a burden who mistreated her at every turn until she abandoned her. But she’s not all alone in the world. She’s got good friends and great grand mothers who love her. If it weren’t for them, her life would be completely miserable. When a mysterious book of spell arrives on the island, promising to give the recipient of the book whatever their hearts desire – for a price, that is – Nor knew it wasn’t a coincidence. Especially when strange things started happening on the island.

Soon, the anxiety she felt manifested in the return of her mother. Superseded by missing townspeople, deaths, and mysterious behaviours of the flora and fauna variety.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It may look like it took me a long time to read it (February to May) but I didn’t really. I had to take a break to fulfill other reading obligations. Y’all know what that’s like. Lol. Anyway, it’s hard not to fall in love with Ms. Walton’s writing. She makes every creature, every character, and even the island seem larger than life. Like it could very well pop out of the pages of the book.

Nor’s story as a child wasn’t so fun to read. She went through so much abuse in the hands of her mother. See, the Blackburn women are gifted with witchcraft and her mother felt that amongst the Blackburn women, Nor was a dud. Also, they are cursed not to find the love of their lives. Nor’s father wasn’t exempt from this curse. Unfortunately, Fern, Nor’s mother, fell in love with a man who would never reciprocate. And because she’s a vindictive witch, he’ll never live in peace. And in turn, Fern took it out on the one reminder of her curse, which was Nor. The extent of her evil tendencies was boundless. Truly a hateful, sinister woman.

There’s so much to look forward to if this is ever going to be a series. The ending left the door wide open, for sure. There’s the temporary truce between Gage and Nor, who, for some reason hated her guts. I need to know why because that wasn’t explained here. The Price Guide to the Occult reminded me of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic but somehow even more darker.

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Weekend Readathon

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This past weekend, I unofficially participated in a readathon of sorts. I was seeing posts on Twitter about it and I thought it’s a great way to see how many books I can cram in a 24-hour period. I originally planned on reading four books, but sleep and another book got in the way.

I did well, I thought.

BOOKS READ:

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland [ 3 out of 5 Stars]
Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn [4 out of 5 Stars]
Twisted Palace by Erin Watt [2 out of 5 Stars]

UNREAD:

Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

I had a productive time while participating. It gave me the opportunity to write a review soon after reading the book. My thoughts were fresh and writing down my thoughts came so easily.

I didn’t do much of anything this weekend but this. I wanted to go to the bookstore to pick up a copy of Gemina (which came out last week) but I decided to save it since I haven’t even read Illuminae yet. I wasn’t able to visit your blogs but rest assured that I will be doing that this week.

I hope your weekend was just as productive.

Happy reading!

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[638]: Wild by Alex Mallory

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Wild

by Alex Mallory


I’ve always loved Saundra Mitchell’s Vespertine series. She introduced me to the Wild Wild West of YA with nature’s magic thrown in for good measure. The fact that the books were about two things that I’d never picked out on my own volition speak volumes. She also knows how to write a good romance – which is key to keeping me coming back for more. So it was an unexpected, welcome surprise to learn that she wrote a contemporary retelling of Tarzan using a pseudonym.

Book Description

The forest is full of secrets, and no one understands that better than Cade. Foraging, hunting, surviving— that’s all he knows. Alone for years, Cade believes he’s the sole survivor. At least, until he catches a glimpse of a beautiful stranger…

Dara expected to find natural wonders when she set off for a spring break camping trip. Instead, she discovers a primitive boy— he’s stealthy and handsome and he might be following her. Intrigued, Dara seeks him out and sets a catastrophe in motion.

Thrust back into society, Cade struggles with the realization that the life he knew was a lie. But he’s not the only one. Trying to explain life in a normal town leaves Dara questioning it.

As the media swarm and the police close in, Dara and Cade risk everything to get closer. But will the truth about Cade’s past tear them apart?

The novel opens up a little heavy on narration. It was Dara and her boyfriend fumbling through a camping trip that was meant to draw them closer but only managed to do the opposite. We also spent a lot of time in Cade’s head. Because he’s been living in the forest for so long, the appearance of a couple of intruders kept him in a perma-state of wonder. The forest had an air of slight danger. But I think it had to do with the way Cade stalked Dara. He was fascinated with her and the boy hasn’t talked to anyone for years, so I kinda get why he was all creepy.

Cade has such a sad story. From his parents’ choice to leave everything behind, to when they eventually left him behind, it was the kind of sorrow that you would feel with very little provocation. It was that palpable. I felt sorry for his lonesome existence and felt even sorrier when they took him out of the only home he’s ever known. He had no idea how to exist in a modern world. He had a child-like innocence untampered by civilization. So as much as I thought it would be good for him to learn the truth about the lies his parents fed him, his freedom cost him a lot more.

I had a bit of a hard time with Dara’s boyfriend, though. He was a jerk and I’m glad he was barely in the picture. I also felt that there should’ve been more on Cade’s adopted parents. They were really good to him, but Cade’s heart was in the forest so he didn’t know how to connect with them. Overall, I think I’d hoped for more. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the book was a decent size as it is, and most of the plot threads were woven in a nice plait. I supposed it could’ve used a bit more tightening, is what I’m trying to get at.

Wild is an entertaining modern interpretation of Tarzan. It had a lot of heart that will give you a mild case of chest pains. I think that you will learn to enjoy it, too if you go into it knowing that it’s not a perfect book, and as most interpretations go, it’s never as good as the original.

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[588]: Walk on Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson

17564519 Walk on Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson
Series: Gold Seer, #1
Green willow Books | Hardcover, 400 pp.
September 22nd, 2015
Young Adult Fiction | Historical
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.


This is a tough one to review. Western novels aren’t really my thing, so I knew going in that Ms. Carson would have to work extra hard to convince me otherwise. While it is a rarely discovered territory in YA, I can see how it could easily be a popular niche. For seekers of adventures in books, what could be more exciting than discovering The Last Frontier? Or the Wild, Wild West as it were.

If you’ve seen any Western movies or tv shows such as Little House on a Prairie, I think you’ll see that the world building in this book is pretty much on par with we’ve seen or read in the past. But if you’re like me who’s not an ardent reader, we’d probably wouldn’t know the difference. Still, I can say in all honesty that Ms. Carson did a splendid job in constructing just the perfect world.

I enjoyed reading about Lee’s ability. It’s something that I’ve not read too many of in this genre. It’s not so much that Lee can find the gold, it’s more like the gold finds her and tells her exactly where to look. Unfortunately, her ability was not really explored in this first offering. She spent most of her time trying to get to California where the gold rush was on a boom. About 40 % of the book was dedicated to this journey – which ultimately slowed the pace down by a considerable amount.

I do like Lee. There’s something to be said about a girl who’d been kicked around by life but was strong enough to keep on fighting. This girl dusted herself off and did what needed to be done to give herself a fighting chance. She’d become an orphan in so little a time. And the only relative she had left was about to take advantage of her ability if not for her quick thinking and the goodness of her father’s old friend.

There is very little romance in here. In fact, I didn’t really feel a spark between Lee and her beau. They were best friends, but I felt like they were more like siblings because they looked out for each other.

IN RETROSPECT

This is a well-written book, and with the right reader, it’s a great adventure to experience. If you can get past the lull in the middle, the start and the ending will leave you breathless.

 

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[505]: The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

18169279 GOODREADS SUMMARY
University of Queensland Press | Paperback, 304 pp.
Publication Date: July 24th, 2013
Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


The worst has happened. Nuclear testings between two unnamed countries brought on nuclear winter that changed the landscape of the world as we know it.

Somewhere in Australia, Fin woke up in a dark, cold world without his dad and stepmother. In his care was his younger brother. Days and weeks go by. Food became scarce. The military stopped giving rations. Desperate, people succumb to their basest of instincts. They steal, they maim, and some even kill for food.

As they realize the hopelessness of their situation, Fin and his brother banded with the school outcast and the girl Fin likes to find their mother – the only person that could offer hope, shelter and answers as to why the government had abandoned the rest of the continent.

Reminiscent of Ashfall series by Mike Mullin, this book shows the story of survival among four kids when the world is blanketed in a perpetual winter. It shows the slow decline of civilization and humanity when resources, infrastructures, and basic necessities slowly diminished. It is whatever horror you could conjure up in your nightmares in a slightly lesser degree than that of Mullin’s Ashfall series.

It’s hard not to compare the stories as it shares a couple of similarities: one is the setting (winter), and two is the male perspective for which both stories were told. Fin showed incredible calmness with every peril he’d encountered; and calculating intelligence with every decision he’d had to make. The readers see him adapt a different set of values driven by survival instincts. He is forced to grow up in a dangerous place where he would have no choice but to be his brother’s defender, provider, and saviour.

The isolation of a group of individuals “worth saving” was a plot point that was interesting to me. It reminded me of “the lottery process” in that movie, Deep Impact, wherein the government selected specialists and professionals in their fields to be saved as Earth prepares for an extinction event. In this book, anyone trying to cross the Inner Sydney border would be killed, and anyone harbouring “outsiders” are cast out.

The Sky So Heavy was an interesting book. A thought-provoking piece that will give readers pause. Considering how stubborn some countries are about the way they are handling their stash of nuclear weapons, this book will at least make you think about the precarious situation we all live in. Zorn captured this doomsday scenario pretty well, and have chosen a realistic narrator in Fin.

 

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