Last Night I Sang to the Monster

last night i sang to the monsterI picked up this book for a controversial lit course last term. It was on a VOYA booklist called, “booklist sure to raise eyebrows” and so I figured that it would be a good fit for my class.

18 year old Zach is an alcoholic in rehab, but he can’t remember why. Nor does he want to remember, remembering is scary and it hurts too bad to go back to the time before all this.

Zach believes that when people are born God writes things down on their hearts, on his own heart Zach believes God wrote sad. He spends a lot of time alone at rehab,  smoking cigarettes and keeping to himself, not interacting in group, and avoiding telling his story.

Eventually Zach gets a roommate, Rafael, and things slowly begin to change for him. Rafael is 50 year old alcoholic, another sad guy, and Zach is annoyed that his counselor assigned him a roommate. He doesn’t see what’s so bad about being alone. Sometimes it’s safer to be alone. Eventually he doesn’t seem to mind Rafael too much, he’s quite like Zach and they are able to enjoy a companionable silence as well as deeper conversation. Rafael is trying to stay sober, one day at a time, but Zach is less sure.

Not long after Rafael moves in the two are assigned another roommate: Sharkey. Sharkey is loud, he takes up space, and fills in all of the silence that Zach and Rafael have created in their room. He’s a perfect fit though, an unlikely strong member of their trio.

I was so moved by this book. I think that it will speak to anyone who has been affected by alcoholism, whether through a family member or a friend. It definitely will give readers a safe place to talk about what it is like living with or even being friends with an alcoholic.

I loved Last Night I Sang to the Monster way more than I anticipated I would. Saenz is an excellent writer and has a way of really getting into the heart of his characters and making them stick with the reader. He writes young men very well– giving them a full range of emotions, a refreshing break from the traditional sort of 2-dimensional male characters one often sees in YA-Fic.

Young Zach is a very real character and his process of self growth and realization was really beautiful, and often painful, to watch. This book is going to be a hit with young men and young women alike because Saenz is such a great writer that his work will draw even someone who doesn’t personally identify with the characters into the book.

This a great book for this year’s motto: keep reading! stay uncomfortable!

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane What can I tell you about this book? I pre-ordered it months ago, as soon as Neil announced on his Facebook that Porter Books was selling signed first editions I bought one. At the time we were still living in our old flat, though we were scheduled to move sometime in May or June (or as it turned out pretty much from May 15th to June 15th, but that’s another blog entry for another blog).

Anyway, when the book came to be delivered  they were going to send it to our old house, and that wouldn’t work at all so I asked UPS to hold it at the facility thinking I’d go get it after work a day last week. Not thinking that UPS is out by the airport and that after work it would probably take me an hour to get there and home again. In the meantime a friend gifted me the eBook version, I couldn’t read it. I needed the first read to be the signed copy.

photo (2)I picked it up yesterday, after work, after UPS nearly sent the book back to Massachusetts! I’ve been waiting a long time. The trip took nearly an hour and a half. All the roads and freeways were a wreck yesterday due to the weird rain the Bay is experiencing right now and traffic looked like it was just going to go on forever.

In any event. I got home. I finished dinner for my family. I read a few pages between reading Shel Silverstein poems to my young daughter.

“I don’t know if I can read this,” I told my husband after page four. I’ve been following Neil for a while. I read Sandman when I was 11 and pretty much since then I’ve been a total fan girl. Through Neil’s journal and other social media outlets I’ve gained a rough sketch of his life these past several years. It’s been nice, as a fan, to have such access to a writer that I value and respect so much. I feel like many of his long time fans do, I suppose, like I know him a little more than I know some of my other author heroes.

I didn’t know, until a week or so ago, that The Ocean at the End of the Lane was so… real. I still didn’t have the book when I read Amanda’s review of it. “Oh shit,” I thought, “I can’t wait to read this book”. It was going to be a look into a man that I’ve admired for 20 years. Whose books I was raised on, whose books I lovingly read my daughter and give to friends.

On page four the book is so recognizably real it is painful to someone like me. I set it down and finished putting my daughter to bed. I went back to the book at a quarter to ten and read it straight through.

What a beautiful book. While it may be that Neil wrote it for Amanda, he’s shared it with us, and what a gift that is. It’s a story about love and fear and strength. It’s a story about an ending and a beginning. It’s a story about growth.

Fans will love this story. The will be enchanted and giddy and grateful. The may find they have the urge to go back in the archives and look up how closely events match up. That might take some of the magic out of the story, don’t be a dodo bird. New comers will find intrigue and terror, kindness and courage, and they will be glad that they read this book. Like his wife said, it’s a great place to start.

Keep reading, kittens. Stay uncomfortable!

Authors Veronica Roth and Leigh Bardugo in conversation about ‘Divergent’, ‘Siege & Storm’, and badass YA heroines — EXCLUSIVE

Two of my fave lady writers talk about each other’s (and two of my favorite) strong lady heroines. Awesome-sauce.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I’ve seen this title coming through the library for a while and I’ve avoided it. I’m almost too embarrassed to tell you why, now that I’m neck deep in it and totally crazy about it. 
book cover
Okay, with the truthiness now. The cover annoyed me. I don’t like that mask that the chica has on, and yes I understand what the mask is supposed to represent, but the mask is bad. Who did the art work on that one? Seriously? Es no bueno.

Otherwise though, great story. Extra super compelling. I love a punky kind of leading lady and a goth best friend. Hilarious duo those two, with really excellent dialogue.

The writing about the cities, especially Prague, was also excellent. I definitely felt a lot of wanderlust while reading this book, Taylor does a very good job of putting you right in the middle of a city (even one you’ve not yet visited).

There are only a couple of nagging problems with this story. I am always annoyed with angels. Sorry angel people, I know you love your angel fiction, but I think it’s dumb. Unless it’s in Supernatural, then maybe we can talk about it. I just don’t get it! Why are angels sexy now? Ugh. I’m so old I guess that we’ve run through the regular gambit of supernatural creatures and have to move onto celestial ones. Frankly the chimera were much more interesting, except…

UGH. Okay. I recently read this book, Revealing Eden. Have you read it? It’s not great. Anyhow, maybe I’m just feeling hyper-sensitive to this kind of thing right now because of the blatant racism in RE, but what is the deal with the bigotry in Daughter? Why does “high human” even have to be a thing? If I were a beast I would think that human forms would be less desirable – especially if my mortal enemy looked like a human with wings? So what’s the deal? It stands to reason that deer head would be much preferable to one that looked like the dudes I have spent my whole life trying to wipe off the face of the other-earth. Bah. I don’t know wtfbbq, but it’s something that really bugged me.

*sigh*

Okay. Aside from those couple of faults, this is a really fun read. The ‘verse that Taylor has created is a really excellent one and the mythos involved therein is really well thought out and has few holes (except for what is mentioned above). So if you’re like me and have been putting this title off because the cover annoyed you get thee to the library to check it out, dig in and enjoy!

It’s still 2013, baby! Keep reading and stay uncomfortable!

The Clockwork Princess

Well, folks, that’s it! Show’s over, time to go home, read something dull, completely lacking in gothic romance, victorian ideals, and absolutely all mention of cogs, springs and bits of machinery. The zeppelin has landed! Tess, Will and Jem took all their pent up frustration out in a riveting game of whist. clockwork princess book cover

Just joking, that’s not exactly how it happened.

To be honest, I had kind of forgotten about this book until I looked on tumblr and realized that it was out. Then I promptly bought it and got totally sucked in.

I think this was my favorite one in the Infernal Devices series. There was a lot less pathetic mooning, very little random mentions of cogs and springs and lots of tension between Tess, Will and Jem. That’s what we’re all here for anyway, right?

I’m not going to spoil the book for anyone, so I hope you’re not here for a summary. There was a lot going on and I don’t think I can talk about it without blowing some major plot points.

Here’s my one complaint though, and this is a possible spoiler, I felt like everything ended too neatly. I was team Will, so maybe I’m just biased and annoyed, but the way everything went down really bothered me. A happy ending for everyone! Yay! Confetti! (ouch, turns out it was made from rusted up bits of metal)

In any event, I’m going to try The Mortal Instruments now. I couldn’t get into them before, but maybe the back story will make them more readable for me.

Oh, yeah- stay uncomfortable, keep reading.

The Madman’s Daughter

the madman's daughter This is a great read. Super spooky and fast paced, it is thoroughly enjoyable for young people and adults alike. Shepard does a great job of hooking the attention of her reader, she sucks you in and makes the book incredibly difficult to put down. From the very first chapter I was totally riveted and couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. Great start to the trilogy, I can’t wait to see where Shepard goes with the story in part two!

After her father’s disgrace and her mother’s death Juliet makes due cleaning the medical school at night after the students have gone home. A far cry from the only daughter of London’s premier surgeon, but at least her father’s connections have afforded her this job.

Unfortunately, as a servant, she’s subject to the wandering hands of the less savory senior staff members. Unfortunately for those who cross her, Juliet is well-trained in anatomy and has little trouble rendering a wandering hand useless against further transgressions. Of course, protecting her virtue costs her her job, and would probably mean prison time if she couldn’t make herself scarce.

Thankfully Juliet has discovered an old diagram of her father’s in the possession of some young medical students. Tracking the diagram back to its source she finds that her childhood friend and family servant, Montgomery, is in London collecting things for none other than her father. Throwing herself at the mercy of Montgomery and his strangely misshapen companion, Juliet soon finds herself on her way to her father’s island.

What awaits her there is nothing she expected. Her father is cold, distant and more than a little mad. Now it seems like the very inhabitants of the island are a threat and Juliet doesn’t know who to trust. Can she make it out alive? Will the handsome and brooding Montgomery survive long enough to come back to London with her?

Locke & Key

I stopped reading off my controversial book list for a while because I needed to buff up on modern comics for a graphic novel club I’m planning on launching at my school and thus I became totally obsessed with the Locke & Key series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.

Locke & Key cover

This story has got everything that lovers of fantasy and horror look for in a good novel. It’s fast paced, super scary, has huge cliffhangers, and takes place in a verse that is totally realistic and easily imaginable.

The story follows the lives of three sibs: Tyler, Kinsey and Bode Locke, who just moved to their family’s rural New England home. What they don’t know is that the house is full of secrets, and most importantly secret keys, which unlock doors that make the impossible, possible.

From turning into a ghost to super strength to gender bending, the keys that the Locke family uncovers offer endless possibility. There is a dark force afoot though, something evil that is terrorizing the family, in search of the Omega Key, and who knows what door that will open. 

A few people have told me that the first book is über confusing and that keeping the characters straight is a total pita. I cannot disagree, the first book is hard to follow, there’s a lot going on. If you can hold out though– if you can make it to the second book you are sure to be hooked on what I think it one of the greatest horror stories of recent memory. Perhaps that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Joe Hill is the progeny of famous horror novelist Stephen King.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes scary stories! Be careful though, this is a graphic novel and as such there are pictures of violence, blood and gore, and other scary stuff.

You know what’s next: stay uncomfortable, keep reading!

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

And now for something completely different!

I listened to Fallen Angels recently, in part because I did not think that I would be able to force myself to read it. I just don’t really like books about wars… well real war anyway.

This book is told from the view point of a young solider,Fallen Angels Perry, who enlisted in the Army after he realized that he would not be able to afford to continue his education. Perry is shipped to Vietnam, despite an injury from playing ball, where due to the delay in his papers arriving he is placed into a combat unit. The story follows Perry and his fellow soliders along as they begin to realize that the glory of war isn’t all that glorious.

What was good about this book is that is gave a ground level look at the War in Vietnam, as someone sort of in between gen-x and gen-y I have always known intellectually that the Vietnam War was horrendous, but I don’t feel like I ever received a proper schooling in its intricacies.  More than just being a look at Vietnam from the group up, it is a young African American man’s look at the war in Vietnam, with all of the sociological, economic, and racial tensions that were (and perhaps still are) prevalent in 1973 urban America.

What was not great, for me, was that this was a book about a topic I’m not terrifically interested in (please don’t tell anyone I studied political science with). I would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, war, or urban america. I think that it would especially appeal to people who like to play violent video games.

Stay uncomfortable, keep reading.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

This was a hard book for me to read. I feel sad just writing about it. Alice is a teenage girl who was kidnapped by Ray when she was about 10 years old. He snatched her from a school trip and kept her as a play thing for the next five years.

Alice is growing up though, beginning to look like a young lady instead of a little girl, despite her restricted diet and the pills Ray gives her to keep her from menstruating. He wants a new victim and he wants Alice to find and train her. Alice wants out even if that means sacrificing another child. She begins spending time at a near by playground, looking for her replacement.What follows is gripping, gut wrenching, and utterly surprising.

Living Dead Girl

This is a hard book for me to recommend. I don’t know who will like it. It’s not really a book you like, frankly. It’s a book that comes from a very dark place, and when you read it you go there too. This book may help readers who have suffered abuse, but it is so raw and visceral that it may also serve as a trigger.

That said, I still think it’s valuable. This book can be used to open a discussion on any of the following topics: kidnapping, abuse, sex, and rape. Talking with your readers and allowing them to ask questions and experience, through this book, Alice’s fear, may protect them in the future or help heal the past.

Stay uncomfortable, keep reading.

Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

marbury lensMarbury Lens was another one of those books that totally reflects my penchant for reading in themes. I was on a mondo-grosso, fairly creepy kick when I read this series a couple weeks ago. Both books in 3 days. I thought they were excellent.

Here’s the skinny: Jack is 16, he lives with his grandparents, and his best friend in the whole world is Conner, a typical seeming teenage athlete (arrogant, sex crazed, etc). After Jack gets drunk at a weekend party he wanders away from the fray and falls asleep on a park bench. Still drunk, he is woken up by a doctor who wants to help him. The man ends up kidnapping and assaulting Jack, and  what’s worse is that no one is looking for him: Jack’s grandparents think he’s with Conner and Conner thinks he’s blowing off steam.

Jack manages to escape the man, and does his best at recovering from the trauma. He and Connor are headed to England to check out a boys school they’re considering attending the following Fall. While Jack is tooling around London waiting for Connor to show up he meets Henry Hewitt in a bar. Henry gives Jack a pair of strange glasses and when he puts them on he’s transported to the strange and terrifying alter-verse, Marbury.

Though the trips to Marbury are terrifying and leave him sick and disoriented in this verse, Jackpassenger can’t stop putting on the glasses. Like a junkie looking for his next fix, Jack becomes completely obsessed with Marbury and has an increasingly difficult time hiding his addiction from Connor. Eventually Jack and Connor make their way to Marbury together and what follows is a faced paced, dark and frightening adventure through the bowels of hell and toward redemption. Can Jack and Connor keep it together in the real world as they face unspeakable danger in Marbury? Can they find salvation after all they have done and everything they have faced?

This series is going to be a thrill ride for anyone who enjoys the dark and edgy, dystopian, or adventure stories. As I mentioned above, these books are intense, violent and gory. I do not recommend these books to any readers who are sensitive to these issues.

Keep reading! Stay uncomfortable!