Saturday, November 23, 2013

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

"Because there is nothing, nothing worse than not being able to undo the crazy thoughts. I ask them to leave, but they won't. I try to ignore them, but the only thing that works is giving into them.
Torture: knowing that something makes no sense, doing it anyway."

Bea seems like your average teenage girl. She meets a boy at a dance, comforting him when the lights go out and sharing some kisses. Then she meets him again at her therapy group, a group to help treat OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. Compared to the other kids, Bea and Beck seem normal. One girl is nearly bald, as her compulsion is pulling out her hair. Another boy has scabs all over his face, from compulsively picking at his skin. It turns out that Beck has an obsession with the number 8, with bathing and hand-washing, and he is addicted to the gym. He will text someone, then have to text seven more times. His skin is red and raw from being washed so frequently. He also has a fantastic body, but he will work himself to exhaustion because he can't stop himself.

Bea actually has a couple of compulsions as well. First is driving. She takes hours to get anywhere, often stopping and circling back. She becomes convinced that she hit a dog or a child, so she has to check on them. Over and over and over. Second, she collects articles about murders. Bea fears that she will someday snap and kill someone, so any sharp objects or weapons cause anxiety. Third, when stressed, Bea pinches her thigh. She pinches it so hard that it's marked with a black-and-blue bruise Then there is the really bad one.

There are off-hand comments made about some ex-boyfriend who had to get a restraining order, but we don't get an explanation right away. Bea's new obsession is a couple who also goes to her therapist. They are married and glamorous, and Bea sits in a corner and eavesdrops on their sessions. She writes down details in a secret notebook. One day, she follows them home. She goes back often. Sometimes she tries to stop, but then the fear will come that something bad will happen if she isn't there, and Bea will compulse. Eventually, she has to go further, actually interacting with Austin and Sylvia, and even talking her way into their apartment. It's pretty scary when she acts that way, and a little difficult to read about.

I really loved this book and the glimpse it gave inside the mind of a teenager living with mental illness. It's impossible not to sympathize with Bea through her struggles. At one point in the story, Bea was thinking about how their compulsions can come from a good place. Washing your hands, going to the gym, and cautious driving are good things, but at some point it becomes too much. It's difficult to gauge exactly when the good turns bad. It's a difficult subject matter, but it's approached with great care. The characters are easy to relate to, even if you don't share their affliction. The story contains a lot of drama, but also romance and comedy to balance out the heavy stuff. 

I received my copy of OCD Love Story from Edelweiss, courtesy of Simon Pulse. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Special Guest Post: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Here is the special guest post of Cinder, by my esteemed friend Alex:

I've been wanting to start this series for forever...but I kept pushing it aside until a friend lent me the book. I really enjoyed the retelling of this classic fairy tale. I thought the big reveal was a bit obvious at the beginning of the book, but I think doing it that way made me enjoy the rest of it a bit more. I didn't have to play a guessing game at what was going on and where the story was headed. I loved that Cinder, the main character was a real snarky fighter. She never gives up or whines about her situation/predicaments even though she certainly has a right to. The side characters around her really made the story funny and the romance entanglement wasn't too much or not enough. Meyer gave me just enough of everything to make this book pretty good. I enjoyed that Meyer twisted it around and didn't stick to the original story.(It was nice for once to actually have at least one nice stepsister!) It kept me engaged the whole time. Excited to move on to Scarlet now!

Thanks, Alex! Full disclosure: this review was originally published on Goodreads and printed at my blog with permission from Ms. Alex Moore.

This guest post is sponsored by my insane desire to read the third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cress. Details on that are here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shameless Ploy to Acquire Book

So, I am a big fan of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I have already read the first two, Cinder and Scarlet (Links go to my reviews of the books). The third book, Cress, is coming out in February. This is WAY too far away. Hence, I am shamelessly trying to win an ARC of the book.

In order to win the coveted book, I lent my copy of Cinder to my friend Alex. There is a promotion called Give the Gift of Cinder. You lend the book to a friend, share the friend's review, and then post links at the site. Twenty lucky people will be getting ARCs of Cress.

Now, why did I lend Cinder to Alex? We both work at Barnes & Noble together. Alex and I both love to read Teen books, and we recommend books to each other all the time. I know that she likes books with action and fantasy, as well as fairy tale retellings. Because of that, I am sure that she will like Cinder.

I will be posting her review here very soon (And hopefully I will be getting that book! :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling

"And then, at last, the frenzy wore itself into staleness, and even the journalists had nothing left to say, but that too much had been said already."

I am almost positive that I have seen The Cuckoo's Calling around before the big reveal. It may have been on one of my ARC sites, I may have passed by it in our mystery section at work. Sometimes I try different genres, just to see if there may be something I'm missing. Even so, I don't usually read mysteries. Therefore, The Cuckoo's Calling went under my radar. Months later, when news broke that Robert Galbraith was actually a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, I suddenly had to read it.

Like everyone (Who isn't INCREDIBLY WRONG), I love Harry Potter. When The Casual Vacancy came out, I was excited. I love Harry Potter, and I AM an adult! This sounds right up my alley. Then, I read it...and I gave up on it after about 100 pages. It's just so long, and she seems to be taking too many liberties with profanity and sex now that she is writing for the grown-ups, and I sort of wish maybe she would have stuck with Fantasy, except for adults. The Casual Vacancy is so normal.

Unfortunately, The Cuckoo's Calling still isn't Harry Potter. It is a pretty darn great murder mystery. It starts with supermodel Lula Landry falling to her death from the balcony of her apartment. Given the troubled young woman's history of substance abuse and her rocky, well publicized relationship, it seems likely that Landry committed suicide.

When Lula's brother seeks to hire him to investigate, at first Cormoran Strike refuses. Business has been terrible, he can't pay back the loans used to start the agency, and he can barely afford the fee for his temporary secretary. Still, he doesn't want to take advantage of someone's death, even when John Bristow is offering double his normal fees. The money eventually wins. Strike takes the case, expecting to come to the same conclusion as the police. Instead, he discovers that the facts don't add up. The more he investigates, the more he starts to agree with Bristow. It appears that someone killed Lula Landry, and it's up to Strike and his new temp Robin to bring the murderer to justice.

I think that I liked this book so much because of the characters. Cormoran Strike is an imposing, tough man. He is also very sympathetic, having lost his leg in the war, and his girlfriend breaks up with him right at the beginning of the story. I also admire him because he is an amazing detective. Robin is newly engaged and planning to leave for a permanent job. However, she gets caught up in the excitement of working for a private investigator. I was a little jealous, because I also wanted to be a detective when I was younger. She is also impressively efficient at her job, often going above and beyond the secretarial role. The relationship between Strike and Robin was my favorite part. Both of them are so good at their respective jobs, and they form a mutual respect. It just warmed my heart, and I'm not being sarcastic. There is supposed to be a second book featuring these characters, and I am incredibly excited to see what unfolds between Strike and Robin.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

"People said time was relative, and I guess that explained why my life before River felt like a handful of seconds- brief flashes of small events that added up to very little.
But my life after River was a three-volume saga. Epic with quests and villains and murders and unsatisfactory resolutions and people being torn apart."

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a paranormal teen romance book with heavy hints of southern gothic. It's sort of Twilight meets Beautiful Creatures, but different. Also, it's really, really good.

Violet and her brother Luke are the grandchildren of wealthy industrialists. As such, they are not supposed to get jobs to earn money for silly trifles such as food. While their artist parents travel in Europe and are basically unreachable, Violet comes up with the idea of renting out the guest house. A girl's gotta eat, after all.

Soon, almost freakishly soon, someone responds to her ad. The new boy in town is called River. Violet is drawn to him, and River seems to reciprocate her feelings. Despite never having strong feelings towards any of the boys in town, she starts having all kinds of steamy dreams about him. The problem is that strange things start to happen, bad things.

What qualifies as strange? The teenage neighbor sees a mad man in a cave moments after telling the story of a mad man who lives in a cave. A little girl disappears, the neighborhood children having seen her abducted by the Devil himself. People start to do things and feel things that they cannot control. The timing of the events coincides with River's arrival. The question is how River could do these things, and if he is responsible, does that make him evil?

I was a big fan of Violet. She was a fairly sensible girl (In one of my favorite quotes, she talks about a childhood fantasy that she had where a rich descendant who owns a neighboring estate comes back and they fall in love. She concludes this admission with, "I was pretty stupid when I was younger." That really made me laugh.) who likes to wear her late grandmother's clothes and watch old movies. River was fairly dreamy, though I have a thing for the boys with dubious motives. They have a pretty nice relationship, which fortunately doesn't ruin their individual characters.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was pretty exciting. Normal, casual events would take place, then all of a sudden STUFF would happen. I loved how it was hard to predict when STUFF would go down. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel, which is due out August 2014. How can I wait sooo long?

I received my copy of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dial. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

"It's not so much a possession as an infection.
The House was always his.
Always him."

I was very excited to read The Shining Girls, but I ended up disappointed. It sounded awesome: a serial killer who hunts his victims throughout time, while the one who got away is hunting him. The biggest problem I had with the book is momentarily forgetting how very gross serial killers are. The very violent scenes of women being killed made me sick. The victims are interesting women, and one by one we see them being brutally murdered. This was listed as a book that features a strong female character, but the story shows the very opposite.

The Shining Girls opens in Chicago during the Great Depression. Harper, our a-hole serial killer, is running from some dudes who want to punish him for killing a man, like the a-hole he is. A bunch of crazy mishaps later, he steals a coat from an old blind woman (As you do, when you're an a-hole). The coat contains a set of keys, keys to the House.

The House is a giant mystery, this weird time-traveling place. Inside the House are a list of names and a whole lot of random objects. The objects are from the girls, girls who shined with life and potential, girls he will kill/has killed/time travel! Harper gets right to work visiting the girls, giving them an item, then going back at a future time and murdering them. He then leaves an object from another girl at the scene of the crime.

This whole disgusting routine is going swimmingly, until it doesn't. He leaves one woman alive: Kirby. She is a brash college student who interns at a newspaper and uses its resources to hunt down her attempted killer. This proves nearly impossible, as Harper's murders span decades. I found Kirby to be a bit annoying, but mostly okay. It would be hard to side against anyone looking to kick Harper's butt.

The time travel element made this book somewhat interesting. I was slightly impressed that a deranged lunatic was capable of keeping track of timelines so well, that he was so good at closing loops. The Shining Girls really made me sad because I do see potential greatness in the story, but ultimately it fell short of the mark.