Title: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Published by Quirk Books
Published: May 17th 2016
But she remembers when the word “friend” could draw blood. She and Gretchen spent hours ranking their friendships, trying to determine who was a best friend and who was an everyday friend, debating whether anyone could have two best friends at the same time, writing each other’s names over and over in purple ink, buzzed on the dopamine high of belonging to someone else, having a total stranger choose you, someone who wanted to know you, another person who cared that you were alive.
Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?
I found My Best Friend’s Exorcism on a book list for things to read after you’ve finished watching Netflix’s Stranger Things. Needing something to fill in that void, I picked this up and started reading it immediately. I couldn’t put it down.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is set in the late eighties and follows Abby’s friendship with Gretchen during a series of strange events. When Gretchen begins to behave differently than usual, Abby eventually figures out that a demon has possessed Gretchen and Abby does everything she can to exorcize that demon.
While the plot was a little slow at first, I thought it worked for this book because rather than it being an action-packed adventure through devils and demons and exorcists, this book is an exploration of the friendship of teenage girls and the ups and downs that occur in high school friendships, whether or not one is possessed by demons. Having grown up with a lot of eighties references and eighties films, this book also evokes a similar kind of nostalgia for that decade that Stranger Things did. While Stranger Things seems to evoke those action-packed, Spielberg films of the eighties, My Best Friend’s Exorcism evokes those heart-filled John Hughes films of friendship and budding relationships.
If you’re left wanting more between seasons of Stranger Things, I definitely recommend My Best Friend’s Exorcism!
Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Series: Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1
Published by Quirk
Published: June 7th 2011
Genres: Young Adult
We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.
A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is one of those odd books that I liked but also didn’t like. It’s difficult to explain, and the only thing I can come up with is that I like the premise and I like the atmosphere created, but I found the characters and a lot of the writing to fall flat. I couldn’t put it down while I was reading it, but after I finished the book, I just felt sort of ehh.
It’s pretty much a meh execution of a really excellent idea. I was expecting something scarier, but it wasn’t all that scary. The writing most of the time felt juvenile, and I feel like I might have liked this book had it been shelved in the children’s section rather than in Teen/YA. I have expectations of depth of writing when books are categorized in certain sections, and this being shelved in the YA section most of the time is misleading in terms of the depth of the story.
The best parts about this book are the weirdly manipulated photographs that add more to the story than just the words (which shouldn’t be the case, but it is) and Miss Peregrine herself. I like the idea of time loops and that the children are stuck in them forever, and I wish that idea was developed a little bit more in this book (and maybe it is in the following books!).
I wish the book had a different narrator. Jacob seemed bland and boring, and I’m over the whiny rich boy narrators because I felt he had no depth and no change in character, but I do understand the bland character as a narrator as it allows the reader to self-insert and connect with the story more (which is not the greatest tactic in grabbing your reader’s interest).
I may eventually pick up the rest of the series (or borrow them from the library) because while I enjoyed this story for what it was, the executed concept fell flat and didn’t totally wow me enough to rush out and read the next two.
Title: The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
Published by Hogarth
Published: July 19th 2016
Source: Blogging for Books
You can drink light right down into your chromosomes, then in the darkest minutes of winter, when there is a total absence of it, you will glow and glow and glow.
The stunning new novel from the highly-acclaimed author of The Panopticon
It's November of 2020, and the world is freezing over. Each day colder than the last. There's snow in Israel, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to drift just off the coast of Scotland. As ice water melts into the Atlantic, frenzied London residents evacuate by the thousands for warmer temperatures down south. But not Dylan. Grieving and ready to build life anew, he heads north to bury his mother's and grandmother's ashes on the Scottish islands where they once lived.
Hundreds of miles away, twelve-year-old Estella and her survivalist mother, Constance, scrape by in the snowy, mountainous Highlands, preparing for a record-breaking winter. Living out of a caravan, they spend their days digging through landfills, searching for anything with restorative and trading value. When Dylan arrives in their caravan park in the middle of the night, life changes course for Estella and Constance. Though the weather worsens, his presence brings a new light to daily life, and when the ultimate disaster finally strikes, they'll all be ready.
Written in incandescent, dazzling prose, The Sunlight Pilgrims is a visionary story of courage and resilience in the midst of nature's most violent hour; by turns an homage to the portentous beauty of our natural world, and to just how strong we can be, if the will and the hope is there, to survive its worst.
It’s 2020 in Scotland, and the world’s freezing over. Jenni Fagan’s The Sunlight Pilgrims is an end-of-the-world novel, but it’s not a loud one. There are no explosions, no aliens taking over the planet, no rampant diseases. Just ice and snow and a chill that never seems to go away. It’s a quiet exploration of family, death, life, and identity when the world as we all know it is ending.
The Sunlight Pilgrims will make you think about your family, and maybe other families too, and hopefully make you realize and every family has its problems. It will make you think about death a little bit and maybe the end of the world and what comes after. But mostly, this book will make you think of some event that led to your “coming of age.” The event that made you cross that line from child to tiny adult, from tiny adult to actual adult. At the heart of it all, The Sunlight Pilgrims is a coming-of-age novel, and sometimes, some of us have several of those coming-of-age moments..
What I liked most about it is Stella. In the midst of the chaotic climate change, she is figuring out her identity and figuring out how to share it with the world without being constantly humiliated. Each of the characters are fully formed with an interesting backstory that links them all together, but I was really curious to see Stella’s story developed, and Fagan raises key points about gender identity that I thought poignant and timely.
I read this in a day, mostly in a single sitting. I don’t often get the chance to do that, and I don’t often become so engrossed in a book that I want to do that. The Sunlight Pilgrims is a haunting, lyrical exploration of a family at the brink of change, for themselves and for the world.
Thank you to Blogging for Books for a review copy!
Title: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #5
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Published: September 6th 2016
Genres: Young Adult
The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?
I won’t lie, I was so excited for this book. Queen of Shadows
had enough of a cliffhanger that left me wanting more. But then I started reading Empire of Storms
, and I was sitting there, thinking to myself, what happened?
This isn’t going to be a very favorable review, and I’m a little sad about it, I think, because I realized I’ve grown out of this series, maybe? This review also contains MAJOR SPOILERS
, so please be forewarned if you haven’t finished the book yet.
Title: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons
Published: March 22nd 2016
Reader, I murdered him
A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer, from the author whose work The New York Times described as “riveting” and The Wall Street Journal called “thrilling.” “Young Jane Steele’s favorite book, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, mirrors her life both too little and too much…In an arresting tale of dark humor and sometimes gory imagination, Faye has produced a heroine worthy of the gothic literature canon but reminiscent of detective fiction.”—Library Journal, Starred Review
“Reader, I murdered him.” A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement. Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess. Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past? A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies, by a writer who Matthew Pearl calls “superstar-caliber” and whose previous works Gillian Flynn declared “spectacular,” Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing book inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.
I’ve never read Faye’s work before, and I was going to put off reading Jane Steele until I’d read a few of her others, but when I saw the book on the library shelves, I grabbed it, sat down, and read it in a day. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a Jane Eyre retelling, but it’s certainly Jane Eyre-inspired, as evidenced from Jane Steele’s fondness for the Charlotte Brontë novel.
Jane Steele’s life follows a similar trajectory as the character Jane Eyre, and she finds comfort in her fictional counterpart. The major difference between Steele and Eyre is that while Eyre merely struggles and sometimes voices her discontent against the female imprisonment and injustice in society by men, Steele actually does something about it. And by doing something about it, she murders the offending men. She isn’t a serial killer. She murders in self-defense, as a way to protect her life and the lives of others.
It’s well-paced, vicious, atmospheric, and a little predictable if you’re familiar with Jane Eyre’s story. The way in which Faye writes makes you feel as if you’re in the dirty heart of Victorian London. The biggest, most frustrating aspect of the entire thing was how forced Steele’s relationship felt with Thornfield most of the time, almost as if Steele expected and forced her life to follow in Eyre’s footsteps because that’s what she was familiar with and that’s where she found comfort. But there’s a scene with Clarke that made me gasp and sigh and long for so much more development in that direction. That would have been the twist that earned that fifth star.
If you enjoy Jane Eyre and its many incarnations; Victoriana; and historical fiction with strong, deviant women, you’ll surely find something to enjoy in Jane Steele.