Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday

Wednesday is a perfect day for a good book meme, and I thought I’d branch out a bit! I’ve been participating in Wishlist Wednesday, hosted by Pen to Paper, for over a year — and I’ve been wanting to jump into Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine) for a while now too. So why not do both?

Wishlist Wednesday is a place to highlight any book from our wish lists — old, new, not yet released — that we’re dying to read. Waiting on Wednesday focuses on upcoming new releases.

Some weeks, I’ll probably have two different books to wish and wait for… but this week, here’s one that works for both!

My wishlist book this week is:

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2) by Libba Bray
(release date April 22, 2014)

From Goodreads:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Why do I want to read this?

Because I absolutely loved The Diviners, and can’t wait to see what happens next! Evie is a fabulous main character, and I love the 1920s New York setting. The Diviners was a perfect mix of creepy and absolutely snazzy — and I was just so excited to find out this week that book #2 has a title, a cover, and a release date!

Who else is excited about Lair of Dreams?

So what are you doing on Thursdays and Fridays? Come join me for my regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday! You can find out more here — come share the book love!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Wishlist Wednesday

And now, for this week’s Wishlist Wednesday…

The concept is to post about one book from our wish lists that we can’t wait to read. Want to play? Here’s how:

  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.
  • Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
  • Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it’s on your wishlist.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of the post at Pen to Paper.
  • Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

My Wishlist Wednesday book is:

great & terrible beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

From the Random House website:

Gemma Doyle, sixteen and proud, must leave the warmth of her childhood home in India for the rigid Spence Academy, a cold finishing school outside of London, followed by a stranger who bears puzzling warnings. Using her sharp tongue and agile mind, she navigates the stormy seas of friendship with high-born daughters and her roommate, a plain scholarship case. As Gemma discovers that her mother’s death may have an otherworldly cause, and that she herself may have innate powers, Gemma is forced to face her own frightening, yet exciting destiny . . . if only she can believe in it.

Why do I want to read this?

I’ve become quite a fan of Libba Bray over the past few years. I adored her newest novel, The Diviners, and really enjoyed Beauty Queens and Going Bovine as well. Somehow, I missed out on reading her first novel, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and its two follow-up books, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing.

To be honest, were this not written by Libba Bray, I’m not sure I’d be drawn to it. Victorian era boarding school novels don’t necessarily call to me… but I’m willing to give it a whirl.

Have you read the Gemma Doyle trilogy? And if so, what did you think?

Happy Wednesday!

Quick note to Wishlist Wednesday bloggers: Come on back to Bookshelf Fantasies for Flashback Friday! Join me in celebrating the older gems hidden away on our bookshelves. See the introductory post for more details, and come back this Friday to add your flashback favorites!

The Monday agenda

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

Busy week ahead, so let’s dive right in. What’s on the agenda for this week?

From last week:

Quality over quantity, for sure! Real life (and by that, I mean the portion of my life that does not revolve around books) got in the way, big time, and it seemed that reading was relegated to the back burner — a most painful and frustrating situation for me. Here’s hoping that the coming week is a little less crazy. So, last week’s progress:

The Diviners by Libba Bray: Done! Loved it. My review is here.

And that’s really it. I caught up on a few weeks’ worth of the New York Times book review sections, but made no progress on any other books.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (group re-read): Moving forward, getting closer to the end.

And this week’s new agenda:

Due to a weird confluence of coincidences (did I just make that up? sounds weird), The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell has been on my mind. My daughter just finished reading The Sparrow this past week, and was blown away. My husband, who relies on me for his book recommendations, is ready for something new, and I’m pushing The Sparrow on him. In addition, I’m going to hear Mary Doria Russell speak this week about The Sparrow! As a consequence of all this, I’ve decided to ignore my library stack and re-read The Sparrow myself. This is one of my very favorite books, which I’ve read once on my own and once as part of a book group. It’s been about five years, and I believe it’s time to treat myself to a re-read. I can’t say it enough times — if you’ve never read this book, what are you waiting for?

Assuming I finish up by mid-week, next on the agenda will be Breed by Chase Novak and then Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Sadly, I’ll be returning some books unread to the library this week, as there simply isn’t enough time for me to read them all before their due dates. Back on the request list they go!

My son and I finished up the book we were reading together (his review is here; my review is here) — looking forward to picking out some new bedtime reading material.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon: Our online re-read is up to chapters 58 and 59 this week, and they’re good ones. My turn to write chapter summaries is next week. Gulp.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

A photo montage in honor of The Diviners

I just loved the world of Libba Bray’s The Diviners, and went searching for images to bring 1920s Manhattan to life. Here are some of my favorite finds so far:

Positutely the bee’s knees!

This picture instantly brought Evie to mind for me. Yes, I know Evie is a blonde, but let’s get beyond hair color. What I love about this girl is the sparkle in her eyes, the lovely smile, the sense that this is a girl who’s confident, knows how to have fun, and has a killer sense of humor.

Could one of these lovelies be Theta?

A photo from the Ziegfeld Follies — daring for the time, revealing yet covered up.

Ziegfeld girl, 1919, fifteen years old

Cotton Club, Harlem

Harlem’s Cotton Club, where Memphis and Gabriel would have spent many an evening.

A rally Mabel’s parents might have attended

Street scene in New York, 1920

And lots more flappers, taking life by storm:

Actress Mary Pickford — maybe more of a look for Mabel?

The iconic Louise Brooks

 

 

As I find more fabulous flappers, I’ll be sure to add to this collection. And if you come across any terrific photos that remind you of The Diviners, be sure to share your link in the comments. Will I appreciate it? You bet-ski!

Book Review: The Diviners

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Roaring 20s. Jazz Age. Prohibition. Flappers.

Libba Bray perfectly captures the excitement and glamour of 1920s Manhattan in her newest young adult novel, The Diviners. Set in New York in 1926, The Diviners is a long book (500+ pages) with a sprawling cast of characters whose lives intersect amid the outward glitter of jazz clubs, boisterous parties, and daring girls looking to get noticed. The bright lights and loud music mask a darker underbelly, as a nation recovers from war, teeters on the brink of the coming economic disaster, reacts to political activism and division, and fails to take note of the growing blackness creeping into the world.

Main character Evie O’Neill is a sparkling, au courant flapper, a 17-year-old shining star stuck in small-town Zenith, Ohio, until her need to show off at a party gets her “exiled” to live with her eccentric uncle in Manhattan. Evie’s uncle, William Fitzgerald, is the director of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult — or the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies, as it’s known in popular parlance. A confirmed bachelor, Will oversees a dusty collection that no one visits and give lectures on the occult and the supernatural. When Evie arrives, she’s not content to just sit around a fusty old museum and immediately throws herself into the whirlwind of high times in New York.

Unfortunately, there’s a killer on the loose, who begins leaving a trail of ritually mutilated bodies. The killer is soon dubbed The Pentacle Killer by the sensation-seeking tabloid press, and Evie and her uncle are thrust into the action as they begin consulting with the police on the occult symbolism surrounding the bodies.

Evie crosses paths with an array of memorable characters, including showgirl Theta, who ran away from a troubled past and reinvented herself on the New York stage; Theta’s best friend Henry, a talented piano player with a secret life; Memphis, a good-looking Harlem numbers-runner who longs to be a poet; Memphis’s younger brother Isaiah, prone to odd dreams and prophecies; Jericho, Will’s stoic assistant with his own secrets to keep; and many more.

Secrets abound. Each of the main characters has a hidden gift — a secret power — which must remain guarded. But as the killer works toward the climax of a foretold ritual designed to bring about the end of times, Evie and others are called upon to use their talents to unearth the clues that may empower them to save themselves and their world. This group of people, of diverse backgrounds and with differing talents, soon realize that they are part of a prophecied group called the Diviners, who will play a part in defeating a darkness yet to come.

Libba Bray succeeds beautifully in The Diviners in conjuring forth a time and place gone by. Her descriptions of Manhattans’s sights, smells, and sounds, the glamor of the flapper girls, the allure of hot jazz clubs — all are rendered so precisely that you can feel them come alive. Evie and friends use the lingo of the times to great effect: Evie asks for “giggle water” when she’s looking for a nip of gin; she frequently pronounces things “the bee’s knees” or “the cat’s pajamas”; her speech is peppered with “posititutely” and “you bet-ski”… and it’s all quite delicious. Evie is witty, charming, and quick on her feet (“A murder! Oh, my. Let me just change my shoes.”); she uses her flapper attitude to cope with the grief of her older brother’s death in the Great War, and never lets on that there is a sorrow underneath her fun-times demeanor.

Fabulous too is the looming sense of dread, which grows darker and scarier throughout the book as the killer moves closer and closer to fulfilling the prophecies, and it becomes clear that the threat is beyond human, and may well be unstoppable. The supernatural elements are unveiled bit by bit, and the creepiness amps up as the plot hurtles forward.

The Diviners is both an excellent period piece and a creepy occult murder mystery, with heavy doses of prophecies of doom and mystical dreams of strange times to come. If the book had ended with the resolution of the pentacle killings, it would have made a terrific stand-alone novel. However, it doesn’t end there. The Diviners is the first in a series, and I’m a bit uncertain as to where the story may go or how long the series will end up being. The author has established the group of characters who form the Diviners, and it’s clear that they will continue down the path of fighting some mysterious being whose shape has yet to be fully revealed or understood. I look forward to spending more time with the enchanting Evie and her eclectic group of friends and colleagues. I trust that, in Libba Bray’s deliciously talented hands, the story will continue to be engaging, colorful, and creepy. I just hope that the series will have a strong finish, rather than turning into an open-ended story without an end-point. Still, despite my hesitation over getting involved in a new series, it’s clear that The Diviners is something special, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

The Monday agenda

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

The fog horns are blowing, the skies are grey. What more could you want on a Monday morning? Perhaps a stack of books, a hot cup of coffee, and a warm quilt?

From last week:

Well, it felt like a productive week…

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller: I really and truly loved this book. Lovely writing and a haunting story. My review is here.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison: Finished a few days ago. Enjoyable and moving, a quirky, sad novel of friendship, loss… and a road trip. My review is here.

I hit the library and picked up my various and assorted hold books, which — inconsiderately — all decided to become available in the same week. I’m going to have to set up a spreadsheet of due dates to help me strategize reading order and set a page-per-day minimum. Kidding… but it might help.

I ended up deciding that The Forgetting Tree was something I’d like to read at some point, but it didn’t need to be right now, so back to the library it went.

Finally, over the weekend, I started The Diviners by Libba Bray, which is just the bee’s knees! An occult mystery set in jazz age Manhattan… delightful!

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (group re-read): Keeping on, keeping on.

And this week’s new agenda:

I should finish up The Diviners in the next couple of days. After that, it’ll be time to attack the library pile again.

The next three on the stack are Breed by Chase Novak (sounds like good, creepy horror), The Red House by Mark Haddon, and A Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. It’ll just depend on my reading whim on the day I have to choose.

My son and I are getting closer to the end of his current read-aloud, Merits of Mischief, which he is continuing to enjoy and I am continuing to… not. I can’t wait to be done with this one.

This week’s chapters in my group re-read of  Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon promise plenty of agony and action for the beloved main characters. We’re up to chapters 56 and 57.

I’m hoping to squeeze in a little time over the weekend for a re-read (or at least a skim-through) of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell in preparation for an upcoming book discussion. The Sparrow is one of my all-time favorites, and I’ve read it more than once, but it’s been a few years and a refresher would definitely be helpful.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Book Review: Going Bovine

Book Review: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Gotta love an author who promotes her book looking this this:

That trailer just cracks me up, and you can get a pretty good sense of just how wacky and weird Libba Bray’s literary creation is by watching her play ukulele in a cow suit.

So… Going Bovine. Big award winner. First published in 2009, it won the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award for young adult fiction. I wanted to love this book, and in parts, I really did.

Going Bovine is the story of Cameron, underachieving nobody shuffling through an underwhelming life: home life unremarkable, school no great shakes, and as for friends — well, they’re more like a group of misfits who tolerate each other because of their common loser/stoner status. Until one day things get weird, Cam starts having seizures and episodes, and ends up in the hospital diagnosed with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease — that’s mad cow disease to you and me.

Elements of the absurd abound. Cam is below notice in his school until his diagnosis; next day, his school is holding a pep rally in his honor, cheerleaders want to connect with him, and the school faculty seems to think brown and white ribbons (you know, a cow motif) are an appropriate way to show support.

Cam deteriorates rapidly as the out-of-control prions attack his brain, and is soon hospitalized with no hope of recovery. Or is he? In what is either the hallucinations of a slowly dying brain, a journey into a parallel universe, or the craziest buddy road-trip ever, Cam sets out across the South with Gonzo the neurotic dwarf, Dulcie the punk angel, and Balder, the Viking hero/yard gnome. Along the way, they’re chased by fire giants and the sinister United Snow Globe Wholesalers, making pitstops at CESSNAB (The Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack ‘N Bowl), the Daytona Beach Party House, and Putopia (Parallel Universe Travel Office … pia), en route to Disney World, site of Cameron’s happiest childhood memory and the endpoint of Cam’s quest to save the entire world from being sucked into a wormhole.

Libba Bray’s writing crackles with wit, has enough snark and social commentary to delight even the most cynical, and makes the story of a terminally ill teenager pretty fun to read. She sneaks in a lot of insidious little digs, such as the high school teacher prepping his class for the all-important State Prescribed Educational Worthiness standardized test:

Is Don Quixote mad or is it the world that embraces these ideals of the knight-errant that is actually mad? That’s the rhetorical question that Cervantes seems to be posing to us. But for our purposes, there is a right answer, and you need to know that answer when you take the SPEW test.

Or take the CESSNAB sanctuary, where people seek refuge from the harsh world in order to focus on being happy all the time. Everyone bowls a strike, everyone drinks vanilla smoothies, and when they get a hint of stress, they can go bowl some more or maybe buy stuff. As Cam explains:

I take a deep breath; in my head, I list five things I love about myself. “You know what, Gonzo? I want to help you find what I’ve found. Here, have a key chain,” I say, handing him one of the sunny yellow giveaways they hand out whenever you do something even remotely good, like remember to put the toilet seat down. Sometimes they give you a key chain just for showing up.

There’s a lot to love in this book, and ultimately Cam’s journey is both terribly touching and laugh-out-loud funny. And yet, I couldn’t maintain a steady interest throughout. I was completely engrossed for about the first third of the book, and then it just tapered off for me. The road trip elements seem to go on forever, and after a while, it was just all so over the top that it started seeming completely arbitrary. Lots of craziness, lots of hijinks, lots of bursts of insights into the meaning of it all — but as a whole, it was just all a bit too much.

It’s possible that someone in the target demographic for this book might find it profound in ways that I, as an adult, can’t quite get. Maybe I’m not at the right stage of life to fully appreciate all the quirky glories of Going Bovine. In the end, though, I can only assess the book in terms of my own experience, and unfortunately, I just didn’t connect to Going Bovine in the way that I’d hoped.

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Wishlist Wednesday

And now, for this week’s Wishlist Wednesday…

The concept is to post about one book from our wish lists that we can’t wait to read. Want to play? Here’s how:

  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.
  • Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
  • Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it’s on your wishlist.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of the post at Pen to Paper.
  • Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

My Wishlist Wednesday book is:

The Diviners by Libba Bray
(release date: September 18, 2012)

From Amazon:

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

Why do I want to read this?

This sounds right up my alley — young adult fiction, New York City in the 1920s, and an occult mystery, written by an author who knows how to mix plot and humor in the most delightful of ways.

I got a huge kick out of Libba Bray’s previous novel, Beauty Queens, a snarky, funny ode to grrrl power. What’s not to love about teen beauty pageant contestants stranded on a deserted island? Chaotic genius, all the way around.

I’ve had the author’s award-winning Going Bovine on my to-read list for some time, so perhaps while I’m waiting for The Diviners, I’ll give that one a spin as well.

My only hesitation: I just read a blurb for The Diviners which mentioned that this is the first in a projected trilogy. Yikes! I’ve more or less sworn off starting new trilogies, but I do like this author, so it may be worthy breaking my anti-series resolution for this one. Proving — as if I needed further proof — that when it comes to books, I am a weak-willed creature.