Waiting on Wednesday: I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!

I Crawl Through It by A.S. KingPublisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Authors: A.S. King

Release date: September 22, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads: A boldly surreal novel from one of the best YA writers working today.
Four talented teenagers are traumatized-coping with grief, surviving date rape, facing the anxiety of standardized tests and the neglect of self-absorbed adults–and they’ll do anything to escape the pressure. They’ll even build an invisible helicopter, to fly far away to a place where everyone will understand them… until they learn the only way to escape reality is to face it head-on.

Why I’m excited: Are you kidding? This sounds freaking incredible. I always get excited for magical realism, but this sounds like it’s going to take it even farther. I’m really looking forward to meeting these four teenagers and going on this journey with them. Surreal and brilliant – the two words that come to mind when I read that synopsis.

Book Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren SumaAuthor:  Nova Ren Suma
Genre: Young adult, magical realism, fantasy
Publisher: Algonquin
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
319 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, but couldn’t open the file (wrong format for Kindle), so I checked it out from the library. Despite that, thank you so much to Algonquin for granting me access!!

This entire book felt like a dream, which, I suppose, is part of the point. Magical realism is always fun, and The Walls Around Us was just so cool. It was trippy and strange and wonderful. You never quite know what is real and what is imagined, because none of the characters really know either. I was so confused most of the time and I loved it. Most of the time when I read a book this confusing during which I have absolutely no idea what’s happening, I’m not a big fan, especially if the book is doing it for the sole purpose of confusing you, but in the case of The Walls Around Us, I actually really liked it.

The prose was wonderful. When I started the first page, I was kind of worried. It’s…different. But after the first three pages, I was hooked. It flows easily and its use of repetition felt like a chant, a song. Again, it’s different and odd, but, for me, it was easy to read and very, very cool. The characters were all complex, especially the ones inside the detention center. Just like their crimes, their guilt wasn’t black and white, and this changed them from horrible thieves, murderers, and prisoners into real people.

I think the one thing I didn’t really like was that the book felt a little…meandering? I think that’s the right word. I wasn’t expecting action-packed or anything like that, but parts of it felt a little long-winded. On the other hand, I LOVED the bizarre, odd, confusing end so much. SO. MUCH. I think it fit perfectly with the strangeness of this magical story.

For me, the inscription before Part IV of the book perfectly sums this one up:

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.”

Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

The bottom line: The Walls Around Us is really different from what you’re expecting. A little Black Swan, but with a bunch of other things thrown in. It’s confusing and strange and absolutely wonderful. I don’t think this will be a book for everyone, though. Personally? I want to read more by Nova Ren Suma.

Rating: 7.5 – between pretty good and freaking fantastic

ARC Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Magonia by Maria Dahvana HeadleyAuthor:  Maria Dahvana Headley
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
320 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Can I just give a quick shout out to the super kind Kimberley at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA for giving me this ARC? Everyone who works there is ridiculously friendly, and if you’re ever in the area, you really should drop by.

Aza Ray has never been able to breathe correctly. She’s struggled her whole life, and she even has a disease named after her, though she’d much rather call it Clive. But one day, she sees a ship in the sky and someone calling her name. No one believes her except her best friend Jason, who tells her stories of similar happenings from long ago and a magical place called Magonia. Soon after, Aza is lost to our world but returned to Magonia.

This book, you guys. WOAH. Magonia is so unbelievably unique, creative, and absolutely stunning. I’m still pretty speechless over it and I’m not sure how to write a review that isn’t just READ IT READ IT READ IT. It’s fantasy, but also reminded me quite a bit of magical realism because I sometimes forgot all of the things weren’t actually happening. Maria Dahvana Headley’s writing is gorgeous and poetic and beautiful. Like, she describes the sound of a boat coming: “The sails are made of hum and speed (ARC 252).” How perfect is that?

Aza Ray is a bit of a smartass, but I love her. She’s accepted her disease and lives with it. She’s…strange and sarcastic, which is pretty much exactly what I love in a character. I also loved the dual POVs of Aza and Jason. Jason’s POV was sad, distressing, and so very smart.

Magonia was incredible. I could feel the atmosphere and world all around me as I read. I devoured this world and these pages. This book is just…mad and weird and strange and so very good. I will say that I don’t think this book is for everyone, but it was most definitely for me.

The bottom line: 

Rating: 9 – practically perfect

You can read the first SEVEN chapters of Magonia over on the Epic Reads site.

Book Review: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (ARC)

Kelly Link’s short story collection, Get In Trouble, is a bit of a mixed bag of interesting, strange, amazing, not-so-amazing, and whimsical stories that I both liked and didn’t like.

Get in Trouble by Kelly LinkAuthor:  Kelly Link
Genre: Short stories, magical realism, fantasy, sci-fi
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
336 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Random House for letting me read this!

Before reading Get In Trouble, the only other experience I’d had with Kelly Link was her short story, The Lady and the Fox, from My True Love Gave to Me (which, you might remember, wasn’t my favorite because of the writing style). You might be wondering why I’d want to read an entire book of her short stories then. Well, she was being blurbed by all kind of amazing authors and Neil Gaiman said she was a “national treasure” and I just wanted to try again. Overall, I’m glad I did. This was a weird collection though, you guys. If you check out my status updates while reading, I basically loved every other story and didn’t like every other story. It was so weird. Let’s do a story by story, okay?

The Summer People – This was a fantastic introduction to the book. It’s an amazing mixture of modernity and classic fairy tales, and I raced through it in no time. There are wonderful descriptions, like, “You could hardly see the house itself, hidden like a bride behind her veil of climbing vines (Page 11).” It was dark and strange, mysterious and almost too weird, but I liked that. I was so excited to read more of the book!

I Can See Right Through You – I honestly didn’t even like this one until the end. It’s about a pair of celebrities who’ve got this abnormal relationship going on that stemmed from the two of them starring in a movie together many years ago. They’ve been together and broken up several times and right now they’re off. Maybe I didn’t understand this one but it was just strange, and not in a good way this time. But that ending was pretty cool.

Secret Identity – This is about a 15-year-old girl from the middle of nowhere showing up in NYC to meet a man she’s only spoken to online (note that she was pretending to be her much older sister). At the hotel where she’s meant to meet him, two conventions are happening – one for dentists and one for superheroes. The story is all about who we are essentially, as people. It was one of my favorites. So very weird but also really great.

Valley of the Girls – Not 100% sure what this even was. It’s a story about these rich families who hire “Faces” to pretend to be their kids while growing up and implant their real children with something that makes them invisible to cameras. It’s a whole exploration about what it means to be a celebrity and the consequences of that status. But this one just wasn’t for me.

Origin Story – This one takes place in a world (maybe the same one as “Secret Identity”) in which superheroes are just a part of our society. I loved that we got no explanation for this and were just thrown into this world. The whole story is a description of one night between two people – who turn out to be more than normal but still rather ordinary. The ending was somewhat unexpected, but this one was a little too boring, I think, even though I still loved the world.

The New Boyfriend – Unlike her friends, Ainslie gets whatever she wants, including all THREE models (vampire, werewolf, and now even the cancelled ghost) of the new toy everyone is raving about – realistic robot “Boyfriends”. Immy has wanted a Boyfriend for even longer than Ainslie, and she’s super jealous. So Immy changes his programming a bit and things get really weird when it seems that the ghost Boyfriend might actually be a real ghost. This one was super creepy and weird and made me feel kind creepy-crawly. *shudders*

Two Houses – Basically ghost stories in space in a spaceship that can make them seem real. I thought this one was actually pretty cool, especially in comparison to the other “ghost stories” in the book. And what better ending than “She could no longer tell the one from the other (Page 286)”?? That’s the best.

Light – Sometime in the future, we’ve got pocket universes, invasive iguanas, and all kinds of new and crazy things, one of which is that some people have two shadows – one of the shadows can end up becoming a seemingly real person, a “twin”. Lindsey is one of those people, so on top of managing a warehouse that is filled to capacity with “sleeping” bodies, she also has to deal with Alan, her challenging gay “twin”. This whole world was seriously cool and interesting. My only qualm was with the ending, which was a little lacking.

The bottom line: So as you can see, this one was a little wishy washy for me, but I ended up liking it way more than I originally thought I would. Several of the stories were really incredible, though several of them fell quite flat for me. I think this is one of those cases where some people will love it and some people won’t. I’ve somehow found myself right in the middle. I’m a fan of whimsical, so maybe that’s it.

Rating: 6 – Good, but not great

Book Review: The Rabbit Back Literature Society (ARC)

A confusing but sometimes enchanting story that’ll leave you lost in the end, The Rabbit Back Literature Society is good but not great.

The Rabbit Back Literature SocietyAuthor:  Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Literary Fiction

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books)

Publication Date: January 20, 2015 (US publication – first published in 2006)

352 pages, hardcover

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Thomas Dunne Books for letting me read this.

What first drew me to this book was that absolutely gorgeous cover. Obviously. Then my friend Jo over at Drifting Pages bought it. Then I saw it on Netgalley and just had to read it. It has such an interesting concept. The Rabbit Back Literature Society was…good. Not great, but good. It’s well-written for the most part. The magical realism was really cool but also very strange, which I should have expected. However, it didn’t do anything. It didn’t go anywhere, which was really disappointing.

The thing that really disappointed me was the “mystery”. I like when books don’t answer all of your questions, leave you to figure out what you think happened. But I like when they answer SOME of them. One, even. There was little to no resolution for what was the biggest mystery in the whole book – the disappearance of Laura White. We do get resolution for one of the other mysteries, and I thought it was sweet and simple and wonderful, but we had NONE for the main mystery. It felt a little like I’d wasted my time.

The violence was also strange. I’m not sure if this is in part due to the fact that it’s been translated, but the authors of the society play “The Game” in which they can invoke a rule that allows them to hurt the other to get them to tell the truth. It was weird. There’s also one scene (only a few pages) that talks about an act of sexual violence that was seriously disturbing. I had to put the book down for a while.

I enjoyed the mysticism and magical realism, and most of the writing was interesting enough to keep me going. But feeling like you’ve part of the point when you finish is not something I like. Not bad but not great either.

The bottom line: I never really figured out what was happening or why I was reading about it. I will say that the book will push you violently out of your comfort zone, which I appreciated, and the magical realism was interesting and enchanting. I haven’t said much about the plot because 1. I’m not sure what the point was, and 2. I’m not sure there was supposed to be a point. If you like magical realism and translation, read this. But if you need things to be wrapped up, you’ll go insane at the end. Basically, read The Rabbit Back Literature Society at your own risk.

Rating: 6 – good, but not great

Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

avalavenderTitle: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Author: Leslye Walton

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: March 2014

Hardback: 301 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

 Let’s start with a brief synopsis (taken from Goodreads):

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

What I thought:

I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I feel about this book. I can’t really explain how reading it was for me, so I’m not sure how this review is going to go down. I apologize if it’s just one long rambling mess. There were parts of this book that I really did enjoy, and others that I wasn’t sure how to feel. The writing is beautiful, and its fairy tale qualities were truly magical. But at the same time, there were several moments when I was wondering what exactly the point was. Sometimes it’s okay for you to read a book like this, but I just didn’t understand some parts of this novel. I suppose, like the title says, this book is quite strange. But it is also very beautiful. And sorrowful.

This book is magical realism at its finest. It states the magic in the story as fact and offers no explanation for how these things happen. Everything is stated matter-of-factly through Ava, our narrator. I loved this, though it was weird at first. The prose is really gorgeous and haunting at the same time. This book is a fairy tale in every sense of the word. It tells the story of three generations of the Lavender family and documents their loves, losses, heartbreak, and deaths. I’ve read a few reviews of people who didn’t enjoy the inclusion of the family history as the title suggests that it is only about Ava. I really liked this part of the novel because it gave a complete backstory to Ava’s life and family. It made it so that all of the characters were completely well-rounded and complete. I will say, however, that it was parts of the backstories that made me question what the point was. I know how wishy-washy I sound right now. I loved these backstories; I didn’t like them. Which is it? I don’t know. I did enjoy getting a fuller history of the Lavender family, but sometimes there were things included that just didn’t add to the story.

I think that a lot of people will really, really love this book. I did enjoy reading it. I know that you might not believe it from what I’ve said so far. But I did. I’m glad I read it. And I think that you should read it, too. I would definitely recommend it to people who like magical realism, fairy tales, and, well, sad stories. Because this novel is sad; like, super sad. Like, shockingly dark, horrifying, and depressing. I think that many readers will find that this novel will strike a chord with them. Others will miss out on the point of the novel.

This review is so hard, because I did appreciate this book. Really. I loved Walton’s writing and the magical realism, as well as the dream-like quality of some of its scenes. The things that I liked about this book, I REALLY liked. I look forward to what comes next from this author. I will definitely read her other books. And I don’t feel as if I wasted my time reading this book. I’m glad I picked it up and that I had the pleasure of reading Walton’s words.

The bottom line:

I think this is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” times. I think you should read this novel. I am glad that I did. I just didn’t always understand the point of what I was reading.

Rating: 7 – Pretty good

You can find out more about Leslye Walton by following her on Twitter or visiting her website.

Reading next: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins