Archive | March, 2014

Maddie Reviews: The Diviners

25 Mar

Maddie
Note from Em: Maddie and I used to co-host a radio show together where we talked about all the great (and sometimes not great) books that we read. Sadly, Maddie had to leave the radio show last year when she and her family moved several hours away. Luckily she still shares her love of reading and her book reviewing talents with the world! Her reviews are posted on the Bound By Books radio show blog and here’s one of her latest reviews, which I thought you all would enjoy!

I have very interesting friends, and it is because of them that I read this book. My one friend was reading this in the library at school, when my other (slightly crazy) friend came up behind her and started reading her page aloud with various interesting voices. The next thing I knew, my slightly crazy friend was reading the book too, and giving more commentary. (“Ooo! I think Tommy’s going to die! DON’T GO IN THERE, TOMMY!”) They both talked about how good the book was, and had several silent screaming fests when they discussed it afterwards. . . So, my curiosity got the better of me, and I absolutely had to read it.

The Diviners
This book, The Diviners, by Libba Bray, primarily focuses on the main protagonist, Evangeline (Evie) O’Neill. It starts out with her being exiled to New York City to cool off (the reasons being along the lines of her accusing the town golden boy of knocking up a chambermaid at a particularly boisterous party). It takes place in the 1920’s, so as the cover remarks, New York is stuffed to the brim with speakeasies, pickpockets, Ziegfeld girls and silent pictures. “The city ran on corruption as much as electricity.” Evie’s only reservation about leaving her small town was that she’d be stuck living with her Uncle Will, who owned a museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, otherwise know by New Yorkers as the museum of Creepy Crawlies- a place “arrears on its taxes”.

Anyway, Evie, known to her small town as “that awful O’Neill girl” a flapper through and through, also had a gift- or rather, a supernatural power. She could take an object that was important to the person whose item she was examining, and get. . . sort of. . . transported to a scene in the person’s life when they possessed that object.

Also going on in this book are POV’s (points of view) from different characters, the other main POV being a character named Memphis, who was a numbers-runner for Papa Charles, “the undisputed king of Harlem”. Memphis too, had a gift- a different gift, though he hadn’t used it in a long time, for when he needed it most, his ability had failed him. There are other characters in this story, too, ranging from the reserved assistant of Evie’s uncle, Jericho, who (guess what!?) hides a secret, to Theta, a Ziegfeld girl and friend of Evie’s. She, (Theta) lived in an apartment with her “brother”, fleeing from her past-and, yes, her gift.

There are many interesting characters, but the main plot point of the story is about a series of murders, done by a serial killer whom the reader knows from the beginning, called Naughty John. The victims were branded with a cryptic, mysterious symbol and a note. Evie’s uncle was called to the scene by the police, as the killings seemed to be religious or occultish in nature, and the rest of the book unfolds with Evie realizing that her gift could help catch the killer. Evie, Sam, (another character; a NYC pickpocket), her uncle, and Jericho discover in the process of solving the case that the killings were the start of something bigger.

Personally, I enjoyed this book (for the MOST part). I loved the complicated weaving of the storyline. I loved the third-person storytelling, and how it switched POV’s constantly from a random aristocrat to the wind. I loved the names- especially me, being a name fanatic, encountering names such as Memphis and Theta gives me an embarrassingly large dose of satisfaction. Perhaps, my favorite thing, though, was the historical fiction aspect. I swear, I’ve learned more about the twenties, the Harlem Renaissance, and Prohibition than I have from ever watching a PBS special. Because of this book, I can recite ten examples of flapper slang off the top of my head. Finally, I started reading it the same afternoon I got it, and finished it the next morning. So, yes, it was THAT good- the kind of good that you sit and stare at for a couple minutes afterward, and get bug-eyed when you realize that THERE IS A SEQUEL.

There were things about this book that I did not appreciate as much. . . the main thing being the ending. It had a very last-minute relationship plot twist that I just did not like. Besides that, the only other real flaw that stayed with me was that the characters sometimes aggravate the reader- (Dude! Don’t go in there! Are you STUPID!? There’s a creepo! OR THERE! DON’T WALK INTO A RANDOM ABANDONED WAREHOUSE!!! OR under a creepy bridge! ESPECIALLY when the psychic ten-year-old told you NOT to!) . Lastly, depending on your perspective, you might think that the book talks a little bit TOO much about Prohibition and other subjects along those lines.

I would not recommend this book to someone who doesn’t like really creepy books-there are scenes from the POV of some of the victims (at one point, it seems like someone dies every other chapter). Also, if you do not like more complex plots or the whole Armageddon bit.

BUT, if you DO enjoy any of the above. . . or, well, even if you don’t, you should pick up Diviners by Libba Bray, because you can bet on your life-ski that you’ll enjoy it.

Maddie’s Rating: 5 out of 5
Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2012)

What I Should Have Read on my Indian Vacation

16 Mar

Sorry for being MIA for a while there. My husband and I went to India for the last few weeks of February and I spent all my free time leading up to the trip getting prepared to miss three weeks of work and graduate school, leaving no time to prepare blog posts for my time away. And of course the last couple weeks have been spent catching up with work and school and recovering from jet lag (fun!), but now we’re back and what an exciting trip we had!

This was my third time in India, though the first time in 14 years, and I was beyond happy to see my Indian host family and friends, and to travel throughout India with my husband for the first time. We also visited one of his good friends from college, explored the beautiful backwaters of Kerala (a state with 94% literacy rate – not too shabby!), found snow in the foothills of the Himalayas, visited several libraries, and attended the wedding of two good friends in Jaipur, where peacocks served as our beautiful yet unpredictable alarm clocks.

Indiaimages

We traveled by train quite a bit and while generally I love reading on trains, this time around I felt like I would miss too much if I took my eyes off the landscape. In the end, aside from a few Bollywood magazines, the only thing I read during our vacation was She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick – that’s right, just one book. This is unusual for me as I love to read while traveling, but I think this trip was just too fast paced and packed with activity to warrant some relaxing reading time. I do, however, believe I would have read more if I had brought books that were either set in India or that featured Indian characters. And so I’ve compiled a list of books that, if I were to do it all over again, I would bring with me to India.

Born Confused
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because even though it doesn’t take place in India, it is a well-respected, “classic” South Asian coming-of-age story that has been on my TBR for far too long.

Dimple Lala doesn’t know what to think. Her parents are from India, and she’s spent her whole life resisting their traditions. Then suddenly she gets to high school and everything Indian is trendy. To make matters worse, her parents arrange for her to meet a “suitable boy.” Of course it doesn’t go well — until Dimple goes to a club and finds him spinning a magical web. Suddenly the suitable boy is suitable because of his sheer unsuitability. Complications ensue. This is a funny, thoughtful story about finding your heart, finding your culture, and finding your place in America.

BabyjiBabyji by Abha Dawesar
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because the description starts off with some great S words.

Sexy, surprising, and subversively wise, Babyji is the story of Anamika Sharma, a spirited student growing up in Delhi. At school she is an ace at quantum physics. At home she sneaks off to her parents’ scooter garage to read the Kamasutra. Before long she has seduced an elegant older divorcée and the family servant, and has caught the eye of a classmate coveted by all the boys.

With the world of adulthood dancing before her, Anamika confronts questions that would test someone twice her age. Ebullient, unfettered, and introducing one of the most charming heroines in contemporary fiction, Babyji is irresistible.

Abby Spencer
Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because I secretly wish to be an extra in a Bollywood film (or at the very least for those around me to randomly break into song and dance).

What thirteen-year-old Abby wants most is to meet her father. She just never imagined he would be a huge film star–in Bollywood! Now she’s traveling to Mumbai to get to know her famous father. Abby is overwhelmed by the culture clash, the pressures of being the daughter of India’s most famous celebrity, and the burden of keeping her identity a secret. But as she learns to navigate her new surroundings, she just might discover where she really belongs.

KarmaKarma by Cathy Ostlere
Why I should have read this book on my Indian vacation:
Because I love books in verse and one of the few biographies I ever enjoyed enough to finish was on Indira Gandhi.

On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and catalyst for Maya’s awakening to the world.

Do you have a favorite book featuring Indian characters or set in India? What books should I add to my list?