April 22, 2014

Dangerous Creatures and Why You Should Probably Read It.

We usually refuse to promote any book that we haven't actually read - the fact that we are even asked to do so usually baffles me - today we make an exception for Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Dangerous Creatures.

A new series returns to the world of Beautiful Creatures. Some loves are cursed...others are dangerous.

Ridley Duchannes will be the first to tell you that she's a bad girl. She's Dark. She's a Siren. You can never trust her, or even yourself when she's around. Lucky for her, Wesley "Link" Lincoln can never seem to remember that; quarter Incubus or not, his heart is Mortal when it comes to Ridley. When Link heads to New York City to start a music career, Ridley goes along for the ride-and she has her own reasons. As if leaving small-town Gatlin for the big city, trying to form a band, and surviving life with a partially reformed Siren isn't hard enough already, Link soon learns he has a price on his head that no Caster or Mortal can ever pay.

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthors of Beautiful Creatures, are back and casting another magical spell. Their signature mixture of mystery, suspense, and romance, along with a dash of fun and danger, will pull fans in and leave them begging for more. 

(Courtesy of Goodreads)

A spin off from the author's hugely successful Caster Chronicles, Dangerous Creatures follows Link and Ridley, taking these secondary yet hugely important characters out of the original series and sending them off on in their own story.  Both are intriguing, with boy next door Link being no longer your usual boy next door and Ridley, siren, sister and sometimes little girl lost. A winning combination, right?. The world that Garcia and Stohl created in Beautiful Creatures is amazingly vivid, beautifully written and hauntingly atmospheric and while Dangerous Creatures moves the action from the inimitable Gatlin to New York, readers can surely expect more of the same sharp and compelling storytelling in a universe that is immersively easy to inhabit.

If you haven't read The Caster Chronicles and want to know more, you can find our reviews by clicking the covers above - the last book in the series is missing a MOI review, something that we will be remedying before returning to talk about Dangerous Creatures. For lovers of urban fantasy and rather brilliant storytelling these books are a must - both fun and frightening, heart-rending and hilarious they are absolutely worth disappearing into as, we suspect, is Dangerous Creatures which published on May 20th and pre-ordable now!

This post originally went up with the wrong publication date, due to Splendibird being an idiot. Don't let that put you off - go and pre-order a copy anyway.

April 06, 2014

YAck Attack: Reality Boy

I am a bad, bad Lady YAcker.  I never remember to share our actual YAcks.  Except for today!  Our most recent YAck was on the excellent if disturbing Reality Boy by A.S. King.  

You can find the YAck here.  It contains Bad Language.  Which should surprise no-one.

April 04, 2014

Lord, I Want To Be In That Number (Review: This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready)

This Side of SalvationThis Side of Salvation
Jeri Smith-Ready
Simon Pulse 2014

Life is just beginning for David Cooper.  He's is on the verge of a career in baseball, academically on the up and has, for the first time, a great girlfriend.  For all these good things, David thanks God, relying on his faith to get him through both the fun times and the not so fun.  And there are a few not so fun things going on - a past tragedy that echoes loudly in the present, a father whose mental health is deteriorating alarmingly and a mother who seems unable to steer her family to safety. Until she hears about the Rush. The Rush will swoop all believers up to Heaven where they will have front row seats for the Apocalypse and the Coopers will be up their with the best of them. But David doesn't want to be Rushed. He wants to stay where he is, surrounded by sinners or not. As life unravels before his eyes, David finds himself questioning his family, his friendships and his faith.

David is a nice bloke - kind, funny and thoughtful not to mention focused and driven. Life hasn't been particularly easy for him.  After the death of his brother he got angry - really angry... but then he got religion. Yet David doesn't have unquestioning faith.  He's a smart kid, with smart friends whose beliefs differ from his own and who is happy to examine what he himself believes.  Of all the aspects of his character this is by far the most appealing.  Being able to question ourselves and what we hold most dear is a hard thing to learn and watching David do this while simultaneously hold together a fractured family and lead a normal life is both compelling and moving. However, Smith-Ready hasn't written him as some existential philosopher but rather has presented readers with an utterly believable teenage boy who wants to play baseball and have sex and hang out with his friends. He is completely likable and his undercurrent of grief and desperation is palpably real.

Like David, all the other characters in This Side of Salvation are highly readable. Girlfriend Bailey and best friend Kane are particularly well written. Bailey is a strong proponent of evolutionary theory and Kane is newly out as gay.  Both could have come across as mouthpieces for beliefs and lifestyles that contradict David's own but instead Smith-Ready has created two characters who are completely three dimensional. David's sister, Mara, is fascinating and a bit of an enigma, holding her cards close to her chest while trying to keep David away from the fundamentalist line that she so clearly feels that he might cross. Of all the scenes in the book, the quiet moments between Mara and David hold most resonance and are the most heartbreaking. David's parents are almost frighteningly real in both the grief that they are so frantically trying to suffocate and in their close-minded belief in a rapturous end. His father is a character who is both incredibly sad and incredibly disturbing (and mad props to Smith-Ready for his dialogue, which is written almost entirely in biblical quotations). Finally, there is John, the brother whose untimely death is at the very heart of This Side of Salvation and whose sainted presence haunts each page.

Sport and religion. You won't find reviews of many book containing either in these here hills because I am disinclined to exercise and hate to be preached at.  Amazingly, Smith-Ready has written a title that contains plenty of both but which neither bores nor infuriates.  Yes, there's a lot of baseball, but David's love of the sport is so palpable that it becomes enjoyable to read. The religious aspect could have been trickier - David really does believe in God and it gives his him a great deal of comfort - yet I never felt that his character was A Message For Us All. In fact, Smith-Ready's great achievement in This Side of Salvation is that I came away from the book with absolutely no idea as to what she herself believes - something that I cannot say for any other YA book that I have dealt with where God plays a role. Rather, Smith Ready has taken the idea of religion being the great opiate and examined how this can be both positive and negative in a way that should, and will, make readers think. And hopefully encourage both believers and non-believers to consider or at least understand viewpoints which oppose their own.

This Side of Salvation is a gripping story starting on the night of the Rush and moving between the past and present as events unfold. Also, everyone loves a good cult, so there's that.  More than anything, though, it is a searing portrait of a family drowning in a grief that they cannot get move on from; of parents who are grasping at straws; of children who can do nothing but stand and watch as everything falls apart. It is at times extremely sad but, importantly, also carries a great deal of hope. This is Jeri Smith-Ready's first foray into contemporary YA fiction and it hopefully won't be her last. Her straightforward writing style and ability to create very real characters makes her as natural a fit in this genre as it has in her previously more paranormal outings.  This Side of Salvation is a book that will make you think and hopefully engender many conversations on the nature of faith, grief and family.  Highly recommended.

This review was brought to you by Splendibird. This Side of Salvation is available now.  Thank you to the publisher (via Edelweiss) for providing us with a copy of this title to review.