The Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions. (goodreads.com)
I am going to try my best to blog about the books I read this year. I miss writing about books. My course last semester on Editing for Children and Teen books, and my being back at the bookstore has made me excited for reading once more. I might not write about every book I read (and here’s hoping I read MANY in 2017!) but I want to write about those that I enjoyed.
I like starting off the year with a book that makes me happy. And I like starting the year by reading – and finishing – a book. Makes me feel all accomplished (and is a lovely way to relax!)
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is an interesting sort of book. I discovered it while showing a customer something else at work. It was on the staff pick wall and something about it hooked me. I bought it before the store closed that day because I knew I NEEDED to read it on my day off the next day. In fact, I started it New Year’s Eve, but I am pretty much dead from this flu so I didn’t manage to finish it before I needed to go to bed.
I am writing about this story because I keep thinking about it. First of all, my instinct that I needed to read this book was spot on. I devoured it. I liked it a lot. But parts also bothered me. See, the book is sort of a weird mix of YA urban fantasy and a contemporary issues (mental illness) novel. The story is about those kids who aren’t the chosen ones. The bystanders in a story about Chosen One Teens who battle and save the world from apocalypses. There is very little reference to those Chosen Ones (called “indie kids” in this book) though. The story, to me, was more about teens who had regular issues just trying to cope with life.
Mike, for instance, the protagonist has OCD, and his older sister is recovering from an eating disorder. Their father is an alcoholic and more-or-less checked out of life and family, but still living with them because their over-achieving, running for political office, mother doesn’t want to ruin the perfect family vibe. There’s a very poignant scene between Mike and his therapist towards the end of the book that made anxiety/OCD/mental illness very real, and raw. I loved the way the author describes the struggle with accepting medication to help calm anxiety and see it as a failure to be ok on your own. There are comparisons between medical and “accepted” illnesses (like diabetes, or cancer) and those not being seen as failure.
So as a story about teens dealing with Real Life things, and mental illness awareness, this was a rather good book.
Where the book lacks, in my opinion, is within the idea of it being about the kids who aren’t the paranormal saviours. Sure each chapter starts off with a paragraph about what’s going on with the Indie kids (who all have those fancy, weird names that characters in paranormal novels tend to have. I was rather amused by the five or so kids who had the name Finn. That does seem to be a popular name in those types of books. I always refer to those strange names as Soap Opera Names.) but once that little summarized Indie Kids storyline is over, it’s back to Mike and his gang of friends. His best friend, Jasper, happens to be one quarter God of cats (long story), but refuses to be an Indie kid. Other than that, and the occasional news of the death of one of the Indie kids (as they fight the impending apocalypse that we don’t really know anything about), and the random explosion of an auditorium, and the school – we don’t really have much bystander reaction to whatever else is going on that’s paranormal and/or The End of The World. I’d have liked a little more interaction between the indies and the normal kids who just want their school to not blow up before graduation.
The other part of the story that stuck out to me was Mike’s interaction with the new guy, Nathan. Mike takes an instant dislike to Nathan as he only transferred to the school six weeks before graduation and seems awfully suspicious. Much of Mike’s dislike for Nathan has to do with jealousy as the girl he’s mooned over since the dawn of time, Henna (Finnish, not an Indie Kid name!), has feelings for Nathan. But from Mike’s point of view, Nathan does seem suspicious, and could possibly be the reason for whatever battle the Chosen One kids are battling. Mike is a pretty unreliable narrator at this point and I did have to keep guessing what Nathan’s deal was. Turns out I was off by a long shot, and even though Mike’s friends are annoyed with him for always suspecting the new guy who has suddenly joined their group, I have to say I’m Team Mike on this. In a small town, where all these strange paranormal things keep happening, a new person who smoothly sails in at the same time everything (“everything” they claim is going on, of which we don’t really know about) is going on, can be a rather suspicious deal. I get where Mike’s paranoia comes from 100%. I don’t think his friends were very fair to him about his reaction because it made sense to me.
I love that my instinct about this book was on point. As a novel about mental illness and dealing with teenage issues, I think this story stood out to me. I wish the actual part about how the normal kids just want to get on with their lives and not have to worry about all the paranormal apocalyptic stuff going on was a little more present in the story though. It was certainly a very interesting way to tell a paranormal story in a short, summarized paragraph per chapter, but I wish there could have been more obvious signs that stuff was happening around the normal kids.
I am content with the first book I have read in 2017. It made me feel. It made me think. It was enjoyable to read. And I have a feeling that my bookstore job might bankrupt me. 😉
Currently on my piano: one of my many piles of books TBR!
It’s no secret that I love books. I love the feel of them, the look of them, the smell of them. I love to read them. Books are like candy to me. Granted, with everything that’s gone on in my life the last few years, my reading progress has been scattered, and little. But that doesn’t stop me from buying books, borrowing books, collecting books, or staring at the piles of books I have in the house wishing I could read one of them from cover to cover.
I’ve done a little better with reading this year, well in the fall anyhow. I read way more once I made the decision to quit my job an official, final decision. I read a lot in October, even though I was still working, and in school. I didn’t read much at all in November though I was home. I was finding it difficult to sit still and focus on a book for any period of time. I did buy a bunch of new books, and I received some as gifts, but I have been so full of nervous energy that I couldn’t get into many books at all. I even took some of my regular comfort-food books back to the library without finishing them! *gasp*
I’m at 34 books read, out of the 50 I challenged myself to read for the year (both on Goodreads, and the 50 Book Pledge). I managed 40 last year. I am hoping to make it at least that far this year. Who knows. I only have 3 weeks left, and…
I’m going to be WORKING a lot! Wooo! I got a job at the bookstore, and though it’s seasonal right now, I couldn’t be happier to be back working with books. I start training this week, and then have a full, busy schedule next week. Christmas rush at a bookstore is my favourite time to be working with books. There’s just something about the atmosphere that fills me up with joy and excitement!
I admit to being a little nervous about going back to book retail after all these years. Being on my feet all day will be difficult, and exhausting, at first, and I’ll have to remember all sorts of new things because the company has changed immensely since I was last an employee with them. Also, I worked in a smaller format mall store, not a giant format store like this one, so it will be a learning curve. And I’m trying not to think about the fact that I am currently old enough to be the mother of many of the other people I will be working with. I was that young, hopeful girl back when I first worked at the bookshop, and now I’m… not young or hopeful anymore. ha ha!
But internet, I was so happy during the tour of the store this week that I thought I was going to burst into tears in the middle of the sales floor.
Fingers crossed that I am actually as happy about this job as I think I am. I’m pretty sure my instincts are on point though. But still, new things are scary and exciting at the same time. I’m just so happy to be going back to working with books. And I am hoping this will help me with my reading issues, because I’ll be surrounded by books, and people who love books just as much as I do, and I’ll want to be reading all the time soon I am sure!
The Third Lie’s the Charm (The Liar Society, #3)
by Lisa & Laura Roecker
Katie Lowry knows she could’ve stopped Alistair from doing something stupid if only she’d picked up the phone. Now she has to live with the guilt. She’s sick of the lies, sick of the secret societies that rule life at Pemberly Brown Academy. But there’s only one way to take them down: from the inside… (goodreads.com)
Ok, so maybe it’s been three years since I read the first two books in this series. And maybe I spent a good chunk of that time checking to see if my local library had this third, and final book. (It never did.) And maybe, just maybe, I had zero recollection that I had BOUGHT this book on my Kobo at some point in time. And maybe, hypothetically speaking of course, I discovered I had this book on my Kobo after about a year of not even knowing where my Kobo was, or having it charged. And finally, maybe I noticed I had this book on my Kobo when I was trying to load some library books onto it before a flight out East to visit my cousin, and those library books didn’t actually work on my Kobo but I had this here Liar Society book all loaded up on there and ready to read.
And maybe (yeah, I lied about the finally part) even though I read this book at the end of September, I am still thinking about it enough to blog about it.
This is all possible. Not saying it isn’t.
I went back and re-read my blog posts about books one and two (linked below) and sure enough, I was as enthusiastic about the novels as I thought I had been. I’m rather bummed I’d forgotten about having bought the final book (allegedly). Then again, my life changed a lot a few months after I’d read the other books. I haven’t been reading much at all. And I do not like reading e-books. It bugs me so much reading on a screen. Even with e-ink. Bleh.
I’m not really going to review the book much though, even though it was awesome, and I did love it. (Check out this series if you haven’t. GREAT mysteries! Secret Societies! Woo! Scandal!) I need to talk about something else in the book that’s been sticking with me for over a month since I finished it.
Katie’s loss of her friend, and the sort of frantic, anxious, paranoid, lung-crushing emotions she has throughout the novel are so, so spot on. People tell her she’s in shock, and experiencing symptoms of a trauma (the murder of her friend, and well, others) and she’s certain she’s not crazy though everyone tells her she is. She gets sent to a therapist, and has even her closest friends question her sanity about even more conspiracies and secret societal shenanigans. And all I could think while reading this was: woah. The authors GET IT. They captured on page (er, screen?), in words, what it feels like to spiral out of control over the loss of something, someone, in a traumatic way. You don’t know if you’re up, or down. Coming, or going. You spend your time trying to focus and breathe, and you’re scared, angry, sad, confused, lost.
And Katie was all of those things as she tried to get to the bottom of the latest mystery at Pemberly Brown Academy. Her struggle was almost palatable to me. My heart raced, but not in a trigger sort of way, but in total empathy for the character. I understood. I could have been her (if I were 15+ years younger).
In reading my original blog posts about the first two books, I see that I was all about the authors’ grasp of the teenage voice, and point of view. They got it. And they still do, but they also got that out-of-control feeling that Katie was experiencing and they expressed it so well in this book. The mystery, the suspense, the sarcastic humour and quips, they were all wonderful as well, but what truly stood out to me was the way Katie’s emotional crisis was portrayed.
I love well-written, and engaging novels. I love being able to recommend a series like this to young readers because I know it will be appreciated and enjoyed. I don’t think you can lend e-books (I’m old, I don’t get the technology of the youth) but I might just toss my Kobo at my niece (and sister) and tell them to read this series. It’s not very salty or risqué, and my 10-year old niece has a pretty high reading level (if she can get through The Hunger Games this series might seem like Sesame Street to her). And I said it before, but there aren’t too many mystery novels in the YA field that aren’t paranormal in some way. At least not that I have found. That makes The Liar Society a delightfully refreshing series to devour.
The Liar Society
- The Liar Society
- The Lies That Bind
- Third Lie’s the Charm
The Other Alice
by Michelle Harrison
What happens when a tale with real magic, that was supposed to be finished, never was? This is a story about one of those stories . . .
Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and ? most of all ? stories. Especially because he’s grown up being read to by his sister Alice, a brilliant writer.
When Alice goes missing and a talking cat turns up in her bedroom, Midge searches Alice’s stories for a clue. Soon he discovers that her secret book, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, is much more than just a story. In fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town.
But every tale has its villains ? and with them leaping off the page, Midge, Gypsy and Piper must use all their wits and cunning to work out how the story ends and find Alice. If they fail, a more sinister finale threatens them all . . . (goodreads.com)
Oh, internet. How can I express how much love I have for this novel? I have all of the feelings but I cannot find the words. So let me first tell you a bit about why I read this book – I read the book because it was written by Michelle Harrison, an author whose books have filled me with such joy and wonder that I need to read EVERY! STORY! SHE! EVER! WRITES! I kid you not.
Her first book was about faeries. If you know me, you know how I feel about faeries. The title even had the word “treasure” in it, and I looooooooove treasure. And the title also had the number 13 in it, and that’s like, my favourite number. And the story captured me fully. As did the next novel, and the next. I was sad when I ran out of Michelle Harrison books to read. I was reading them faster that she was writing them! (Work on that, MH.) Then I found out that a new story was being written, and this story had the name “Alice” in the title, and I looooooove the name Alice because: Alice in Wonderland. So of course I was mega-excited.
And THEN Michelle asked on the facebooks to help name something in her novel. There was a narrowboat in the book that a character lived on and she was trying to name it. I commented with a few brilliant ideas (note this was at the same time the internet named a research ship Boaty McBoatface, so you can get an idea of my brilliance!). I also added one real idea: Elsewhere. Because that word is just everything to me.
Best word/concept/feeling EVER.
And I won the comment poll, or whatever you want to call it. So my name is actually IN this book in the acknowledgements at the end and I am so excited to see my name in print. It’s almost like I wrote the entire novel MYSELF. (Right!?)
So, this new novel (that I totes helped write) is about a girl who vanishes and leaves a story unfinished, and about her brother who is trying to find her and help finish the story. Because scary things are happening, and magical things, and all of the things, and it’s just such a fantastically written story about stories that I never wanted it to end. I wish I had this book in my life when I was 10 years old. I seriously do. It has every element within it that I love dearly. The whimsy and magicalness of it all made me so giddy I was bouncing while reading it at times. I am 40 years old, internet, and I was so giddy about the whimsy in this book that I could not contain my happiness while reading.
I even love the concept of having a Museum of Unfinished Stories. Doesn’t that just sound delicious and delightful? The idea of it just swells around me with possibility!
I pre-ordered a copy of this book myself, but I also received a signed copy from the author because, as I mentioned, I did help write the darned thing. I will be gifting the non-signed copy this month to someone I hope enjoys it as much as I did. Here’s hoping. It was tough to find a hard copy of the book outside of the UK. It seems to be available only as an eBook on Canadian retailer sites, though I got my BOOK from the Book Depository UK shop (which I think was because I am in Canada. If you are in the US I don’t think it lets you order from the UK site?)
I haven’t blogged much at all this year, nor have I read very much (I’m up to 16 books though!), but I wanted to write about The Other Alice because it was a book that my soul needed so badly this summer. It was a perfect weekend escape for me when I needed to find solace in a more imaginative, whimsical space than what real life throws at us. I am now, sadly, out of Michelle Harrison books to read once more. I guess I’ll send her a note to help with the writing of her next novel, since I am obviously a much needed part of her process. 😉
If you love magical middle grade books, with very well developed characters, then I highly recommend you read everything you can get your hands on by Michelle Harrison. Her novels are worth everything.
All Fall Down by Ally Carter
Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:
1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.
As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.
Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down. (goodreads.com)
I didn’t know about this new series from Ally Carter until I saw it mentioned on a friend’s blog. I was thrilled when I discovered my library actually had it in stock. I don’t think anything else Ally Carter will write will ever compare to the Gallagher Girls series in my mind, but it’s a fun mystery. What I missed in this story, that I loved in the GG series, was the depth of the side characters. I felt like all the “friends” that Grace had in All Fall Down were sort of flat, and bland. Perhaps they will be better fleshed out in the sequel. I’d like to know more about them.
I do like stories where you can’t trust anyone though, and this was certainly one of those! Even Grace isn’t the most reliable main character. 😉 Suppose I should keep an eye out for the second book to show up at my library.