Emily’s Dress & Other Missing Things: Edgar Nominee & Generally Amazing

The beautiful cover of Emily’s Dress & Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burka

Stars
Genre: YA Mystery
Series: No, it’s a beautiful standalone.
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press October 2, 2012
Author: Kathryn Burak

Recommended Read?: Yes, yes, yes. It’s an Edgar Nominee, isn’t that enough reason to want to pick it up?

Goodreads summary:

When Claire’s best friend Richy went missing, he disappeared without a trace. But when Emily Dickinson’s dress goes missing from the Amherst museum, she knows exactly where it is: in her closet.

As Claire and her student teacher, Tate, attempt to figure out what do to about the dress, they begin to uncover the truth behind Richy’s disappearing act. Following a trail of clues across state lines, Claire and Tate attempt to find the person that Claire knows in her gut is responsible for his disappearance.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

I first heard about Emily’s Dress & Other Missing Things when I was reviewing the Edgar 2013 Nominees. The cover drew me in, so I checked out the synopsis on goodreads, when that turned out to be equally as interesting I went out and got it. From the first page I knew I was in the hands of an expert writer. The prose was just so beautiful, from start to finish.

THE PLOT:

If you hadn’t read a summary before you started reading this book, you probably wouldn’t be sure what the plot of the story is for a while (like not until after the first 3 chapters). This book is more character driven than plot, and it works out just fine. The writing is beautiful and Claire is a character almost everyone can relate with or at least sympathize with.

Once it is revealed that Claire has a missing friend — and that famous dress of Emily Dickenson’s goes missing — everything gets way more interesting. The best part about the plot, I think, is that Claire isn’t attempting to solve the crime. She doesn’t think she can do a better job than the cops, she doesn’t want to be a faux-Nancy Drew, all she wants is to find a way to move on: a way to put it behind her, so she isn’t stuck on it forever.

THE CHARACTERS:

I loved every character in this book — which is a true rarity for me. I adored Claire. She was clever, tragic yet strong, and relatable. Her life hadn’t been an easy one and yet she never stops in the book to moan over the hand fate gave her. I’m happy to be in her head the entire time. Plus, she’s fiery and aren’t all great female leads fiery?

Her best friend in the book doesn’t have much of a part, but I adored her. She was a burst of sunshine and the game her and Claire play (is he a dancer or is he human? based off of The Killer’s song Human) is so amusing. She brings needed humour to the book.

I really liked her father, too. He was very professor like (since that was his profession) but it’s clear he’s doing everything he can to hold it all together for his family. He’s a loving father, amusing, and I enjoyed every scene he was in. Even if he was a little dense to the needs of his daughter.

Then there’s Tate, the love interest. No shocker here but … I really adored him. He was a very well developed character and even though I didn’t always know why he did what he did, I yearned for him to be in the story all the time. I was cautious of him at first, since he was a student teacher. It’s true that most girls have a fantasy of hooking up with a teacher’s aid or professor at one point or another, I couldn’t help but think it’s a little early to do that in high school … even if would have jumped at the chance with my AP Government teacher in high school (he was such a handsom man). Still, I liked him a great deal.

Ricky — the missing BFF — was even a developed character. All Claire’s flashbacks to him  really brought him to life. He was cute, precious, and I really hoped Claire could magically find him.

THE ROMANCE:

It’s been a very long time since I was on the  edge of my seat over the romance in a book and yet that was exactly what happened with this book. It’s subtly weaved throughout the story, but I so badly wanted Claire and Tate together. I didn’t know how it could work out — or even if it would — but I wanted it to happen. It kept me turning the pages.

Their relationship was so strange and unique. It was real. There was clear chemistry between them that burst out of the pages. Best of all, it wasn’t insta-love and Claire kept her head. She tried her best to be sensible about the situation, to try to deny any feelings, to keep him away … I won’t tell you if it worked out or not. You need to read this book. Trust me.

CONCLUSION:

It’s so clear the moment I read this book why it’s an Edgar Nominee. I really hope it wins. The prose is beautiful, the plot interesting, the romance intense, and all the poems Burak throws into the story are thought provoking.

The Next Best Thing

This is the first meme I’ve done on this blog, but it seemed like fun and I got tagged (by Larua Wardle) so I decided why not?

What is the working title of your book?

TERRIFYING TORA

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It’s going to sound a little silly, but I work with cash at my day job and sometimes when I turn my back on the customer to get out the cash I can’t help but think ‘Man, it’d be so easy for them to just shot me or something right now‘. I’m generally not a paranoid person and doubt that will ever happen to me, but my mind tends to jump to rather horrific situations from the most mundane tasks. Not out of fear, probably out of the fact that I read/watch a lot of horror/deadly stories.

Anyway, that idea just came alive one day at work. I thought it’d be interesting to have a character that always had horrific thoughts invading her head, thus Tora Kuragawa was born. I wanted a new story to write for NaNo 2012 and the rest of the plot just flowed out after Tora got into my head.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA Paranormal Thriller/Suspense

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This is really hard for me. I never think about actors/other people when I’m thinking about my characters… So, this question took the longest for me to figure out.

Tora Kuragawa would be a young Aoi Miyazaki (like, Virgin Snow Aoi Miyazaki):

https://i2.wp.com/lh4.ggpht.com/elaing.zhang/RyvlJmzapwI/AAAAAAAAFus/9xWwICpjSlM/s800/005.jpg

The second main character is Delaney Gunvald and I really can’t think of anyone, and after doing some searching, the only one I can think that would sort of work would be a teenager Chris Hemsworth:

https://i2.wp.com/www.aceshowbiz.com/images/wennpic/chris-hemsworth-photocall-the-avengers-01.jpg

Guy would be Logan Lerman, just imagine him constantly having a really bad case of bedhead and then you’d have Guy:

https://i2.wp.com/data.whicdn.com/images/18265452/tumblr_lu9hnqogIA1r5z1b1o1_250_thumb.jpg

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence…? That’s so hard. Here’s my best go:

As a victim of an unnatural death, sixteen-year-old Tora Kurosawa is stuck in the In-Between and is forced to play the reapers’ game: conquer her death and let go of her life and they’ll let her crossover, fail to do so in seven days and she’ll be banished to the Netherworld for an eternity.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Represented by an agency. I’ve always thought of going the traditional route. Not that there’s anything wrong with self-publishing, it’s just not for me.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About seven days. I didn’t realize until I was done how fitting that is (since Tora only has seven days to save herself). It was for NaNo2012 and I had a pretty thorough chapter-by-chapter outline so I didn’t have to wonder what to do next? Now it’s time to revise, revise, revise. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I would say it’s like ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD / GIRL OF NIGHTMARES by Kendare Blake in the horror quality of the book and because of the Gunvald family.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Kendare Blake, I really loved her books and it inspired me to try something horror-esque. Also ASHES by Isla J Bick, which also has a lot of horror in it and just the burning desire to keep reading until the very end of that book stayed with me. Except the ending really irked me (freaking cliffhanger…). THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers is a thriller/suspense (with zombies, which is awesome) inspired me as well. I really loved it. Summers’s voice is just so there and the pace of that book was remarkable. I loved it from start to finish. I would also say POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil. I loved her voice in that book and it was probably the first YA Paranormal Thriller that I consciously read because of the genre.

Plus, the classic Stephen King (CARRIE, IT, THE SHINNING). One of my favorite horror writers.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Tora can’t control where her soul stays, if someone thinks about her hard enough she’ll be pulled to them. Her parents never bother to mourn for her, but a stranger cries for her constantly. A boy that she saw right after her death, the boy that let her die. At least, that’s what he (Delaney Gunvald) believes. The only other person who pulls her is her murderer, where she is forced to watch him torture other innocent girls.

And now I get to tag some people…

Delancey Stewart
Jennie
Jessica Nichollas

Girl of Nightmares & Auracle: Vastly Different Paranormal Experiences

Rating:

Recommended? Yes. For all the reasons I recommend reading Anna Dressed In Blood. But the ending of this book… oh, it’s brilliant. It’s amazing. This book will haunt you for days after you’re done reading.

Just like Anna Dressed In Blood, I loved this book. It’s another remarkable book, that’s well worth the read. The ending of this book was amazing. It was perfect and so sad at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this entire book. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, wondering what was going to happen and which characters were going to end up dead. Again, I either loved the characters or hated them — there really wasn’t any half-feelings. Though I was conflicted a few times on how to feel about Jestine and Carmel from time to time.

I really like Thesus Cassio Lodwood. I can’t think of a main character I’ve enjoyed more than him at the moment. He is easy to relate to, even though I doubt many of us go out hunting ghosts at night — or love a ghost girl, either.

The writing was pretty great, too. The way Blake can just slip in the most disturbing imagery as if it is no big deal was impressive. She really has a talent for description, too, I could picture everything in my head clearly from her words. I just… was in awe of this book once I was done with it (which took all of one day because I couldn’t put it down).

I wonder if there will be another… I really want there to be, because I enjoyed the story so much, but end felt like closure, like it’s officially The End for Cas’s story. Either way, I’m going to read Blake’s next book (whatever it is). I’m a fan. The ending of this book still haunts me. I think about it all the time. It’s just so… right for this book. Everything is so right in this book. I loved it.

AURACLE by Gina Rosati

Rating:

Recommended? Sure. It’s worth reading, somethings bothered me in this book but if you are looking for something mildly funny and light but filled with drama then this would be a good book for you.

This book didn’t really get a fair shot from me, I’ll admit. I had just finished reading Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake and I was still thinking about it when I was reading this book. So I didn’t really allow myself to be fully immersed in the story. It’s an interesting one. The concept is the main character, Anna, can astral project and during a mishap another girl gets into her body and starts to control it, leaving her stuck without a body. With the help of her best friend, Rei, she starts her journey to get her body back. I really liked Rei but Anna… I mean, I liked her, but I couldn’t really relate with her. She was so good and pure and oddly spiritual (in a new agey type of way, not traditional) that I just couldn’t buy it.

A lot of this book taps into new agey things. And the balance between the power of negativity and positivity. I’m not into that type of thing at all. Give me a horror story any day, but don’t make me think about new agey spirituality. That aside, it was an interesting read. I liked Rei, I liked Seth, and I liked Anna well enough. But… there were things in this that bothered me a lot.

I don’t like excessive exclamation marks, particularly in narration — even if it is first person POV. This was done multiple times. As was CAPITALIZING WORDS TO MAKE A POINT, which I dislike. I just feel like it’s a cheap way out of good dialogue. You should be able to show the emphasis of these words WITHOUT DOING THIS. I know JK Rowling did it, but still, I’d rather not deal with that.

Rosati did a great job of packing a lot of tension and drama into the book, though. And I’m sure a lot of parts would have been very amusing for people that have a better sense of humor than me (I have a dry one, more Parks & Rec than SNL). The way she explains the other dimension Anna is in is very real and sometimes even beautiful. She has a great talent to explain the unexplainable. I will most certainly read whatever her next book is, so I’m not saying she’s a bad writer. She just does things that I would never.

Plus, the solution to the problem is pretty obvious — at least it was to me. And Anna really brought most of her problems down on herself because she was either stubborn or just… stupid for not thinking of the obvious answer. But, like I said, I really like Rei and his family. I’m glad I read this book, and I’m glad I bought it, but when I just read a book I loved as much as Girl of Nightmares, I guess I was expecting something else. Or something more.

Revolution: Drugs, Depression, & Dead People

Jennifer Donnelly’s book cover

Rating:

Would I Recommend it? Yes, but only if you can tolerate depressive MCs and like historical fiction.

Let me start out by saying that Jennifer Donnelly is an amazing writer and that the book is worth reading because of her writing. It’s got a great voice and is snarky and over all amusing. The writing gets this book high ratings, for sure. This is not a fast moving book and it takes a while (a loooong while) for the plot to really get started. Also, from the back, I thought there was going to be a stronger paranormal element. There isn’t. Paranormal things don’t happen for over three hundred pages.

It’s about a teenage girl, named Andi, who lost her little brother and is angry at herself and the world. Her dad  is a super genius who bailed on the family after her brother’s death, real stellar father of the year material. He makes her go to Paris for winter break to get her act together and get her senior thesis done. That is where the story finally starts! Over a hundred pages in and she’s finally in Paris. A hundred pages of building… and that drove me crazy. The pace in this book is lacking. It’s very slow.

And, moreover, Andi drove me bat shit crazy. I hate her. I really, really hate her. I can’t stand her. She’s a world class fuck-up and super depressed over her brother’s death, and blames herself. She has it tough, yeah, I know, since her dad sucks and brother got killed but… I can’t stand how she escapes from it all by just continuously popping anti-depressives to numb herself to the world. She’s just so damn weak that it drives me crazy. And she’s stupid, too, and jumps to really dumb conclusions. Like when she sees this French guy she likes kissing the cheek of another girl — Oh no! He has a girlfriend!. No, you idiot, he’s French and you have a very deep understanding of the culture — which she mentioned tons of times — because you spent half of your childhood in France and your mother’s French so you know that kissing someone on the cheek to say hi is like shaking hands for the French! I mean, come on, how dumb can you get? I swear Donnelly only did that to add drama, but it was annoying drama because — if you are an intelligent human being — you know that he doesn’t have a girlfriend.

Plus, when Andi tries to off herself… I’m just got beyond frustrated how she messed it up every time. It’s not a good thing if I’m rooting for her to get it right already. She tries twice within the first hundred pages (I think that’s right) to kill herself and fails. The first time I was like “Well, that’s a bummer that she feels that way” and then the second time? I was like Please just take that step and jump! Luckily, I like the extra characters. G, Lili, her mom, Alex, Orleans, Amande, V, Virgil, and Jules are all great. Plus, I was already so far along that I couldn’t just stop reading and I was interested in finding out what happened to Alex, the little Prince, and Virgil. I couldn’t care less what happened to Andi. I was kinda hoping she’d end up dead in the end. I know, I’m mean, but she really bugs me. I just can’t stand her whole I’m so sad I’m going to pop pills to feel better act.

Go four hundred pages in, though, and the book starts to get good. Really good. The ending makes it completely worth the read. Did it make me like Andi? No. I still don’t. I never will. But the ending was just so… perfect for the story. Donnelly’s skills shine through at the end. I was reading the end during my lunch break and didn’t even touch my food. I was that mesmerized.

I don’t hold it against Donnelly that I hate Andi. Hey, if she can invoke such a passionate feeling from me because of a character that’s talent. But how long it takes for this book to really get going was a problem. It’s probably the books biggest weakness.