Sunday, November 6, 2016
About the Book: When two highly talented writers team up to write a novel, magical universes appear. THE INFINITY OF YOU & ME (St.Martin’s Press; November 8, 2016) is no exception: written under the pen name J.Q. Coyle—composed of publishing veterans Julianna Baggott and Quinn Dalton. Baggott’s YA novels have been highly praised, including a People’s Pick, and her adult novels include several New York Times Notables, while Dalton is an acclaimed writer with four novels and story collections under her belt. In the tradition of Baggott’s Pure trilogy, THE INFINITY OF YOU AND ME grounds a “multiverse” adventure in the very real world. Fast-paced with a tightly spun plot, this young adult novel will enthrall even the most reluctant readers.
Almost fifteen, Alicia is smart and funny with a deep connection to the poet Sylvia Plath, but she’s ultimately failing at life. With a laundry list of diagnoses, she hallucinates different worlds—strange, decaying, otherworldly yet undeniably real worlds that are completely unlike her own with her single mom and one true friend. In one particularly vivid hallucination, Alicia is drawn to a boy her own age named Jax who’s trapped in a dying universe. Days later, her long-lost father shows up at her birthday party, telling her that the hallucinations aren’t hallucinations, but real worlds; she and Jax are bound by a strange past and intertwining present. This leads her on a journey to find out who she is, while trying to save the people and worlds she loves.
This novel explores the ideas of choice and destiny. Baggott says, “We created a concept that explains that feeling of being haunted by the path you didn’t take, a concept that explores some natural human emotions like regret, nostalgia, a grief for the life unlived.” This concept influences the world-building within the novel, making it complex yet thoughtful.
The beginning is always a surprise. (The endings are, too.)
I never quite know what I look like. I’m myself, yes, but different. Never tall and leggy, but my hair might be long andtied back or cut in a short bob. Sometimes I’m in jeans and
sneakers. Once or twice, a dress.
I’ve been alone in a field of snow.
I’ve woken up in the backseat of a fast car at night, my father driving down a dark road.
I’ve been standing in the corner at a party where none of the faces are familiar.
This time, noise comes first. A clanging deep inside the hull of a ship—a cruise ship. I’m running down a corridor of soaked red carpet.
The ship lurches.
Someone’s yelling over the crackling PA speakers—I can’t understand the words over the rush of water. Alarms roar overhead.
I shoulder my way down another corridor, fighting the flood of people running in the opposite direction, screaming to each other.
Some part of my brain says, Me? On a cruise ship? Never. But if I was so lucky, it’d be a sinking one.
The rest of my brain is sure this isn’t real, no matter how real it feels.
I run my hand down the wall, the cold water now pushing against my legs. I’m wearing a pair of skinny jeans I don’t own. I know someone’s after me—I just don’t know who. I look
back over my shoulder, trying to see if anyone else is moving against the crowd like I am.
No one is.
Where’s my mother? She’s never here when I go off in my head like this.
A man grabs me roughly by the shirt. My ribs tighten.
Is this who I’m running from?
No. He’s old, his eyes bloodshot and wild with fear. He says something in Russian, like the guys in the deli at Berezka’s, not too far from my house in Southie. I shouldn’t be able to understand him, but I do. “Run! This way. Do you want to die, girl?” I don’t speak Russian. I’m failing Spanish II.
But then I answer, partly in Russian. “I’m fine. Thank you. Spasiba.” The words feel stiff in my mouth. I can barely hear myself over the screaming, the water rushing up the corridor, and the groaning ship.
The man keeps yelling, won’t let go of me, so I rip myself loose and run.
A glimpse of gray through a porthole, only a sliver of land and heavy dark sky.
I see myself in the porthole’s dark reflection—my hair chin length, my bangs choppy, just a bit of faded red lipstick.
We’re on the Dnieper River. It’s like this: I know things I shouldn’t. I don’t know how.
A woman falls. I reach down and help her up. Her head is gashed, her face smeared with blood. She nods a thank you and keeps marching against the current, soaked.
I wonder if she’ll make it. Will I?
I’m looking for my father. I want to call out for him, but I shouldn’t. The people chasing me are really after him—I know this too, the way you know things in a dream.
The ship lists, hard, and my right shoulder drives into a wall. Stateroom doors swing open. The sound of water surging into the hull is impossibly loud.
And then my father appears up ahead—shaggy, unshaven, his knuckles bloody. I love seeing him in these hallucinations.(That’s what my therapist calls them.) It’s the only time I ever see him. I even love seeing him when he looks like hell, and older than I remember him, more worn-down. But he always has this energy— like his strength is coiled and tensed.
“Alicia!” he shouts. “Down!”
I fall to my knees. The water is up to my neck and so cold it shocks my bones.
My father raises a gun and fires. Some men fire back.
I put my head underwater, and the world is muted. I hold my breath, can only hear my heart pounding in my ears. My face burns with the cold, my back tight, lungs pinched. I swim toward the blurry yellow glow of an emergency light.
When I lift my head, a tall and angular man slides down a wall and goes under, leaving a swirl of blood. My father shot him. This should shock me, but it doesn’t. My father, who’s really a stranger to me, is always on the run and often armed.
Another man, thick necked and yelling, returns fire from a cabin doorway.
My father disappears around the corner up ahead, then lays cover for me. “Get up!” he shouts. “Move now!”
I push through the icy water, wishing my legs were stronger and tougher, feeling small and easily kicked off-balance.
“Just up ahead,” he says, “—stairs.”
But then a little boy with a buzz cut doggy-paddles out of a cabin. The water’s too deep for him.
I reach out, and he grabs my hand, clinging to my shirt. “Alicia, get down!” my father yells.
Instinctively, I shield the kid. A gunshot.
I feel a shattering jolt in my shoulder blade. I can’t breathe, can’t scream.
The boy cries out, but he hasn’t been shot. I have. The pain is stabbing. “He shot me!” I shout, shocked. I can only state the obvious, my voice so rough and ragged I don’t even recognize it.
My father pulls me and the boy into a tight circular stairwell, the water whirling around us, chest deep. As he lifts the little boy high up the stairs, I glimpse the edge of a tattoo and skin rough with small dark scars and fresh nicks on his wrists.
“Keep climbing!” he says to the little boy.
Wide-eyed with fear, the boy does what he’s told.
The water is rising up the stairs, fast, but my father props me up with his shoulder, and we keep climbing. I try to remember what it was like before he left my mom and me. Did he carry me to bed, up the stairs, down the hallway, and tuck me in?
“We’re going to get out,” my father says. “We can jump.”
“We can’t jump,” I say. Off the ship?
“Trust me,” my father says.
I’ve never trusted my father, never had the chance. After he left, he wasn’t allowed within five hundred feet of me or my mother.
“What the hell am I doing here?” I ask.
My father stares at me. “Is it you? Really you?” “Yes, it’s me,” I say. Of course it’s me! My father looks stunned and scared and relieved somehow all at the same time. “You’re finally here.”
“Things have gotten too dangerous,” he says quickly. He reaches into his pocket, and in his hand I glimpse what looks like a strangely shaped shiny wooden cross about the width of his palm, but it’s not a cross, not exactly. “You’ve got to get lost and stay lost.”
I am lost, I want to tell him, but the pain in my back is so sharp it takes my breath.
As the water pushes us up the stairwell, my blood swirls around me like a cape. I can’t die here.
I look up into cloudy daylight.
The ship’s listing so hard now it seems to be jackknifing. Suddenly I’m terrified we’re all going to drown.
I expect to see the little boy’s face at the top of the stairs, but he’s gone. Instead, there’s a group of men with guns trained on my father and me.
“Ellington Maxwell.” The man who speaks is the one who shot me. In the hazy glare off the water I see a jagged scar on his cheek. “Welcome to our world. This time we hope you stay awhile.”
I look up at the sky again and abruptly it swells with sun. My right hand hurts and I know this signals an ending . . . Bright, blazing, obliterating light.
And I’m gone.
Posted by Amy at 10:55 AM
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Thrilled to participate in the blog tour for Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garica, today!
Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…
Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eeking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life.
Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.
Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm.
And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.
Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?
The following is an excerpt from the book!
Collecting garbage sharpens the senses. It allows us to notice what others do not see. Where most people would spy a pile of junk, the rag- and- bone man sees trea sure: empty bottles that might be dragged to the recycling center, computer innards that can be reused, furniture in decent shape. The garbage collector is alert. After all, this is a profession.
Domingo was always looking for garbage and he was always looking at people. It was his hobby. The people were, not the garbage. He would walk around Mexico City in his long, yellow plastic jacket with its dozen pockets, head bobbed down, peeking up tostare at a random passerby.
Domingo tossed a bottle into a plastic bag, then paused to observe the patrons eating at a restaurant. He gazed at the maids as they rose with the dawn and purchased bread at the bakery. He saw the people with shiny cars zoom by and the people without any cash jump onto the back of the bus, hanging with their nails and their grit to the metallic shell of the moving vehicle.
Th at day, Domingo spent hours outside, pushing a shopping cart with his findings, listening to his portable music player. It got dark and he bought himself dinner at a taco stand. Then it started to rain, so he headed into the subway station.
He was a big fan of the subway system. He used to sleep in the subway cars when he first left home. Those days were behind. He had a proper place to sleep now, and lately he collected junk for an important rag- and- bone man, focusing on gathering used thermo-plastic clothing. It was a bit harder to work the streets than it was to work a big landfill or ride the rumbling garbage trucks, sorting garbage as people stepped outside their houses and handed the collectors their plastic bags. A bit harder but not impossible, because there were small public trash bins downtown, because the restaurants left their garbage in the alleys behind them, and because people also littered the streets, not caring to chase the garbage trucks that made the rounds every other morning. A person with enough brains could make a living downtown, scavenging.
Domingo didn’t think himself very smart, but he got by. He was well fed and he had enough money to buy tokens for the public baths once a week. He felt like he was really going places, but entertainment was still out of his reach. He had his comic books and graphic novels to keep him company, but most of the time, when he was bored, he would watch people as they walked around the subway lines.
It was easy because few of them paid attention to the teenager leaning against the wall, backpack dangling from his left shoulder. Domingo, on the other hand, paid attention to everything. He constructed lives for the passengers who shuffled in front of him as he listened to his music. This one looked like a man who worked selling life insurance, the kind of man who opened and closed his briefcase dozens of times during the day, handing out pamphlets and explanations. Th at one was a secretary, but she was not with a good firm because her shoes were worn and cheap. Here came a con artist and there went a lovelorn house wife.
Sometimes Domingo saw people and things that were a bit scarier. There were gangs roaming the subway lines, gangs of kids about his age, with their tight jeans and baseball caps, rowdy and loud and for the most part dedicated to petty crimes. He looked down when those boys went by, his hair falling over his face, and they didn’tsee him, because nobody saw him. It was just like with the regular passengers; Domingo melted into the tiles, the grime, the shadows.
After an hour of people watching, Domingo went to look at the large TV screens in the concourse. There were six of them, displaying different shows. He spent fifteen minutes staring at Japanese music videos before it switched to the news.
Six dismembered bodies found in Ciudad Juárez. Vampire drug wars rage on.
Domingo read the headline slowly. Images flashed on the video screen of the subway station. Cops. Long shots of the bodies. The images dissolved, then showed a beautiful woman holding a can of soda in her hands. She winked at him.
Domingo leaned against his cart and waited to see if the news show would expand on the drug war story. He was fond of yellow journalism. He also liked stories and comic books about vampires; they seemed exotic. There were no vampires in Mexico City: their kind had been a no-no for the past thirty years, ever since the old Federal District became a city- state, walling itself from the rest of the country. He still didn’t understand what a city- state was exactly, but it sounded important and the vampires stayed out.
The next story was of a pop star, the singing sensation of the month, and then there was another ad, this one for a shoulder-bag computer. Domingo sulked and changed the tune on his music player.he looked at another screen with pictures of blue butterflies fluttering around. Domingo took a chocolate from his pocket and tore the wrapper.
He wondered if he shouldn’t head to Quinto’s party. Quinto lived nearby, and though his home was a small apartment, they were throwing an all- night party on the roof, where there was plenty of space. But Quinto was friends with the Jackal, and Domingo didn’t want to see that guy. Besides, he’d probably have to contribute to the beer budget. It was the end of the month. Domingo was short on cash.
A young woman wearing a black vinyl jacket walked by him. She was holding a leash with a genetically modified Doberman. It had to be genetically modified because it was too damn large to be a regular dog. The animal looked mean and had a green bioluminescent tattoo running down the left side of its head, the kind of decoration that was all the rage among the hip and young urbanites. Or so the screens in the subway concourse had informed Domingo, fashion shows and news reels always eager to reveal what was hot and what was not. That she’d tattooed her dog struck him as cute, although perhaps it was expected: if you had a genetically modified dog you wanted people to notice it.
Domingo recognized her. He’d seen her twice before, walking around the concourse late at night, both times with her dog. The way she moved, heavy boots upon the white tiles, bob- cut black hair, with a regal stance, it made him think of water. Like she was gliding on water.
She turned her head a small fraction, glancing at him. It was only a glance, but the way she did it made Domingo feel like he’d been doused with a bucket of ice. Domingo stuff ed the remaining chocolate back in his pocket, took off his headphones, and pushed his cart, boarding her subway car.
He sat across from the girl and was able to get a better look at her. She was about his age, with dark eyes and a full, stern mouth. She possessed high cheekbones and sharp features. Overall, her face was imposing and aquiline. There was a striking quality about her, but her beauty was rather cutting compared to the faces of the models he’d viewed in the ads. And she was a beauty, with that black hair and the dark eyes and the way she stood, so damn graceful.
He noticed her gloves. Black vinyl that matched the jacket.
Posted by Amy at 9:24 PM
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
A hilarious debut novel about a wealthy but fractured Chinese immigrant family that had it all, only to lose every last cent—and about the road trip they take across America that binds them back together
Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.
Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.
Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.
This book has been talked about a lot by sites like The Millions and Entertainment Weekly, so I myself am really looking forward to a chance to read it! And now I can offer one lucky reader a chance to win their own copy!
To enter, just fill out the form below! Giveaway closes October 28 and the winner will be notified via email.
The Wangs vs. The World official site has more information about the book!
Posted by Amy at 9:13 PM
Monday, September 26, 2016
This book felt like a weird mash-up of some of my favorite horror movies plus Charles Manson. It centers around true crime writer Lucas Graham who gets an opportunity of the lifetime and a possible career saving pitch to come interview notorious murdered Jeffrey Halcomb in prison. Halcomb was a leader of a cult where every member killed themselves. There are some conditions: he must live in Halcomb's old house--the same house where the deaths took place. This is the part that reminded me of Sinister--washed up true crime writer living in the house of the crime.
Lucas and his wife separate and he moves with his daughter into the house. Once there, though, they both begin to experience strange happenings in the house. Additionally, Lucas runs into some roadblocks with his writing and things begin to spiral out of control.
Interwoven with the story of Lucas is the story of Audra (one of the victims) and what really happened so many years ago.
So....like I said this reminded me of bits and pieces of other stories all melded together. At first when I started reading it, I was excited because it felt different and like this might end up being an amazing story. But I found some parts of it hard to follow and I felt ultimately disappointed by the direction it took. I also felt the conclusion lacked explanation--I don't always need details, but I do like some idea of how and why things are happening.
I did find it entertaining and engrossing enough to keep with it, though. And it also did a good job of playing on the fear/horror of having the thoughts that are most terrifying to you (about you) be exploited and used against you. Halcomb was able to manipulate his victims through their pain--most often their negative feelings about themselves compounded by their less than ideal relationships with their parents.
So, might be worth a look, but not as good as it could have been!
I did receive a review copy of this book long ago.
Posted by Amy at 12:00 AM
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Fall TV began last week and a lot of new shows aired. Lucky for me, I have really liked the three I was most looking forward to: Pitch, The Exorcist, and The Good Place. Unlucky for me, both Pitch and The Exorcist had less than ideal ratings, especially Pitch.
Pitch is a show about the first female pitcher in the MLB. It's fiction, the MLB hasn't had a female pitcher. But it's an interesting show that MLB worked with and that lends it a very authentic feel. But it's also a fun show with fun characters, I was surprised when the 42 minutes was up! And it feels fresh and different from anything else on TV at the moment. It's worth watching.
The Exorcist has an incredible aesthetic and creepy vibe. It's not a remake of the book/movie's plot, but rather a continuation. And I think it will wrestle with issues of faith and doubt. (I don't know why demonic possession is the popular way to do that nowadays but alas). I realize this is much less likely to be appealing to everyone, but I do think horror fans should check it out.
So, if you are so inclined, will you check these shows out? They need viewer support to last. For me, Pitch is a dream show and I simply can't stand the thought it could be over before it even really begins.
Watch The Exorcist
Monday, September 19, 2016
I started listening to this book and about a third of the way through I tweeted that while it was a good book, I have sex trafficking/domestic violence/sexual assault combined with the past/present format fatigue. In thrillers specifically. And I understand why so many books like this exist and I understand why it's how stories are told, but sometimes I want to read something that still keeps me turning the pages, but doesn't involved crimes against women of this nature. Also, I feel like the past/present is overused in general if a story is really thrilling it shouldn't always need this format.
However, once I finished the book, I have to say that The Girl Before is actually doing something unique and the past/present format is justified as part of the thematic push of the novel. Clara Lawson's home is raided by FBI agents one day and she is separated from her husband and daughters with the plea from her husband to not say anything. The reader quickly determines that not all was not right in Clara's world, but Clara herself does not see things this way. And through the use of past/present the story unfolds.
But it isn't the "thrilling" part of this book that makes it so worthwhile as it is the psychology of what Clara is going through. As she herself sifts through her past and new present she has to confront many aspects of herself...and the reader does too.
It's hard to feel patience with Clara at times, she is quite stuck in her way of thinking and her own exposure to anything else was limited. But...that helps the reader to confront their own biases and ways of thinking if they are so inclined. Is Clara a victim and only a victim? This is a big question to ask while reading the book.
So, I enjoyed it a lot and I think it's very well written. I did listen to the audiobook and the reader, Brittany Presley, was very good.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
So you may have noticed I'm finally posting on a more regular basis again which feels great. I don't know exactly why it took so long to happen, I've been reading a lot so there isn't a shortage of books to review, but I just sort of fell out the habit. I want to get back in it, though, so thanks to all the kind people who have commented, I'm thrilled some of you are still out there!
The internet is so different and no less demanding than it was in the busiest days of my blogging....there's snapchat, instagram, twitter, etc not to mention writing and commenting and thinking, etc. I also find it feels more hostile than it used to which is part of the problem overall in jumping back in. Of course, I wasn't absent, I just wasn't public in those places. And writing a blog where I need to talk about my own impressions and thoughts in a place where people are so quick to tell you why you are wrong for them is...well it took consideration. Is this still something I want to do? And I think yes. I don't mean to be all doom and gloom, I just feel there is a decided lack of "squee" these days or maybe it's my age.
Like, the other day the lovely Jodie asked for recommendations of media people were enjoying and I realized recommendations themselves are quite hard now. I feel so many qualifiers to the stuff I enjoy. I loved this but it might be too sappy for you or it might be too scary or too sexist or too unrealistic. And of course this was ALWAYS a thing, but I think it's increased as the sheer exposure to things we might enjoy has increased. There's SO MUCH, so much TV, so many movies, so many books. We have unprecedented access to things we might like which makes, I think, our general tolerance for things that take a while or things that don't meet our expectations much thinner.
Anyway, just some thoughts (or excuses???)!
I was excited to learn that Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl movie is actually being made and Kyra Sedgwick is the director!
Fall TV starts this week and I am excited! The show I am most looking forward to is Pitch--first female pitcher in the MLB! Should be good! I am also looking forward to small screen horror The Exorcist,Kristen Bell's new comedy, The Good Place, and later on some shows like Falling Water, Timeless, Channel Zero, and for returning shows, I am of course looking forward to The Walking Dead.
I still want to see several fall movies, but I'm so disappointed A Monster Calls has been pushed back to after Christmas! Hopefully, it will serve the film well.
How about you guys? What are you looking forward to this year? What's on your plate? Looking forward to hopefully cooler weather soon?
Posted by Amy at 5:11 PM