The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) – Libba Bray

Diviners-The-Diviners-Libba-Bray

Source: Goodreads

 

Evangeline O’Neill has special powers. She can see important moments in a person’s life just by holding something that belongs to them. This talent, of course, is not accepted in Zenith, Ohio. After a particularly bad evening of illegal drinking, the seventeen-year-old is shipped off to New York City to live with her bachelor uncle, William Fitzgerald, who runs The Museum of Creepy Crawlies, and his mysterious assistant, Jericho. Evie reunites with her childhood friend and the daughter of revolutionists, Mabel, as well as some new friends including Theta, a showgirl, and her brother Henry, a piano player, a thief named Sam, and a numbers runner named Memphis who might just be magical himself. Life can’t be the berries forever though, and before long Evie is called upon to use her powers to help stop a murderer before he raises the antichrist and wipes out all of man kind. Just another summer in 1920s New York, right?

 

I’ve heard about this book on and off since it came out in 2012, and I finally picked it up from the library in August of 2017. Definitely not disappointing! While the writing is easy to follow (except for the 20s slang, which I had to look up) and the chapters are short, the gruesomeness and maturity of the plot and characters’ thoughts definitely put this book squarely in the Young Adult category. If the reading level were a little higher I might even put it in adult, even though over half of the characters are ages 17-19.

If you can’t stand gore in your books, don’t read this. About half of the murders are detailed, and all of the bodies are described once they are discovered. If I was close to stopping my reading more the night and I knew a murder chapter was imminent, I would stop before it so I didn’t have it running around my brain all night long. Not that it really helped, because I still knew it was coming, so my brain usually decided to try and guess how it would go down *facepalm*. In that regard, I’m glad I’ve finished the book. At the same time, I’m sad to let the world go for a while until I get the next book. Bray’s version of 1920s New York City positively shines. I found myself wishing I could visit for the weekend (sans murders) to visit the theatres and clubs she describes in such vibrant detail. The buildings and the city are just as much characters as the human (and not so human) population.

If I were a cry-in-the-corner type of person, my horror-hating-soul would be doing that, because I don’t like being terrified of what’s coming, but I’m a bloody Gryffindor, and we don’t show fear, so I just marched on and kept reading. Overall, I think the horror aspects were very well balanced with the daily life in the 1920s and the mystery parts, which made me quite enjoy myself despite the demons lurking in the shadows.

Definitely pick this up if you have any interest in America’s supernatural history (I’m personally hoping one of the books in this quartet focuses on the witch trials), or if you adore 1920s period fiction, or if you liked Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, because this book is pos-i-tute-ly for you. Also, this cover is magic. I love it.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Lair of Dreams
Book #3 – Before The Devil Breaks You
Book #4 – Untitled – TBD

The Boston Girl – Anita Diamant

the-boston-girl-anita-diamant

Source: Goodreads

Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl follows first-generation American Addie Baum through the ups and down of living in early 20th century Boston, Massachusetts. Not your typical historical-fiction-memoir, the story reads as though Addie is being interviewed by her granddaughter, Ava, and shows us her life from 1900-1985.

Having never heard of Anita Diamant except when people spoke in passing about The Red Tent, I don’t 100% remember why I picked up this book in the first place. I think I came across a summary and it sounded interesting, and then I had family that moved to Boston, and I bought it. Then, The Red Tent was turned into a TV miniseries (Trailer and Miniseries rated PG13) in 2014 on Lifetime that my mother and I marathoned and bawled our eyes out through. It was life-changing. And then I was moving to Boston this year and I picked up this book to add to my reading list and realized it was by the same author all over again. Still, I kept putting it off, for no real reason. I’m glad I read it in Boston. It gave me a new perspective on my new city, and I’m beyond thankful for that.

This book is nothing like any historical, fictional, memoir type book that I have ever come across. The almost but not quite interview style is done extremely well, and you hardly realize that the story is being told in first-person. If Addie was a real person she would immediately be on my list of biggest heroes. There is so much gumption in this girl. She’s just so real, and the twists and turns that her life takes are too numerous to count.

True, the number of words which I’m guessing were either Yiddish or Hebrew and I, therefore, didn’t know (not having studied those languages myself) were high, it’s true. However, each one only added to the hominess feel of the book, as though the reader is one of Addie’s close friends, maybe from the Saturday Club, or maybe a close Jewish friend (like the granddaughter who’s supposedly interviewing her) who would understand all the terms. The humor with which she speaks is contagious, and even though I read the book in the span of a day, I found myself walking around smiling even when I wasn’t reading it.

“You know, Ava, it’s good to be smart, but kindness is more important. Oh dear, another old-lady chestnut to stitch on a sampler. Or maybe one of those little throw pillows.”
~Addie Baum

There are too many ‘chestnuts’ to share them all, but The Boston Girl is pure magic if I’ve ever seen it. Even the sad and tragic things that happen to and around Addie provide important information that allows you to dig deeper into Addie’s story. This is one of those books that really was too good to put down, completely sucking me in. It’s so good that it might have even earned a spot on my all-time favorites list, something that rarely, if ever, happens.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler

Source: Goodreads

Z: A Novel of Zelda Ftizgerald tells the story of Zelda Sayre, a rebellious southern belle who falls in love with army officer and soon to be famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. It chronicles their life together, the good, the bad and the downright ugly, in much the same way that Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife does for Hadley, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. In fact, Hadley makes a couple appearances in Z, as the events of their lives intertwine in more than a few ways.

I purchased this book within weeks of finishing The Paris Wife in 2014. I couldn’t wait to compare their stories and look at life in the 1920’s.  Then I became distracted by other things and a whole year went by with Z sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. When I finally picked it up I wasn’t excited anymore, but I felt that I should read it before I bought more books. The beginning of Z was rather confusing because I expected it to start with Zelda as a child or young woman and instead it began with a letter she was writing to Scott late in their marriage. In addition, I didn’t find Zelda very likable at the beginning. She came across haughty and spoiled with just a touch of naive rebelliousness. I worried that the book would be boring because I disliked her, and then I felt bad about disliking her, and it spiraled from there. I put the book down and didn’t pick it up again for 6 months, at which point I finally gave in and decided to finish it because I hate leaving things undone.

As the story progresses, Zelda matures, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Being in her mind throughout the story you can feel her growing and – thankfully – becoming for likable. As Zelda and Scott’s marriage deteriorates, Zelda gains unimaginable strength of character and becomes one of my favorite people. She is truly a Renaissance woman. She is a painter, a dancer, and a wonderful writer despite being pushed continually into using Scott’s name on her work. She single-handedly saves their family from ruin at the expense of her own sanity, and then she puts her life back together again. Zelda Fitzgerald becomes a true paragon of a strong woman, and I am thankful every day that Therese Ann Fowler chose to share this version of her with the world.

Living through the ups and downs and twists of a marriage that spans wars and depressions, fame and hospitalization, love and hatred, Zelda is the one holding together not just her own life, but Scott’s as well. Until the very end, she is his biggest supporter as well as his biggest critic, and he is only the better for it.

Probably the part that intrigued me the most was the summer everyone went to the beach because this period of time appeared in both Z and in  The Paris Wife, but from the different women’s points of view. Having read The Paris Wife, in which Zelda and Scott were very minor characters and hardly mentioned, it was fascinating to see Ernest and especially Hadley from Zelda’s point of view in Z. To Zelda, Hadley is a very important person, and someone she strives to understand and even somewhat emulate because of her strength during Ernest’s betrayal. The whole section just made me love these two women even more.

By the time I reached the conclusion of the book, I didn’t want it to be over. The beginning had been explained and I understood the point of starting at the end, since in many ways Zelda’s life came full circle. I would highly recommend Z to anyone who liked The Paris Wife, and to anyone and everyone who enjoys period pieces. In fact, I would recommend that every woman (or just every person, really) should read this book and The Paris Wife because they are just so educational and inspiring and strengthening that I think everyone could gain something from their pages.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars