Tag Archives: young adult

Book Review Double Feature: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer & Necromancing the Stone

18 Jan

8041873Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride

Henry Holt and Co. (October 12, 2010)/(September 18, 2012)

Both 352 pages

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: Samhain Corvus LaCroix–Sam, for short–is a college dropout with a dead-end job. He’s also a necromancer, though he doesn’t know it until a chance encounter with the sinister Douglas Montgomery sets off a chain of events that will threaten everyone Sam cares about.

Review: If you think the titles are hilarious, then you’ll probably enjoy Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and its sequel, Necromancing the Stone. If you think they’re cheesy, give the books a chance anyway. It’s an odd series, not quite one thing or the other. It isn’t a comedy, exactly, nor is it horror. It’s not Young Adult, but it’s not really New Adult or Urban Fantasy.

It takes a few chapters for Hold Me Closer to warm up, but when it does, things start to get interesting fast. McBride makes some bold choices, especially <spoiler>killing off cute, funny Brooke and having the boys carrying around her reanimated head in a bowling bag</spoiler>. Some of these choices are more effective than others. The tone and point of view shifted frequently, and I sometimes got narrative whiplash. Sam’s sections are in first person while everyone else is in third, which was somewhat jarring. The Douglas and Brid sections both contained multiple flashbacks, and at one point there were nested third-person flashbacks from Sam’s mom inside his first-person narration. The structure felt unnecessarily complicated, and I would have enjoyed spending more time with Sam and less time flitting about in the heads of the other characters.

13409145Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is the rare book that tells a complete story while still leaving the door open for a sequel. The second book in the series, Necromancing the Stone, is actually better than the first in some ways. The narrative jumps around a lot less, and the magical world gets more developed as Sam earns his new place on the Council of magical creatures that governs the Pacific Northwest. McBride also delves deeper into Douglas’s past, making him if not sympathetic at least understandable. If the first book was about Sam discovering his powers, the second is about his choices in how to use them. He gets a little high-falutin’ with his moralizing, and as often happens, the supporting characters are a lot more fun than the protagonist.

There’s one part of Necromancing the Stone that really bugs me, however. Although she dances around actually naming him, Douglas’s minion (called only Minion) is a zombie Keanu Reeves. There are a ton of little winking jokes at his expense, and I found it distracting to the point of annoyance. Also, the lawn gnomes were a bit much. McBride simultaneously ramped up the camp and the drama, and I’m not sure that it works. I still really enjoyed both books–they’re unique in an industry that values copycats, and McBride is an excellent wordsmith. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait a long, long time for Sam’s adventures to continue; Lish McBride has said on her blog that she’ll be publishing a new, related series with her publisher before she returns to this one.

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Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

4 Jan

16068905Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin (September 10, 2013)

448 pages 

4 out 5 stars

Synopsis: In the real world, Cath Avery is a painfully shy college freshman who’d rather live on protein bars and peanut butter than figure out the arcane rules of the dining hall. Online, however, she’s a rock star. Her fanfiction novel, set in the fictional world of boy wizard Simon Snow, has thousands of fans. Given the choice, Cath would much rather lose herself in the fandom, but her outgoing twin sister, her sarcastic college roommate, and the cute boy who keeps showing up at her dorm won’t let her.

Review: Fangirl is a tough book to summarize because it’s not really plot driven. Things happen, of course, but they’re less important than Cath’s emotional journey and Rainbow Rowell’s magic, wonderful writing. This was a book I literally could not put down; from the moment I bought it, I carried it around with me, feverishly turning pages until there were none left. It’s funny, sweet, sad, and exactly the book I needed to read.

Introverts will recognize themselves in Cath, whose social anxiety during her first semester of college is nearly crippling. She grows and evolves over the course of the story but never fundamentally changes; Rowell doesn’t try to “fix” her with a makeover and a party montage. The book moves between Cath’s three different worlds–her family, her college friends, and her fandom–as she gradually learns how to be herself. There are no car chases, explosions, overwrought love triangles, or werewolves (although there is, technically, a vampire); instead, it’s a realistic, slice-of-life story that simply lets Cath’s first of year of college unfold. Fans of Stepanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss will love this book; fans of Twilight probably won’t.

Rowell includes “excerpts” from the Simon Snow books (which are a clear analogue for Harry Potter) and Cath’s fanfiction at the beginning of each chapter, as well as a complete story told over the course of several chapters. Readers will either love these sections or skip them all together, but skipping them would be a mistake. They weave in and out of Cath’s narrative, informing the choices she makes and being influenced by the events of her life. Also, I would really like to read the full-length Simon Snow series, so get on that, please.

I haven’t yet read Eleanor & Park, but I’m definitely going to pick it up, as well as anything else she publishes. She’s the real deal, and after one book, I’m already a Rainbow Rowell fangirl.

(Book Source: Purchased hardcover at Barnes & Noble)