Hold Me Closer Necromancer

In all honesty I requested an arc of Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride thinking that it would be completely absurd, but I simply couldn’t resist the title. I should have checked my prejudice immediately upon opening the envelope the book came in.  Sherman Alexie, aka the god of all things amazing, blurbed the book calling it a “scary funny book or a funny scary book” and then continued, “in either case, it is a great book. I love it.”  Even with such a serious stamp of approval I still tossed my copy on the bookshelf and went about with life.

Then I walked by it 12 dozen times or so, often chuckling at the title and then getting Elton John’s Tiny Dancer stuck in my head until finally I picked it up and started reading.

It was love at first sight. The book takes place in Seattle (only one of my favorite places in the world), the main character, Sam, works in a fast food joint (been there, done that) and then his life is turned on its head after an ill-timed hockey puck breaks the taillight of a very evil dude’s car. Hilarity and danger ensue! The pace of the book was a good strong gallop and while there certainly could have been a horrible fall into an overwrought “Twilight” mood, McBride does an excellent job of boldly steering her first novel quickly away from that train wreck. The magic and mythology referenced seems more edgy here and Sam’s love interest is a kick-ass female Werewolf who would be more likely to shank you than moon and brood.

I found this story to be fantastically packed with pop-culture references. For instance each of the chapters is labeled with a song lyric such as “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” or “Don’t Rock the Boat Baby.” And I loved how refreshingly frank the characters in the book were when talking about drugs, sex, and other such topics that will no doubt send conservative mothers everywhere into a great big tizzy. I did wonder if perhaps this book was originally geared towards adults and was then marketed to a YA audience — no matter though it’s such fun that I’m simply glad it was released.

So do yourself a favor and read this book! Just ignore it when people look at the title while you’re on the subway or at work and raise their eyebrows in judgment. This is a unique debut YA novel that is not to be missed and I thoroughly hope that there is a sequel (or two) in the works.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Jennifer Donnelly’s initial foray into young adult fiction, A Northern Light, was the first and only selection in the Young Adult Book Club Anna and I tried to start when we were living in Portland. We even bought a copy of the book for our friends Jaime and Kelly, who lived across the street from me, and left it in their mailbox, gently “encouraging” them to participate. In the end our failed book club consisted of Anna and I sitting in the Barnes and Noble Cafe drinking lattes. Although, to our credit we did discuss the book. That’s not something you can claim with most book clubs, right?

As much as I loved A Northern Light, I have to admit that Revolution trumps it completely. Donnelly’s ability to weave her extensive historical research into such tight and cohesive plot is uncanny. I simply couldn’t put the book down and found myself extremely sympathetic to the main character,  Andi Alpers, and her struggle with depression and the guilt she harbors over the tragic death of her young brother.

Andi’s life is one of privilege. She attends a posh New York city school with the creme de la creme of society. She’s a gifted musician and guitarist but she has become completely consumed in the deep blackness of a depression she can’t escape. She’s addicted to prescription drugs, her geneticist father has left the family, and her mother is in a constant state of mourning for her brother. When Andi’s grades reveal that she may not graduate high school her father drags her to Paris so that he can monitor her activities as she attempts to write an outline for her required thesis.

In Paris, Andi discovers the diary of Alexandrine, a passionate actress who worked as the companion to the young son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Via Alex’s diary entries Andi uncovers an amazing story of heroic proportions. It’s difficult to write about the book as I truly don’t want to give an iota of real plot away. Trust me. The scenes that take place in 18th century Paris are just as outstanding as those that deal with the present day.

As an added bonus there is an immense amount of music, both present day artists and classical works, mentioned throughout the novel. A quick Google search doesn’t appear to show any listing for an official author’s play list so maybe I’ll take the time to scour the book’s pages and pull something together? In the meantime, definitely read this book!