Review: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

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“Was she strong enough to carry all these Burdens on her own?
Or would they swallow her whole?”

I knew this book was the one I’d been looking for when I flipped to the last page of the prologue and saw a glimpse of a name I thought to be “Noa,” which was exactly what I was searching for the day earlier when on the look-out for fictional characters with the name Noah, for some inexplicable reason. (I never did find anything other than the biblical story, so please let me know if you have any solid book recommendations.)

The misread name turned out to spell “Nor,” but by then I was already too caught up in the world of The Price Guide to the Occult. I had Nor’s sardonic humor and devotion to anonymity, the promise of a book within a book, and exploring the realms of clairvoyance, telekinesis, divination to keep me satisfied.

To backtrack a bit, I’ve been a huge fan of Leslye Walton’s writing ever since I finished reading The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender back in January 2016. I think about that book more often than I think about any other. It holds such a special place in my heart because it introduced me to two of my favorite aspects in books: family-driven drama & magical realism.

Though I was caught up quickly in the storyline, as I mentioned above, it still took a bit of time to fully settle into the world of The Price Guide to the Occult… And then. Then we get some character dynamics introduced, from Nor’s sweet and lasting encounter with a certain boy to the story of her mother’s “formidable ability to manipulate the minds of those around her.” And it wasn’t long before I was lost in their world, repeating the same old mantra of “just one more page.” Once again, Leslye Walton excels at weaving together an intricately compelling family narrative.

I also had a few meta moments when it mentioned how Youtubers, reviewers, bloggers all raved about the book within our book, “after reading a glowing blog post about The Price Guide to the Occult,” because I was about to do the same.

Speaking of which, here are some noteworthy moments I cherished:

  • The fact that Nor doesn’t attend high school really hit that sweet spot for me. My main problem with YA books is that their setting is nearly always around a school, so I rarely if ever want to revisit those times of my life. So when we have a main character that feels the same and actually dares to drop out and get her GED instead, I’m left glowing.
  • The trusty old companion dogs at Nor’s unwavering side throughout the book.
  • What really got to me, though, was Nor’s unique characteristic of wanting to draw as little attention to herself as possible.

“Nor had never had the heart to tell anyone that all she wanted was to make the slightest mark as humanly possible on the world; she was too preoccupied with proving to herself that she was nothing like her mother to be focused on anything else.”

  • Which then leads me to discuss the subtle crushing she had on a certain someone (and I’m desperately trying to avoid spoilers here). Let me just say that after reading a whole anthology set around the meet-cute concept, I was more than ready for a full romance to sweep me off my feet already. And the author really knows how to keeps us on our toes when it comes to this one.

“This was what it felt like to be around him—constantly pulled in two directions, wanting to be both seen and unseen, and not knowing which one she preferred.”

I really wanted a solid build-up to happen for this couple so that by the time they got around to any kind of intimacy I’d be screaming inside. He could’ve just been standing behind her and my heart rate would pick up. It was refreshing to have love interest be so straightforward and honest about their feelings. I would leave the story to go to bed and then wake with a smile at realizing I’d left off right before he showed on the following page. But the romance was never overpowering in its role.

Anyway. I am sidetracking.

  • One thing I do wish we could’ve gotten a more extensive look into was the Blackburn lineage and their matriarch, Rona Blackburn. Like, exploring the different Burdens each Blackburn received. We got a little taste in the prologue but never fully explored past that point the true grandiosity of the first Blackburn women, which is what I loved so much in the author’s debut novel with her ability to flesh-out each generation coming before the main character.
  • The descriptions of imagery and inner monologue from Nor’s dreams were vivid, and it brought to mind Harry Potter’s struggle with seeing through Voldemort’s eyes. Which is why I was surprised when I read the Harry Potter reference to Azkaban in this book.
  • On that train of thought, Nor’s mother, Fern Blackburn, strongly represented the idea of Levana from The Lunar Chronicles, especially once I read the comparison below made by Nor’s best friend, Savvy. It gave me an unsettled feeling.

“Your mom is amazing,” Savvy continued, “but also kind of terrifying, in an evil queen kind of way. I can totally imagine her convincing the huntsman to kill me so that she can eat my heart, you know?”

  • Speaking of Savvy, aka the Guardian of Unwanted Things, I truly couldn’t have asked for a better best friend for Nor. This following quote speaks volumes about their friendship: “Though Savvy couldn’t actually solve the bulk of Nor’s problems, Nor felt better having been reminded that she had someone who gave enough of a shit to try.”
  • I wasn’t ready to be done with this book by the time I reached the ending, so I decided to read the acknowledgments, and I’m glad I did because of this touching paragraph:

(Trigger warning: self-harm.)

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All of the above were the things I would later remember. And I so hope that we’ll see more of Walton’s stories in the near future. I’m eager to know, in particular, if The Price Guide to the Occult will receive a sequel.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: March 13th 2018

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Price Guide to the Occult, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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Review: Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Ghosts 1-- bookspoilsThis was the perfect heartfelt, quick, and light graphic novel to pick up after feeling emotionally exhausted by my first read of the year.

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.Ghosts 4-- bookspoilsFirst and foremost, I have to mention that my little sister is a huge fan of Raina Telgemeier’s work, particularly the graphic novel Sisters, so I can’t wait to share this one with her. The author excels once again at featuring that special bond created between sisters. Like, seeing Cat care and worry for her little sister Maya, who’s born with cystic fibrosis which affects her breathing and digestion.

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Secondly, the color palette is refreshingly vibrant in Ghosts. And so were the aspects of the author being willing to explore happiness as much as she was willing to explore pain, grief, and unhappiness.

Which then leads me to feature how utterly spellbinding and visually stunning the celebration scene was:

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Last but not least, this graphic novel made me feel excited to go and check out the Disney film Coco, also centered around Día de Muertos, as soon as possible.

3/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Ghosts, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Meet Cute: Anthology by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Sometimes I just need to get sucked into a feel-good story and stay there until I’m finished. Thankfully, I accomplished just that with this anthology full of short bursts of sweetness with meet-cutes, butterflies, first impressions, and so much more.

Just some of my personal memorable stories from the book:

  • Nina LaCour’s Print Shop:

Funnily enough, this story opens with our main character, Evie, receiving her first job where she’s set to develop an online presence for a print shop she chose mainly for its lack of computers. I loved how we got such a solid grip on the atmosphere of the shop and the people working there, like, I could smell the air engulfing Evie the minute she walked in, similar to what I mentioned in my review for LaCour’s We Are Okay. I especially cherished Neve, who’s eight months pregnant and doesn’t care to overshare:

“But then Neve leaned forward and said, “We’ve been basking in a seemingly eternal youth, and now, shit, I’m thirty-seven. I told Eduardo now or never and threw the condoms away.” She leaned back and laughed. “Okay, thanks for tolerating my overshare. I like you. You’re hired.”
“Oh,” I said. “Thanks!” I shook my head to rid it of the image of the two of them having sex, and stood up to shake her hand.”

Weirdly relieved when I read that last sentence and realized how everyone desperately tries to erase that image in their head.

But things really get going when Evie receives a cranky customers service tweet, demanding justice be served to Principal Hope not principle hope.

  • Dhonielle Clayton’s The Way We Love Here:

“None of us know when our time is up. The gods gave us one gift—to know when our loves would come. The best part of life. It would be greedy to ask for more.”

The blurb describing this as a predestined tale of love had me thinking it would lead to a bunch of sappy one-liners about the greatness of romance, but in all actuality, I was surprised for the better thanks to the characters’ self-deprecating humor and eerily relatable overthinking thoughts.

“I’ve never held hands with anyone outside of Momma, my sister, and Papa. The elders of Meridien say that this type of intimacy is reserved for blood relatives and beloveds. They warn us about the dangers that could happen: falling in love with the wrong person, ending up alone, altering the will of the gods, confusing the senses, and losing our fingers. The newspapers print cautionary tales about young teens who disregard the warning. They make sure to include their sad pictures. I’ve never done it. Then again, I’ve never had a boy with whom to try.”

We then receive this rare opportunity to look into Vio and Sebastien’s future lives together, which reminded me of another similar short story from a #LoveOzYA Anthology that I absolutely adored last year: I Can See the Ending by Will Kostakis. “It’s different, when you know its ending.”

  • Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Dictionary Of You And Me:

Following Moss’s ongoing mission at the library to retrieve the way-overdue dictionary from a certain H. Smith.

Interestingly enough, the ongoing flirting and bantering that took place between the two over the phone was put a little on the back burner for me as I had a magical time living vicariously through her to see what a job at the library would entail. Swoon.

But that’s not to say that I wasn’t left with a megawatt smile on my face upon reading their amusing conversations as well.

“I’ve missed you,” he said, surprising me. Even without a mirror, I knew my pink skin was getting even pinker.
Clearing my throat, I focused on the task at hand. “There is no way you could’ve missed me.”
“And why not?” he replied, sounding amused.
“We don’t even know each other.”
“I don’t think that’s true. I mean, at least I feel like I know you.” There was a pause. “Just the other day, you told me you hated turkey.”
I had told him that, though I couldn’t remember how that topic of convo had come up. “Yeah, and just the other day you told me the reason you’d been unable to return the dictionary was because you were touring the back roads of France.”
He chuckled. “That’s not a lie.”
“Oh, really?”
“I’ve been checking them out on Google Maps.”
My lips twitched.”

I’m a sucker for smooth talkers in books.

  • The Unlikely Likelihood Of Falling In Love by Jocelyn Davies:

“I may or may not have fallen in love at first sight with a boy on the B train. I’m doing my final project on the likelihood of seeing him again.”

I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did because I rarely if ever appreciate “love at first sight” stories. But Jocelyn Davies took an interesting spin on this trope.

The reason I cherished this tale was mainly that I saw so much of myself exposed within the main character. As I once read somewhere (and I’m desperately wishing I remembered the source here): There’s something completely indescribable about reading someone’s story and being able to see some of yours in it. Like, her calculating the chances of meeting the cute boy she randomly passed on her morning route is all too relatable to me.

“Alex’s right,” she said, dipping her brush into a blob of hunter-green paint. “It’s fate.”
“It’s not fate,” I countered. “It’s math.”
“Why do you think you keep seeing him? Why do you think both of your trains stopped at the exact same time? It’s fate, I’m telling you.”
“I’ll tell you why I keep seeing him. He goes to school in Brooklyn. I go to school in Manhattan. School starts at pretty much the same time every day no matter what school you go to. There are only a limited number of ways to cross between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and one of them is the Manhattan Bridge. See? The pool of variables keeps getting smaller and smaller. If you think about it, how could I not see him?”

This right here is my two inner voices arguing on paper.

And this next passage then captures that moment of trying to comfort yourself that it’s for the best if you never see him again:

If we did ever meet IRL, then he would become real. And all this perfect stuff I sort of knew about him would be all mixed up with imperfect stuff, the real stuff, the stuff no one wants to know. The stuff that would take him out of the early morning haze of my dreams and into the cold hard daylight of reality.”

But once in a blue moon, the universe (or the author of a story) has something bigger in store and all we can do is wait. I wasn’t expecting to feel this seen with this anthology but I’m glad I was.

  • Julie Murphy’s Something Real:

Entertaining reality TV told through short fiction? Yes, please!

Something Real follows our main character, June Smith, as she’s going through the trials of entering a reality dating show contest with her favorite singer Dylan as the “prize.”

At the heart of it all, though, is a story of fandom, girls supporting girls, and connection.

“Those lyrics, they were, like, immediately seared into my brain. It was almost like all the words in that song existed inside of me, but Dylan had somehow grouped them all together and sorted them out. And not only that, but he could freaking sing. That video of him in his dad’s basement. Just acoustic. Nothing fancy. I would turn that song on and close all the curtains in my room and just lie there in the dark. I should’ve felt so alone, but I didn’t. And I wanted that feeling all the time. But Dylan’s one person.” I laugh a little. “I’m not some psycho who’s going to stalk him at his house, so I decided to find people who felt just as alone as I did. I guess I just thought we could be alone together, or maybe—just maybe—we’d find that we weren’t all that alone to begin with.”

It was also just dizzyingly and irresistibly enjoying to read.This is reality TV at its peak. The author said it best when she talked about June’s competitor, Martha: “I’m hanging on her every word. I know this has nothing to do with Dylan or his music or this stupid date we’re competing for, but if Jill is out to make good TV, she knows how to get it done.”

I’m glad that what I was feeling was conveyed on paper, but it made me laugh when I remembered this post:

On that note, I have one last story I want to mention which is Nicola Yoon’s The Department Of Dead Love. There’s a question she posed in it that I found radically important to know the answer to. It goes as follows: “What do you think the difference between wanting to be friends and wanting to be more than friends is?”

And Yoon did not disappoint in her theory: “Some people you want to get to know and some people you want to know you. I think that’s the difference.”

Overall, upon completing each story, I had an insurmountable amount of fun revisiting the words of some of my favorite YA authors. As well as trying to guess which couple was being featured on the cover.Meet Cute-- bookspoils

Lastly, I’d like to feature the theme song playing in the back of mind throughout this anthology performed by the one and only Adele:

 

 

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Meet Cute, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!