Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor

Title: Sycamore
Author: Bryn Chancellor 
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 336 Pages
Publication: May 9, 2017 by Harper

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart—most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, 
Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature—desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope—as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town. 

Every year there comes one book. One book that is surprising, brilliant, captivating, unputdownable and a must read of the year. And while I’ve read plenty of great novels this year, Sycamore is without a doubt the must read book of 2017. Sycamore is a complex, multifaceted mystery centered around a small town and the disappearance of Jess Winters, a teenager that went missing eighteen years earlier, in the winter of 1991.

With the discovery of bones, Chancellor takes readers on a dark, poignant look at adulthood and the life of adolescence. The book is narrated by an amazing cast of realistic and intriguing characters alternating between the past and present. The past is narrated by none-other then our girl, Jess Winters. We learn of her life upon arriving to Sycamore and all the way up to the day she disappeared. The present is narrated by everyone that knew Jess and who were affected by her one way or another and the newcomer that discovered the mystery set of bones while on a hike; which may or may not be of Jess Winters, the girl that has haunted the town over the years.

I know this is repetitive, me saying this, but I am not a fan of multiple narration. And Sycamore is full of multiple narration. However, I thought it fit this book perfectly. It just worked, and I honestly cannot see it any other way. We got a through and in-depth look at each and everyone’s life, how everyone was before Jess disappeared and after. We got to see first hand, at what one supposedly harmless secret can do; and how it can trigger a chain reaction that those caught in the cross-hair can feel the consequences years down the road. Chancellor’s writing captivated me from the first page and I was on pins and needles as the mystery unfolded till the very end. As the saying goes ‘though all good thing comes to an end’ but I didn’t want the story to be over. I just wanted to soak myself into the story.

The mystery was never much a mystery. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to know how everything played out. The real mystery and best part of the book were the characters that Chancellor so expertly described and brought to life. All the characters had their own distinct voice. I truly felt as if I could see, experience and feel what they felt. The real mystery was the inhabitants of Sycamore. At the start of the book, we see everyone as a relationship to Jess. Dani, Jess’s best friend, Paul, Jess’s boss’s son, Maud, Jess’s mom etc. As the story developed, we saw past everyone’s appearance and labels, to see that everyone had their own secrets, fears, doubts, hopes and dreams…just like Jess had.

The mystery of Sycamore and Jess Winters will pique your interest, but the characters will make you stay. Chancellor’s debut is truly magnificent and the writing is lyrical and poetic. If you can read one book this year, let it be Sycamore. Seriously, pick this book up now, you won’t regret it. Even if you’re not really a fan of mystery or suspense, this book will certainly change that. I absolutely loved Sycamore, it is a literary masterpiece and I know for certain that this book will stay with me for a very long, long time.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 310 pages
Publication: September 1, 2015 by Delacorte BFYR

Source: Personal Library. 


My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years.

The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I think everyone has read Everything, Everything. It’s been on everyone’s must read list, top ten list, top five and of course, the New York Time’s Bestseller List. It’s been two years since it’s release and I never got around to reading it. Until I saw the trailer for the movie. I thought the trailer looked really cute and wanted to read the book before watching the movie. And yup, the book was cute.

My favorite part of the story was the beginning of Maddy and Olly’s relationship. It was new, exciting and adorable. But it wasn’t all lovey dovey all the time. It’s safe to say, since I’m positive everyone has read the book, that Maddy gets sick after her brief runaway to Hawaii. I didn’t like how she automatically shut olly out after coming home from Hawaii. She broke so many rules and risked her life...why not go the extra mile? why retreat back behind her walls and shut him out like he never existed? I found her dismissal of him vexing. The book was also fairly short, and made shorter with the email/messaging and drawing. Most people enjoy that type of format and the cute drawings but I honestly wasn’t a fan of it. I skipped most of the drawing/explanation. Cute but not needed.

Everything, Everything
overall was very well written and as I said cute. But the themes and plot has been done before, nothing new or groundbreaking here. With the hype it got and the big movie set to premiere in two weeks…I was expecting a lot more. I was expecting to be wowed. Bottom line, Everything, Everything is a good story that follows a predicable formula and had a happy satisfied ending. While I didn’t love it as I hoped, I think others will enjoy it more than me. I’d still recommend it, but I think there are better Contemporary Young Adult novels out there.

* I had a chance to view an early screening of Everything, Everything. It was cute and I thought the actors chosen were great. But the movie itself was very choppy and rushed. And in the case of which was better? The book certainly win

Monday, May 01, 2017

Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel José Older

Title: Midnight Taxi Tango
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Bone Street Rumba # 2

Mass Market Paperback, 319 Pages
Publication: January 5, 2016 by Roc

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


The streets of New York are hungry tonight...

 Carlos Delacruz straddles the line between the living and the not-so alive. As an agent for the Council of the Dead, he eliminates New York’s ghostlier problems. This time it’s a string of gruesome paranormal accidents in Brooklyn’s Von King Park that has already taken the lives of several locals—and is bound to take more.  

The incidents in the park have put Kia on edge. When she first met Carlos, he was the weird guy who came to Baba Eddie's botánica, where she worked. But the closer they’ve gotten, the more she’s seeing the world from Carlos’s point of view. In fact, she’s starting to see ghosts. And the situation is far more sinister than that—because whatever is bringing out the dead, it’s only just getting started.

Midnight Taxi Tango, is the second installment in the Bone Street Rumba series and it was even better than the first book! Two things I’ve come to learn reading Older’s work is that it will never disappoint and always expect the unexpected. Many of the Urban Fantasy novels I’ve read are of the same variety and too similar to one another. However with the Bone Street Rumba series, It’s a breath of fresh air and I love all the unexpected twist and turns. In HRB, Carlos and his team had to deal with a powerful sorcerer and creepy, bike riding ngks that permanently destroyed spirits. And in MTT, we had blattodeon men lurking at every corner, and once again, Carlos is brought in to investigate a random string of murders that took place in Von King Park…which turned out not to be so random after all.

This series is full of eclectic and diverse characters, so I was surprisingly happy to see that this time around, Older utilized multiple POVs. I say surprising because I’m usually not a fan of them. Not only did this showcase others’ perspective/background but we also saw an in-depth look at Brooklyn from someone other than Carlos. Which I was glad for because Carlos was still devastated about Sasha leaving. And at the best of times he was still kind of melancholy and incoherent. In addition to Carlos’s POV, we had Kia, a teen that worked at Baba Eddie’s shop and a bad-ass lady name Reza.

Readers met Kia Briefly in HRB, a street savvy sixteen-year-old and manager of Baba Eddie’s Botánica. Kia is smart, headstrong and outspoken. Kia is very independent and I like that she does whatever she wants. Sometimes I forget she’s a teenager. Kia has a lot of personality, and people will either take to her or find her completely unappealing. I’m obviously in the former category. Kia is certainly not like the typical teenager most people read about. Also somewhat ironic, since she is as realistic as it gets. And Older did a great job of capturing teenage youth and angst. Reza is a new character that readers will meet in MTT. She’s like a lady version of Carlos, but probably a little more unforgiving. She’s a tough as nail, blunt, fearless and has the take-no-prisoner- attitude. Literally. Any one that messes with her and her crew is likely gonna eat a bullet. No joke. She is scary awesome. Besides loving the two new fierce ladies POVs, Kia BFF Karina was a freaking hoot. I absolutely loved all the scenes with Karina.

Midnight Taxi Tango
was a great squeal, especially with the world and characters firmly introduced and grounded in the first novel. There was a lot more action this time around and the dialogue had me laughing constantly. If you haven’t checked out the Bone Street Rumba series, then you need to run to the nearest bookstore/site and get it ASAP. This series doesn’t get as much attention as it should, it’s truly a hidden gem when it comes to the Urban Fantasy genre. Older has become an auto-buy, shelf keeper author and I can’t wait to see what you comes up with next.