Similarities | Mental health | High school | Recent death of family member | Raw and unflinching narrative | You will cry

Differences | One POV vs. Dual POV | 90′s vs. Contemporary

The Perks of Being a Wallflower | ★★★★☆ | Goodreads
All the Bright Places | ★★★★★ | review | Goodreads


Josh recommends three very different books for the YA task of the #ReadHarder challenge.

Books mentioned in this video:

X: A NOVEL by Ilyasah Shabazz:
LEGEND by Marie Lu:
MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold: 

This video is sponsored by UNCAGED by John Sanford and Michele Cook:

Secrets from beyond the veil

For Friday Reads, here is an excerpt from Dead Letter Office, the first book in my Parish Mail series of YA supernatural mystery ebooks.

It includes one of the choices you make for Celia, the heroine, as she races with her friends to catch a murderer in New Orleans. The books are interactive, like a game. Follow the right clue, and you’ll catch the killer. But follow the wrong one, and you may end up lost in the bayou forever…

“I don’t know any more about what’s happened than you do, but I don’t think all of us can take human form, even at night,” Luc reassures me. “Not everyone can return to your world. Not everyone wants to. Death is different for everyone. Sometimes people move on, sometimes they don’t.”

“But you didn’t.”

“Because I was murdered.”

After this, we walk in silence for a while.

I want to know more, of course, but he doesn’t offer, and I don’t ask. A person’s final moments must be about the most private thing you can know. I don’t want to talk about my dad’s death, and that didn’t even happen to me. Instead I ask, “Why would someone do that? Open the gate and let you all out?”

“I have no idea,” he says. “To bring someone back, maybe?”

Someone set free everything beyond the gate between the living and the dead, just to bring one person back? If true, that’s insanely reckless. Who knows what will happen with all those spirits set loose?

Or what’s already happened, I think. Because maybe it’s not just people who were unleashed… An idea forms as I remember my dream. “Can events have ghosts, like people?” I ask Luc.

“What do you mean?”

“If something happens, something bad… Can that event in the past mirror itself onto the present?” I’m thinking of those horror movies where a family moves into a house where a long-ago massacre happened, and then proceeds to kill or get killed themselves. What if that’s not just some screenwriter’s fantasy?

Luc thinks a long moment before answering. “You know the other name for this neighborhood?” We’re in the French Quarter now, winding our way past tourists, buskers, panhandlers. “Vieux Carré. The Old Quarter. In some places, yes, the past presses right up against the present.” Luc takes my hand, our palms touching. “So tightly it can sometimes break through.” With this, he interlaces his fingers in mine. “That connection is why old places tend to be more haunted than new ones. And with the portal opened, what you ask is possible. What happened before can happen again, especially in a city like this one.”

I think about this as he walks me home. Of how the ghosts of not just people but events can track through time and reappear. History repeats itself. A death in the past comes back as another death in the present.

Outside the blue townhouse, the smells of my mother’s cooking drifting out the open windows, I tell Luc about the letter. “If Arthur was murdered, maybe the man they found yesterday was too. The police won’t do anything while they still think it was an accident.” Maybe a spirit like Luc left it for me to find, maybe even Madeleine herself. And if that’s the case, I’m the only help they’ve got.

“You believe that letter is the key to solving this man’s death?”

I smile at Luc. At a ghost made flesh. “I believe a lot of things I didn’t yesterday.”

That night, blissfully, I sleep without dreaming.

When I get up, Mom’s already gone to the restaurant, which is okay by me. I have a lot of work to do. And if I’m going to solve a murder with clues over 140 years old, I’m going to need help.

- With a detective for a father, Donovan’s got the background and access to solve this present-day crime, no matter what its connection to the past might be.

- This is no ordinary investigation. Tilly understands magic and the spirit world; I’ll definitely need her skills in cracking this mystery.

Which will she choose?

You can find Dead Letter Office and the other Parish Mail ebooks for the Kindle on Amazon.

They’re also available on Nook, iBooks,  Android, and Kobo.

Book Review: You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About by Daniel Herborn

Goodreads Synopsis: 

“Tim’s a young singer-songwriter with a guitar case full of songs and dreams of finding an audience to embrace his tunes.

Mandy’s obsessed with music and a compulsive dreamer. She’s longing for something more fulfilling than daytime TV and cups of tea with best friend Alice, something like the excitement and passion of rock ’n’ roll.

When their eyes meet at a gig, sparks fly across a crowded room and hope burns in their hearts.

But in a city of millions and a scene overrun with wannabes, can they ever get it together? Will Mandy’s nerves doom their romance before it even starts? And where does the darkness in Tim’s songs come from?”

Thanks to the tribulations brought on by the busy schedule that is real-life, the worst of the worst has happened recently, and I’ve found myself in a bit of a reading slump. 

Now, there’s two paths I usually look to in order to combat this. The first is to conduct a séance and hope to hell that whatever spirit I conjure can help me out, and the second is to pick up a contemporary novel which is my go-to genre when reading. 

For practical reasons, I tend to go with the latter option. 

In theory, You’re The Kind of Girl I Write Songs About would be the perfect antidote to my problem. The title alone practically oozes the romance à la Melina Marchetta and Gayle Forman that always snaps me out of a reading slump, and with stellar endorsements by Cath Crowley and Nick Earls, how could it go wrong? 

Quite a bit, it turns out. 

For one, I felt no connection with the main characters. To me, Mandy and Tim were paper cut-outs of characters you find skimming a bio on Wikipedia. Harsh, but true. I get that Mandy was the girl fresh out of high school trying to ‘find her place in the world’, while Tim was the muso playing gigs in all the bars of the Inner West while hiding a Dark and Possibly Terrible Past, but where was the personality? I like my angst, but I have to like the actual characters before I actually enjoy it. The relationship between Mandy and Tim was too rushed, too insa-love and let-me-take-you-now-despite-not-knowing-your-first-name. It was mind boggling having these two characters like each other before I could figure out if I even liked either of them at all.

“We talk for a few minutes and it’s not enough. A moment later, I can’t really remember anything he said.”

One conversation at a pub where you can’t even remember what the other person just said does not make true love, let me tell you that. 

Despite the alternating POVs, all I really got from them was their common interest in music—which would’ve been fine I suppose, if it weren’t for the fact that it felt like Herborn was name dropping every indie band and singer in existence. When music is a theme in a novel, it should generate a better understanding of a character, not become a character in itself. The chapters were too short, the writing too stagnant, and the frequent location jumps into different areas of the Inner West just weren’t to my liking. I would’ve preferred it if Herborn just stuck to two or three areas of the Inner West, rather than trying to give readers an entire tour of what it’s like to be a hipster kid in Sydney. 

The great unveiling of Tim’s big secret wasn’t that shocking since I’d figured it’d be something along those lines, but Mandy’s reaction to it was what irked me above all.

“I wish we could be one of those lucky, happy couples that I see around, girls from my school who weren’t any more clever, or giving, or pretty, or interesting than me or anyone else, but who met their perfect boyfriends and disappeared into some bubble of happiness that floats around the city and bounces past the likes of me.

Oh yes, Mandy. Forget about Tim spilling his past to you, let’s focus on how you guys aren’t Facebook relationship status worthy instead. That’s definitely the way to a healthy relationship, no doubt about it. I finished this book through sheer force of will more than anything else but quite frankly, this just wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s a shame, really, since You’re The The Kind of Girl I Write Songs About had so much potential but its execution just wasn’t enough to do it. 

Final Rating: ★★ 2 stars

You can find this review on Happy Indulgence when it goes up next Monday. 

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