Stone Cold (Broken Magic, # 2)

Stone Cold (Broken Magic, #2)Stone Cold by Devon Monk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have I ever told you guys how much I fangirl over Devon Monk’s books? Cause I do. Before Goodreads I’d check her blog religiously to make certain I wouldn’t miss anything, and then after Goodreads I let my release day system fall by the wayside, and as a result I was nothing short of horrified to see how long ago this was released. I adore this series and I’d missed release day *insert wide eyed horror stricken face here*. Anyway, enough of my personal problems let me tell you why this is a series you should be reading. Key words: badasses everywhere, magic, Shamus Flynn, seat-of-your-pants action, heartbreak, love, masterful storytelling, fully developed world, grit, and more.

This is a spin-off of Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series featuring one of my all-time favorite characters: Shamus Flynn. Shame, as he prefers to be called, is a dark and twisted guy with a heart of gold; he is also the single most powerful Death magic user known. His soul complement, Terric, is the equally powerful Life magic user and the two of them have struggled with this tie for years. They were friends in their youth, actually several of these characters grew up close enough to be brothers, but when Shame realized he and Terric were soul complements things got even worse between them than it’d been. Terric is gay and Shame is not and for the longest time I wondered if their bond would be something that brought them together physically, but while they make serious strides with their connection in this book things are just as non-physical as they ever were, and it works perfectly.

In this story that sadistic madman Eli is still on the loose and coming after Shame with a vengeance to repay Shame for what he had done to him. Eli is a horror, an absolute horror of a human and as Shame and Terric fight against his horrific plot things looked pretty bleak. Shame and Terric may be the two most powerful magic users in existence since the effects of their actions in prior books meant that the two of them weren’t users so much as the embodiment of their given discipline, but it eats away at them and slowly but surely they understand they’re losing their grip on humanity. It doesn’t help either of them that they stubbornly refuse to accept the benefits of being each other’s compliment, but it works out for the best in the end.

We get to see Allie and Zay again, and Davy too, though Davy really got on my nerves at one point in the story. Poor Davy had been kidnapped and tortured by Eli and as Shame is trying to save him there’s a casualty… one of the people who’d gone with Shame on this rescue didn’t heed his warning about staying away from him as he wrestled with his magic and was killed. He bound the soul to him (his second) and that person raged at him so bad I just wanted him to shut them up. It wasn’t Shame’s fault- and the whole dynamic for a while pissed me off. Shame owed them a favor, which is how they ended up together at that warehouse, but Shame’s debt wasn’t nearly as important as he was being made to feel. Words thrown at him like “I own you in this” pissed me off- no, you don’t, and he’s helping you when he’s so completely fucked up from magic that it’s a shock he’s still standing, so re-fucking-lax, but instead someone died. Sigh. Then Davy got all ragey about it and blamed Shame and Shame just took it. Because guilt. I get his guilt, because poor guy, he didn’t want to kill them but he wasn’t in control of his magic and he was justified in that. He’d only just woken up from his own trip into death for cryin’ out loud! I really love Shame, always have, so it was hard for me to see these people always saying shit to him about how they’d take him down if his magic hurt someone- just cut the guy a break for the love of all that is holy! He tried staying away from everyone but then they insist on being around him but then give him hell for his suffering. GAH, frustrating, but be that as it may, I could still understand where they were coming from, though I wish they’d have more understanding for him.

As you can undoubtedly tell these are characters that I love a great deal, and it’s thanks to the fact that Devon Monk is a badass. Her writing snuck up on me several years ago, but man, let me tell you what, you’re missing out if you haven’t tried it yet. This series is a spin-off, yes, but it’s also fully able to stand alone. The characters that were in Allie’s series (like Allie herself, lol) are there with an explanation and not knowing their history doesn’t detract from the main storyline. I’d still recommend reading that series first just to have that joy of seeing old favorites again, and it was in Allie’s books that I realized I loved me some Shame. These books are all about the adventure, hard choices people have to make sometimes, and overcoming anything. They’re written with the skill that any bookworm wants- you’re not just along for the ride sort of watching from the sidelines, you’re in the story living with these people, hurting with them, and being overjoyed with them. From the start you are only ever at the mercy of what Monk wants you to be and I can’t get enough.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth — deep down, I always did.

I was just a girl.

Me immediately after finishing this book:

What the hell am I supposed to do now? What do I possibly read after this? How do I REVIEW this? How can everyone else just go on with their lives around me while I’m sat here clutching my kindle and trying to gather the pieces of my broken heart?

Me a few hours after finishing this book:

This book is easily the best book I have read this year. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of my favourite books, period. And now I somehow have to find the words to explain why.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is, as its title would suggest, a strange and beautiful book. It’s a story about a family, spanning multiple generations – it’s about life, love, desire, obsession and wasted youth… and it’s fucking beautiful. There is something so breathtakingly real and honest about this book, even though aspects of the story are fantastical. It’s a tale about many people, each crafted with rich personality and an almost painful humanity (even those not quite so human).

The writing is so beautiful, but simply so, that I found myself feeling inexplicably emotional at times. The story just carries this mood, an atmosphere, that permeates the entire novel and left me with goosebumps. Walton wields bittersweetness in a way that can make you smile and break your heart in a single sentence. She captures the intense and feverish desires and obsessions of youth and first love/lust – with more than a little perversion at times. There is something so beautifully ugly about life, about love, about realizing you no longer love someone.

The Griffith House was like nothing Viviane remembered, reminding her of how fast the world changed and of how insignificant she was in the grand scheme of things. She thought it unfair that her life should be both irrelevant and difficult. One or the other seemed quite enough.

Being a relatively short-to-average sized book and having so many characters, you’d think this book would fall short of the mark and fail to develop complex characters. But it doesn’t. At all. In fact, the large cast of characters – none of which is wasted or throwaway – made this book absolutely fascinating. I’m not sure I’ve felt such a strong emotional connection with a book since the weeks immediately following my discovery of Melina Marchetta. Every single character interested me, I didn’t relate to them all but I felt like I understood each one of them. And this is what makes so much of the book feel helplessly tragic. People are hurt by other people who I wanted to hate for hurting them… but I couldn’t.*

And it really is so sad. It’s about the foolishly inexplicable things we do, the things left unsaid, the unknowing, the things that could have so easily been different. But I promise that it’s not all doom and gloom either. It’s a rich, intoxicating whirlwind of emotions. It’s exciting and romantic and incredibly funny.

I’m not going to say anything else because this review is descending into blabbering, gushing madness and I’m going a little crazy with the BOLD text (hehe). But, what can I say…
Love makes us such fools.
And I really love this book.

The Moment Collector by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The Moment CollectorThe Moment Collector by Jodi Lynn Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

“This is no place for anyone with a heart.”

The Moment Collector, or The Vanishing Season as it is also called in an alternate edition, is one of the coldest, loneliest books I have ever read. Anderson seems to love themes about outsiders, isolation, growing up and not always getting what we’d hoped for – she’s already responsible for breaking my heart with the vicious but quiet Tiger Lily, and she returns once more to tell a tale about three friends and the ghost who observes them from afar.

I said forever ago that the song Peter by Daughter perfectly fit with Anderson’s Tiger Lily. Well, if that book was a song by Daughter, then this one is their entire debut album. Some of these lyrics are so perfect for the book, all cold loneliness:

Drifting apart like two sheets of ice, my love
Frozen hearts growing colder with time […]
Oh, winter comes
Oh, winter crush all of the things that I once loved.

Two feet standing on a principle
Two hands digging in each others wounds
Cold smoke seeping out of colder throats
Darkness falling, leaves nowhere to move.

You only look into my eyes when I’ve been cryin’
to see if the tears that you have made are slowly dryin’
Oh, but even if they’ve dried, it don’t mean that I’m feelin ok ’cause I’m still sad inside.
Your Kisses

Did she make your heart beat faster than I could?
Did she give you what you hoped for?
Oh, nights of loveless love, I hope it made you feel good,
Knowing how much I adored you.

This may also be the highest rating I’ve ever given to a book where virtually nothing happens. Despite what it may appear to be, or what the blurb tells you… this book is not a paranormal ghost story. Nor is it a murder mystery. There is no fast-paced plot, and any drama is used to create a portrait of a realistic set of relationships rather than being a tool to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. It is, in fact, a slow-moving and beautifully-written character study. It’s a coming-of-age story about love, friendship, loss, growing up and accepting what will never be. I don’t consider it a spoiler to tell you that Anderson never delivers the ending the reader wants. She delivers a hard dose of reality – her books are about the things we have to face, the loves that don’t work out.

“The living always think that monsters roar and gnash their teeth. But I’ve seen that real monsters can be friendly, they can smile and they can say please and thank you like everyone else. Real monsters can appear to be kind. Sometimes, they can be inside us.”

There is a very interesting and complex relationship dynamic happening between the three main characters in this book and I found it fascinating and really, really sad. I like how well the author blurs the line between good and bad, making it possible for characters to act in ways I don’t normally like and be bitter and jealous – but I still end up caring about them all. I feel like I must stress that this is very gentle, subdued novel and it won’t work for many readers. But I think if you enjoy books simply about people and relationships, then you might just love this. As the book tells us:

“It’s dangerous to be young.”

In so many ways.