Words in Deep Blue: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“And if there is no hope of saving the thing we love in their original form, we must save them however we can.”

“Sometimes, the end begins.”

Rachel Sweetie lays her heart bear when she writes Henry Jones a love letter and leaves it in his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. It is the ultimate grand gesture before she moves away with her family.

Henry never acknowledges it.

Years later Rachel is moving back to the city and, unbelievably, picking up a job at Howling Books. But nothing is the same as when she left because her brother Cal drowned months ago. She knows she isn’t the girl she was before–failing Year 12 and abandoning her dream of becoming a marine biologist prove that well enough. But she isn’t sure how she can be anything else when her brother is gone.

All Henry knows is that his best friend is back and, he hopes, willing to pick up their friendship where they left off. Henry could use a friend right now. He is perfectly content working in the family bookshop, hunting for secondhand books to buy and living upstairs with his father and his younger sister George. Henry’s comfortable world is shattered when his girlfriend dumps him and his parents start arguing about selling the bookshop. With everything changing, Henry’s perfect if unambitious future is threatened.

Howling Books is filled with memories in used books, love letters, and messages exchanged through the shop’s Letter Library. As she rediscovers the bookstore and the boy she left behind, Rachel realizes that is is possible to breathe and keep going even when everything feels broken. She and Henry both begin to understand that second chances can be as beautiful as new beginnings in Words in Deep Blue (2017) by Cath Crowley.

Find it on Bookshop.

Crowley explores familiar themes of grief and reclaiming what was lost. Words in Deep Blue alternates between Rachel and Henry’s first person narrations. The lighthearted banter and romance of this story belie the deep melancholy and sadness that has settled over Rachel like a shroud after her brother’s death. Rachel’s pragmatic and introspective tone contrasts well with Henry’s more boisterous narration filled with references to books and poetry.

Rachel and Henry’s fragile relationship mends itself in front of the backdrop of the bookstore and its own uncertain fate. As Rachel works to catalog the notes and memories in the shop’s Letter Library other stories unfold and reveal secrets about longtime customers, Henry’s sister George, and even Rachel’s brother. These threads come together by the end of Words in Deep Blue in a neat but ultimately bittersweet conclusion as Rachel and Henry realize that some losses cannot be avoided.

The scope of the plot leaves little room in this slim novel for fully realized characters but the sketches readers do receive are more than enough to make this story crackle with potential. The evocative setting, particularly the world within Howling Books, adds another dimension to this story. Words in Deep Blue is a thoughtful story about healing and reunions as well as memory and salvaging that which is lost–whether it’s a beloved person or a cherished place. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett, What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum, Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills, Flannery by Lisa Moore, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke, Recommended For You by Laura Silverman, This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura, Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

12 for 2012

It was incredibly hard to pick just twelve books for this list. (Even limiting myself to just 2012 publications was difficult as I read so many wonderful books this year.) My original list included 19 titles–all of which I did really enjoy. But, there can be only twelve (until 2013 anyway!) so, without further ado here are . . .

My Twelve Most Favorite books from 2012 (in alphabetical order):

  1. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: In addition to being one of my favorite books from 2012, this was also one of my most anticipated. I’m so excited that it’s finally out so everyone can start talking about it with me!
  2. The Diviners by Libba Bray: 1920s mystery/thriller with supernatural elements and romance set in New York City? There was never a chance of this one being less than a favorite for me.
  3. The Selection by Kiera Cass: One of the most surprising books I read this year. I went into it expecting something silly and unsatisfying. I got a nuanced and unlikely blend of The Bachelor TV show and The Hunger Games. I still can’t pinpoint the details but everything about this one just makes me very happy when I think about it.
  4. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley: Another very anticipated title. Cath Crowley can do no wrong in my view. Filled with references to modern art, musings on love, multiple viewpoints, poetry and such beautiful writing. If I could bottle how I felt after finishing this book, I’d be rich.
  5. Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst: I love Sarah Beth Durst and was so happy to hear about this one. A fantasy with gods and goddesses, storytellers, tricksters, magic and a mysterious journey! And a book that manages to turn the original story upside down without ruining everything and a love rhombus? Trust me, it’s as fabulous as it sounds. (And bonus points for the diverse cast!)
  6. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: As a reader I grew up on high fantasies. With a complex world filled with subtle language and politics (and dragons) all its own, this one fits right in with the fantasies of my childhood. The writing is beautiful and the story is exciting but I think my favorite part was Seraphina’s journey throughout the story as she learned: “We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful.”
  7. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: Regular readers will know of my love affair with Robin’s series for younger readers: Nathaniel Fludd: Beastologist. So when I heard she was writing a YA series I was all over it even when the series premise did not sound like my usual fare. (Assasin nuns? In Brittany? In 1485?) I was so wrong to worry. With wild machinations, a protagonist who questions authority and nods to familiar mythology by another name, this one had everything I want in a book.
  8. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: This book (along with #12) are probably the books of BEA 2012. Aside from being much anticipated, this one completely blew me away. A post-apocalyptic retelling of Persuasion with sci-fi elements is bound to be cool. I was so pleasantly surprised when I found it was also simply stunning.
  9. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan: A gothic tale that flips gender roles, riffs on imaginary friends, and features a plucky girl reporter? And it’s by Sarah Rees Brennan? Enough said.
  10. The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski: I went into this one knowing nothing about the book itself or its author beyond the basics. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I found a book about parallel universes, alternate history, and family all wrapped up in a wish by the author to write a novel similar to Pride and Prejudice with “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and art as continued motifs. Be still my heart.
  11. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: It’s not The Scorpio Races but very little is. In a lot of ways this is a quiet start to a series but I’m so in for the rest of the quartet and learning more about Blue and Gansey. So. In.
  12. Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin: There are few authors I love as much as Gabrielle Zevin (and not just because she recognizes me at signings sometimes!) and few series that excite me as much as her Birthright books. There is, in fact, so much I like about this series that it’s hard to distill my thoughts on this second installment for my list except to say I love the backdrop almost as much as I appreciate that the series features a romance without being about a romance.

You can also find my list on Pinterest if you want to see all of the lovely covers.

Honorable Mentions (the books that didn’t make my main list but have kept me thinking all year):

  • Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: This might be the last book I finish in 2012. I put off reading it for a long time because I didn’t know what to expect and I think I was afraid it wouldn’t be what I wanted. But it was everything I wanted. Dimensional and beautiful and so much more than a retelling.
  • Frost by Marianna Baer: This one was a lot of fun and I’m still very sorry it didn’t go all the way in last year’s Cybils. Alas. While it doesn’t quite stand up to a really close reading it is a lot of fun with spooky twists around every corner.
  • The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron: I hardly know where to start with this one. This book completely snuck up on me but with steampunk elements and a Victorian setting it’s not surprising that it became an instant favorite.
  • Fracture by Megan Miranda: Every time I think about giving away my copy I look at the writing and realize I can’t. I loved this one and because of it’s Les Mis references I’ve been thinking about it a lot with all of the Les Miserables movie trailers turning up on TV.
  • Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood: Such a fun read! I’m so excited for the sequel and love seeing Jessica on Twitter. Definitely a deceptive cover for a book with a lot of depth. And feminism! And alternate history!
  • Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg: Eulberg is always aces in my book. Taking this one off my main list was an agonizing decision which is why it needed an honorable mention. In terms of personal moments this was also a big one since I got to interview Elizabeth Eulberg, one of my favorite authors (and imaginary BFF *cough*) about this title–and hopefully it won’t be the last time!
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith: This one was a fun fast read but it really got me thinking. I feel like with lists like this there is always a bias favoring books read later in the year because, well, it’s easier to remember recent reads. That said this is one of the most effervescent books I’ve read (not just in 2012). It also easily has one of my favorite covers of 2012.

Buzzworthy Titles (the ones everyone else is talking about):

  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore: After having problems with the earlier books in the series, I’m still pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one (and Giddon–though that is probably much less surprising).
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: I still haven’t read it! I know, I know. But every time I try to pick it up I remember at least one character is probably doomed and I just cant do it. Soon.
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Honestly I read this so long ago I forgot it was a 2012 title! I enjoyed it and I love the attention it’s getting but I’m honestly a bit surprised it had enough staying power to maintain this level of attention from its pub date to the end of the year. Then again, it’s a Cinderella retelling with cyborgs and aliens–why wouldn’t people still be talking about it?!

Graffiti Moon: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Graffiti Moon by Cath CrowleyLucy has been chasing Shadow for years. An elusive graffiti artist, he’s left his mark all across the city and all across Lucy’s life. She knows Shadow is someone she could fall for. Hard. She knows, finally, she is close to finding him.

At the end of Senior Year Lucy’s friends Jazz and Daisy want an adventure. Lucy doesn’t. She wants to find Shadow and tell him how she feels. She doesn’t want to spend the night with Ed–not after she has finally escaped the gossip and rumors surrounding their first and last disastrous date two years ago.

But when the adventure Jazz wants turns into what Lucy wants, she knows she has to go along. Even if Ed is the person who might finally bring her to Shadow.

Ed thought his life was finally coming together after he left school. Instead it’s all falling apart. No job. No girl. And definitely no prospects. Haunted by all of the places he isn’t going, Ed leaves his mark across the city walls as Shadow saying with pictures what no one seems to hear in his words. Doesn’t matter anyway. His best friend Leo is the perfect Poet to his Shadow.

Too bad Leo is better with words than with life choices. Instead of a night spent working on another wall, Ed is drawn into Leo’s horrible plan to hang out with girls from school before making yet another terrible decision that could get them both in big trouble.

The prospect of spending a night with the girl who broke his nose is bad enough. When Leo offers to help that girl find Shadow and Poet, he knows it’s going to be trouble. But he goes along anyway.

As Ed walks Lucy through Shadow’s art, the night that promised to be a disaster turns into something else. In a city filled with missed connections and opportunity, Ed and Lucy are right where they’re supposed to be in Graffiti Moon (2012) by Cath Crowley.

Find it on Bookshop.

Set over the course of one night, Crowley takes readers on a journey through Shadow’s art and also through each character’s background. At 257 pages, Graffiti Moon is a deceptively short book. Its length belies the broad range of things Crowley packs into this one marvelous novel.

Crowley uses a dual narrative structure to great effect here (as she did previously in A Little Wanting Song). Chapters alternate between Lucy and Ed’s narrations. Poets from Leo are also scattered throughout. With voices all their own, Lucy and Ed’s narratives sometimes overlap to show both of their interpretations of events and each other.

Filled with art, poetry, and humor Graffiti Moon is an evocative story filled with beautiful writing and characters that are achingly real. Immediately inspiring and refreshingly hopeful, Graffiti Moon is completely engrossing and a brilliant reminder that everyone has time to become exactly who they’re meant to be.

Possible Pairings: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, When It Happens by Susane Colasanti, Paper Towns by John Green, Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, Damaged by Amy Reed, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Exclusive Bonus Content: In addition to loving this book, I loved all of the art it mentions and I loved hunting it down to see what all of the characters were really talking about. If you don’t feel like doing that, you can find what I believe is a comprehensive list of all of the art mentioned below. Click “more” to see it in no particular order. Continue reading

You can quote me on that: In which I am quoted on a book

A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley was one of my favorite books from 2010.

It’s also a special part of 2011 for me as I’m quoted in the paperback edition. More specifically, my original review of the book (found here and on my NYPL blog) is quoted on the “praise for” page of the new paperback edition.

More information about the edition (and my quote) can be found on my website if you want all the details.

Here’s a picture of the full page:


And a close-up of my quote:

Suffice to say, I’m very excited!

Summertime and the Reading is Easy: A Book List

School might be starting and summer might be fading but with these books you can hold out to that summery feeling any time of year.

  • Clarity by Kim Harrington: Everyone in town knows Clarity Fern’s family is uniquely “gifted” and that Clare is a psychic. But when a tourist turns up murdered, no one expects Clare to be key to the investigation anymore than they expect her older brother to be a suspect.
  • Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson: Clio has the perfect summer planned. Too bad no one told her father. Instead of a perfect summer romance Clio ends up with . . . well she isn’t sure yet except that it involves her being on a boat with her father, an incredibly annoying assistant and her father’s new flame. Oh and maybe treasure.
  • A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: Charlie Duskin lives and breathes music. Rose Butler is mad about science and she wants out of her nowhere town so much that it hurts. Charlie and Rose have nothing in common but by the end of the summer they might help each other get everything they’ve been longing for.
  • Sea Change by Aimee Friedman: Many are drawn to Selkie Island. Few know why. All Miranda Merchant knows is that the island, and the boy she meets there, are different. Miranda will have to sort through the facts, and the myths, to find the truth and maybe even her own happy ending.
  • The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti: Quinn has grown up in the shadow of bad relationships. Quinn already knew that her father wasn’t perfect. Charming, witty, fun Barry can also be selfish, irresponsible and vindictive. When she realizes that Barry has amassed trophies from every one of his ex-girlfriends, Quinn knows she has to take action.

This is only half of the list. For the other half, head over to The Book Bandit’s Blog.

Ten for 2010

In no particular order, my ten favorite books from 2010:

  1. Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson: Scarlett is still living in a NYC hotel and her life is about to get way more insane when her boss Mrs. Amberson gives her the unenviable job of befriending an annoyingly perfect young Broadway star. Add to that said star’s especially annoying brother, Max, and you have a recipe for disaster.
  2. Heist Society by Ally Carter: Katarina Bishop knows a lot about stealing. So much, in fact, that she managed to steal herself a normal life. That was before she had to leave that life to clear her father of the one robbery he really didn’t commit.
  3. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner: Sophos never wanted to be King of Sounis. But after he is abducted and presumed dead by his kingdom, Sophos realizes that responsibilities very rarely care about wants.
  4. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: The people of Lumatere are scattered, some trapped inside the kingdom walls while others live as exiles, haunted by the ghosts of their tragic past. But there might be hope. It all begins ten years after the five days of the unspeakable, when Finnikin of Lumatere climbs another rock.
  5. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: Nothing leaves Incarceron and nothing enters. No one knows where the prison is or how to get to it. So why does Finn suspect he has a life Outside the Prison? And why does Claudia have a key that seems to let her talk to Finn–a prisoner Inside?
  6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: Tessa Gray travels to London wanting to find her brother and start a new life. Instead she is dragged into the world of Shadowhunters and London’s Downworld–people with mysterious powers not of this world.
  7. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: Charlie Duskin and Rose Butler have nothing in common but by the end of the summer they might help each other get everything they’ve been longing for.
  8. The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan: Mae struggles to protect her brother Jamie from the warlocks who want to exploit his power. The enigmatic Ryves brothers are willing to help–if they can overcome their own demons first.
  9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: Duh, who doesn’t have this one on their list? Do I even need to blurb it?
  10. White Cat by Holly Black: Cassel Sharpe is perfectly content being the straight arrow, ordinary guy in a family of crooked curse workers. That is when he’s not being followed by a white cat that reminds him a lot of his best friend Lila–the girl he killed three years ago.

Is it still early in the year? Yes. That said, these are my favorites so far. Maybe before the year is out there will be more but I’m not expecting it simply because there isn’t that much time to read more books from 2010. Who knows? Maybe this will end up being my top eleven or twelve.

A Little Wanting Song: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

A Little Wanting Song by Cath CrowleyCharlie Duskin lives and breathes music. At least, she does when she’s alone or taking lessons. She’ll talk music with people, but playing guitar or singing in front of them is impossible except for her mom or Gran even though she is not entirely without talent. Charlie doesn’t mind so much because music can be enough most of the time–especially during a summer in the country surrounded by old ghosts and locals who want nothing to do with her.

But Charlie also wants more. She wants a friend. She wants someone, maybe Dave Robbie, to look at her the way Luke looks at Rose Butler. She wants her dad to notice her. She wants to show everyone she’s not entirely unspectacular. Especially Rose Butler.

Rose lives next door to Charlie’s grandfather. She watches cars drive through town on the freeway and tries to keep her reckless boyfriend out of trouble. She’s mad about science. And she wants out of her nowhere town so much that it hurts.

After winning a scholarship to a school in the city, Rose might finally have her way out. If she can convince her parents to let her go. If she can convince her parents she has a responsible friend to stay with in the city. If she can befriend Charlie Duskin and convince her to take her back to the city. It’s brutal, but brutal’s what it is.

Charlie and Rose have nothing in common but by the end of the summer they might help each other get everything they’ve been longing for in A Little Wanting Song (2010*) by Cath Crowley.

Find it on Bookshop.

This book was so amazing.

Told in alternating voices, Crowley has created two strikingly unique narrators with completely individual voices and a stunning story with humor and wit. As Charlie and Rose tell the story of  their summer the narratives overlap and intertwine coming together to create a story about friendship and longing and ultimately about optimism as they both realize the world is theirs for the taking.

Written with a lyrical style and interspersed with lyrics from Charlie’s songs, A Little Wanting Song is a fast read but its prose and story will linger with readers for much longer. Truly, this book will not disappoint. Highly recommended.

*2010 is the date of the first publication of this book in the United  States. This book was originally published in 2005 in Australia under the title Chasing Charlie Duskin. I haven’t seen the Australian book but from the cover images and the actual text I’m comfortable saying this is one of those moments where the American repackaging was really spot on. The book’s American cover and design capture the essence of the book in a way book design usually doesn’t. The title, I think, is also much more appropriate for all of the characters and the story itself. The original title works, but A Little Wanting Song fits.

Possible Pairings: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, , King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, Reuinted by Hilary Weisman Graham, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, After the Kiss by Terra McVoy, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot, Love, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Harmonium by Vanessa Carlton, Wreck of the Day by Anna Nalick

Exclusive Bonus Content: I know I’ve been harping on book design a lot lately but this one also has a really cool design. The cover has flowers and scroll work as well as paint splatters. Inside the book the narration is split between Charlie and Rose. Charlie’s segments (and her songs) are denoted with the the flowers and scroll work while Rose’s have the paint splatters. The spine also has the scrolls and flowers when you remove the dust jacket. Anyway it’s all really well put together.