Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jazz Age January: The Diviners by Libba Bray

When I heard about Jazz Age January, hosted by Leah from Books Speak Volumes, I knew I had to get in on the action! I am a huuuuuge fan of American Modernist literature (which includes and exceeds the Jazz Age), and I've read a whole bunch of books from that period. It took me some time to decide what to read because I wasn't really in the mood for a classic since I have several of those in the mix right now.

And then in walked The Diviners, by Libba Bray! A perfect solution to my Jazz Age problem, this book is about a group of young people (teens and early 20s) from various walks of life in 1920s New York City. They all have special abilities, and there's a great evil stirring in the city. The Pentacle Killer is taking lives on a regular basis, and these unlikely heroes may be the only ones to stop him.

I am a little skittish when it comes to YA with a paranormal bent, but this book was a big winner. At 500 pages, there was plenty of room to create vivid characterization, and the story was intricately woven and really really interesting. And Bray's writing is totally Jake! 1920s slang. I can hardly stop myself.

So, about these characters. The protagonist is Evie O'Neill, a party girl flapper from Ohio who is exiled to NYC to live with her uncle. He happens to run "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies," a pet name for his museum of folklore and the occult. Uncle Will keeps Evie on a loose chain at first, and of course, she finds trouble. She also finds a colorful cast of friends and acquaintances: a street smart pickpocket, a Ziegfield Follies girl, a numbers runner for a neighborhood kingpin, and plenty of others. But what really sets Evie apart, is her ability to hold an object and see the person's life experiences. It's a handy talent when you're investigating a murder.

I loved getting to know all of the characters, even when some weren't terribly likable. Their various interests and abilities really helped even this book out. Not all of the characters are acquainted with one another, so we do have some parallel story lines that overlap, but this is not a case of the dueling narrators. The book is told from a 3rd person omniscient point-of-view, and I was SO GLAD there was no narrator switching. I hate that!

As I started reading, I thought I might have a problem with some of the 1920s slang and dialogue because it is EVERYWHERE. But ultimately, I got used to it, and the setting itself is very much a character in this book. It's dripping with the feeling of the 1920s. I loved that. 

A few other short thoughts:

  • This book was full of thrills and chills, as the antagonist is a really nasty, evil guy. While I didn't start hearing things go bump in the night, I was definitely on the edge of my seat. 
  • The Diviners is the first in a series of books, and while I need another series like a hole in my head, I'm game for this one. If all of the books are this much fun to read and this well-written, it should be a heck of a ride.

I don't often visit websites for books I read, but the Diviners series site is a lot of fun. There are playlists of songs the author listened to while writing, a wicked trailer, and this video...a tour of creepy NYC locations that helped inspire this book.



Pub. Date: September 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: E-book
ISBN: 9780316126106
Source: Gifted to me from a friend!

31 comments:

  1. I still have this book on my to read list. Hearing it has a lot of slang does put me off a bit as reading normal English can be enough of a challenge. Might have to get my hands on a copy and try a few pages. Thanks for sharing

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    1. I can see how it might be more difficult for a non-native speaker, Ciska, but once the slang is established, it's mostly just re-used. So I think if you could get through a couple of chapters and familiarize yourself with the terms that pop up the most, you'd be fine.

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  2. I feel like this is one of those books I had seen everywhere, but never really knew what it was about...and now I really need to get on it!

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    1. It's a fun book, Shannon. Definitely a quick read, too. Save it for a time when you need a slump buster!

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  3. I've stayed away from this book because of the paranormal angle but you've made it sound worth reading.

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    1. It was a lot of fun, Kathy. I definitely had my reservations because of the paranormal angle, but it's worth a try!

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    2. I felt the same way, Kathy. Seeing Andi read and enjoy it gives it a huge vote. Hmmmm... so many books!

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  4. I have been meaning to read this forever. The blogosphere loves Libba Bray maybe slightly more than I love her? But to date, I've only read her first series, the Victorian one. This sounds right up my alley! I love pickpockets and slang!

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    1. I have the first in the Gemma Doyle trilogy on my stacks, and it's been there for an embarrassing amount of years. This one definitely gives me hope that I'll like that series, but we'll see. I also tried Going Bovine a long time ago and couldn't get into it. I hope you get to try this one!

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  5. I just finished this one too - it's a good one!

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    1. Yay! Glad you liked it, too, Amanda!

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  6. I'm still trying! I WILL FIND TIME TO READ! *sigh*

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    1. LOL, you're still reading like 4 books, right? I can't do that. I never finish anything.

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    2. Nah, I'm down to three. I'm trying to concentrate on these, instead of gazing at all the pretty books.....

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  7. As far as Libba Bray goes, she's just one of the best in the YA world.

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    1. I see that now! I'm glad I saw the light.

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  8. I liked this too - but what I didn't like was that half the book was spent basically setting up the next book in the series. And some of the characters that I loved, really had nothing to do with the events in this book.

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    1. That is true, and I read quite a few reviews that took issue with the same things. I'm actually surprised that it didn't bother me. Maybe because I was already invested in those characters, so it just left me wanting more.

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  9. This is going to sound silly, but I've seen this book reviewed a lot and I have avoided it so far because...I don't like the cover. I know, SILLY. Your review makes it sound so good though! I need to get over my cover prejudice I think. lol.

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    1. Kelly, I'm right there with you. I totally judge a book by its cover. Luckily, I really like this one, so that gave me one more reason to read it. lol It is a lot of fun and very involving! Maybe read the e-book so you don't have to see the cover! ;)

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  10. Andi, you are good for me. I've been avoiding Libba Bray simply because her work sounded like a vein of YA I wouldn't have liked. If it's Andi vetted, I am more willing to give it a shot!

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    1. Word up! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did if you ever get around to it. Some of her books still don't sound like "my thing." Going Bovine, Beauty Queens. But we'll see. I still need to read the first in the Gemma Doyle trilogy, too.

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  11. I just keep saying 'I can't wait until August!'

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    1. Me too, now! I'm chomping at the bit!

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  12. The only Libba Bray I've read is her A Great and Terrible Beauty series, but I loved it and would like to read more. I'm glad to hear that this one was so good! :)

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    1. I'm so glad to know you loved it! I have the first book in the series languishing on my stacks. For like, YEARS. :)

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  13. Must read! I'm going to send this to our Collection Development librarian. Our students tend to read YA for fun and we try to keep a host of well-written, but YA titles on hand. Since we're an academic library we don't have much of a budget for "fun" stuff. This, however, we can do!

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  14. I'm also afraid of paranormal YA, but you've convinced me that this book is worth a read! Great review!

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  15. I was a huge fan of this book. What took me a while was my initial irritation with Evie - but soon enough I was all in. I'm quite excited for the next in the series. In my opinion, this is the best of her work - if you haven't read the Gemma Doyle series, I would say it's good but this is better.

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  16. I keep seeing this book but haven't read it.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved February Edition. I am in the list as #29. My book entry is below.
    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Entry

    There are also two giveaways on my blog. Check them out if you like.

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  17. I tried to comment on this a few minutes ago, but I'm pretty sure WP did something weird. I'm glad you liked this one, though! The slang was a little heavy for me at first, too. I was slightly spooked at certain points,ha =)

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