Dreaming of Amelia ~ Jaclyn Moriarty

By now, it should be official. I adore Jaclyn Moriarty. I do. More and more with each book and with Dreaming of Amelia (also known as The Ghosts of Ashbury High in the US)..well, I’m just gonna present you with a proper review (with the fangirling* in control). Ahem.
Amelia and Riley have transferred to Ashbury High for their final year, and the whole school is completely obsessed with them. Glamorous, gifted and totally devoted to one another, they seem to be perfect. But there’s more to them than beauty and talent. Riley and Amelia have secrets. And everyone at Ashbury is about to find out that the past casts a very long shadow….
 
The Story: This is one of those books that surprise at every turn because you really don’t know what to expect. For me personally, I’ve been surprised with every Jaclyn Moriarty book. They break the stereotypes and wash you over with quirky and refreshing surprises. It’s obvious that Dreaming of Amelia is about the two new students who capture everyone’s attention with there appearance at Ashbury. What isn’t obvious is that the story rolls out on a wider scope and embraces past, present all at once. It’s remarkable how Jaclyn Moriarty connects all the sub-plots together with the main plot to make it one whole comprehensive story (and at 578 pages long, that’s quite a job!).
 
The Writing: Epistolary format once again.This time written as personal memoirs as part of a Gothic Fiction Elective during the Year Twelve HSC Examination. Moriarty experiments with the writing, so we also have un-punctuated poems and fragmented lines styled like this:
                                                  She turns,
                                                  and just like that,
                                                            she’s gone.
And, just so you know, I absolutely love experimental writing styles. 
 
The Characters: It’s true. Jaclyn Moriarty creates some of the most memorable characters ever. Character voices are undoubtedly her strongest point. And one of the best things about her characters? They travel between her books, although they are not sequels. Which is why two of the five main characters in Dreaming of Amelia are Emily and Lydia from The Year Of Secret Assignments! How cool is that? There are also references to Elizabeth and Saxon from Feeling Sorry For Celia and Bindy from Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, so basically you have can shake your head at one of your faves (or not-so-faves). Also, Moriarty is brilliant with making her characters stand out from each other — so there is Emily with her hyperboles and exclamations, Lydia and her bizarre reality-overlapping-the make belief stories, Toby and his obsession with history and the discreet Amelia and Riley. Basically, the cast totally rocks.
 
{Special Mention} The Cover: It stands out. It just does. Form the sea of black, this summery blue cover with the back of a girl’s head..I love it.
 
Overall: Fangirling starts now. You have to, have to read this. It’s a long book, yes, but this neo-gothic novel with it’s charming cast of characters and a mystery at its core is a pleasantly crazy read summer, autumn, winter..anytime. Pick it up. I command you to.
 


*Omigosh, I love Jaclyn Moriarty! I love Jaclyn Moriarty! I love Jaclyn Moriarty!

Why I just had to read MONTACUTE HOUSE

So basically I read all genres, although it does depend on my mood and and if I’ve had anything to eat or not (which is when I hate reading about blood and gore and bloody-gory vampires and all). However, contemporaries are my favourites.
Contemporary = ETERNAL LOVE.
But like I said, I’m open to all genres, although the one I’m kinda lacking in is sci-fi, which can be blamed on the fact that science and I were mutual enemies back in school. Hmm…
So, anyway. The thing about books is that I pick them up at random. Like, I don’t decide okay, I’m gonna read about a beautiful marble vampire now, or time to read about murder. I don’t. Books interest me. I pick them up.
And when I read the Bookseller preview of Montacute House, I knew I had to get my hands on this book. Even though it was historical. And I haven’t read much historical except the Luxe books and Celia Rees.
I JUST HAD TO READ THIS BOOK.
 
So what is Montacute House about?
Here’s the book jacket blurp: A boy is found dead, his body blackened and blistered as if the devil himself had danced upon it! Then Cess’ friend goes missing and she realises that the death of the boy and her  nected.she becomes involved in a terrible intrigue that involves more than just the inhabitants of Montacute House and stretches right out into the whole of society. Soon Cess herself is in real danger as she threatens to uncover secrets people would kill to keep hidden.
 
Lets start with the cover. I think it perfectly captures the eerie atmosphere of the book. I love how the book jacket has a deliberate rusty feel to it because it only makes the book seem even more authentic. The girl’s face, the mansion, the leaves..PERFECT.
 
And the book? Well, it’s quite simply, outstanding. This is Lucy Jago’s first attempt at teen fiction. She had previously written an adult non-fiction title, but she nails it with her YA debut.
At first, things might seem confusing because a lot of unexpected things happen simultaneously and I was wondering how Ms. Jago would pull it off, tying all this together. However, before the first chapter was over, my worry and confusion were packed away into a little box in my brain, because I was racing through the story. The suspense and tension that pervades through this book is terrific. Generally, it takes me time to relate to protagonists who are as young as 13 but the surprising thing is, kid protagonist or not, this book will pull in anyone of any age.
 
Ms. Jago’s research is extensive (do you know there really is a Montacute House in Somerset today?) and her writing, in spite of this being historical fiction, is easy and quick, yet, so very, very authentic. What starts off with poultry farm girl, Cess, coming across a precious pendant in the chicken coop soon turns into a fight for survival. A skillful blend of witchcraft and politics this is a rather ambitious novel, and one that Lucy Jago pulls off with aplomb. The 1590s Somerset setting has just the right feel and ring to it, which makes Montacute House not just extraordinary, but original and imaginative and a fantastic blend of fact and fiction.
 
Whether or not historical fiction is your thing, you won’t be able to put this down.
I stayed up last night to finish this. And I loved it.
I bet you will too.
 
Meanwhile,visit Montacute House with Lucy Jago:

Why DREAM GIRL Made Me Feel Good

Claire Voyante has been having strange visions ever since she can remember. But the similarity between her name and her talents is purely coincidental. The name is French, and unlike the psychics on TV, she can’t solve crimes or talk to the dead. Whenever Claire follows her hunches, she comes up empty—or ends up in pretty awkward situations.
But that all changes on Claire’s 15th birthday, when her grandmother, Kiki—former socialite, fashion icon, and permanent fixture at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel—gives her something a little more extraordinary than one of her old cocktail dresses: a strange black-and-white onyx cameo on a gold chain. It’s not long before Claire’s world becomes a whole lot clearer. And a whole lot more dangerous. 
When I started reading Dream Girl, all I knew was that it involved a girl ominously named Claire Voyante. When I finished this book, I took back with me some of the most unforgettable characters I’ve come across recently. Dream Girl scores with its motley crew of characters. They are lively, quirky and so unique, they jump right off the page. Mechling makes a conscious attempt at breaking down the high school stereotypes which is why we have a mean girl with a secret dorky side and a best friend far removed from the stereotype sidekick.
Claire reminded me of a Nancy Drew with oodles of charm. Girl detectives have been missing from the YA sphere and I’m really glad Lauren Mechling’s brought them back. Coming from an off beat family consisting of a French dad who’s a professor and a mom who writes horoscope columns in spite of not being an astrologer, Claire is well fleshed out in all her cheerful idiosyncrasies.
When I interviewed Lauren Mechling she said that Dream Girl started out as a love letter to New York. I have never been to New York, so I can’t comment on its authenticity. What I can say for certain is that, Mechling’s Manhattan stands out as a character in itself. The setting had an old world charm fused with modern mysticism, that lent it a sort of personality. I felt like I walking with Claire up the stairs of the Waldorf-Astoria or cycling alongside Seventh Avenue.
The plot, I thought, turned out to be predictable but I’m guessing this was because it’s geared towards the young-er adult reader and I’m past that age. Having said that, the characters and their dynamics with each other, the abundance of their appeal and the charm radiating off every page more than made up for it.
In the end, I felt good. I felt really, really good.
I’ll give Dream Girl a 3.5/5. Pick this up when you need some cheering up. You’ll disappear into Claire’s world.

READER BUZZ: Quick Snips of Random Reads

My net conked so I was off for sometime. Got so much to talk about, so much to write but now that college’s restarted, it’s taking up all the time…argh!! Oh why, oh why cant there be 72 hours a day? Then I’d have time for my book, other books, a romcom/drama/musical, my blog, the guitar, bloody college, assignments, a long, long bath (instead of the usual quick shower), facebook, twitter, youtube, author websites, daydreaming, night watching, looking for my very own vampire/werewolf/fairy king/merboy EVERY SINGLE DAY. Ah, life can be so sadistic *long sigh*….
Okaaaaay, now here are some quick snips of some recent and some not-so-recent reads. JLT (maybe ’cause I just cant stop rambling :-P)
Here goes.

Arguably WHEREVER NINA LIES has to be one of the best debuts of the year. When sixteen year old Ellie sets off in search of her sister, Nina, who disappeared two years ago, with hot guy Sean for company, you know it’s going to be a fun ride.What you don’t know is that the breezy will give way to the pulse-racing. I was so engrossed I read it in one sitting. I’d definitely suggest you pick this up. It’s a great holiday read, especially if you’re on a roadtrip with your friends, Phantom Planet screaming “California” from the stereo…bliss.

My first Jill Mansell and I can’t say I was particularly impressed. At seventeen, Lola was made an offer in exchange for her boyfriend, Doug. Though circumstances forced Lola to take up the offer, she never really got over him. Now years later when she accidentally stumbles upon him again, she knows she has to get him back. Except this time she’s dealing with a different Doug. What do I say about this one? It was fun but very, very predictable. Mansell’s characters are a cheery lot and you’ll fall in love with them…but (there’s always a but) a lot of the storyline seemed forced. The natural flow of things falling into place was not there. Instead, a lot of the characters ended up with each other simply because they had been single and Mansell decided they needed a partner. Forced.
Baby (yes that’s the protagonist’s name) lives sometimes with her absent druggie dad, sometimes in foster homes and sometimes with the local pimp. This is the story of her journey from innocence to the loss of innocence and finally the attainment of higher innocence (I get I’m sorta talking Blake..blame college influence). I loved this book. I love Baby. She goes through the worst possible things in her short life. Yet hope doesn’t falter in her. Because she’s still a child. She’s 12. She refuses the ugliness of her life to haunt her even though it does haunt the reader. It’s obvious that Heather O’Neill borrows a lot from her own life. The interview at the back of the book speaks for itself. A great debut, I’ll be looking forward to more from this writer.
Believe it or not, the writer of STAR-CROSSED is just sixteen and yes, I’m jealous (ah, to have your name on the cover of a paperback/hardback *drool*). This one’s a contemporary take on Romeo and Juliet, set in high school. What is unique about this book, aside from the writer’s young age, is the unusual second-person narrative (first one I’ve read). That is an effective tool for drawing readers into the story at the word ‘go’. It was kinda neat. Apparently, Rachael Wing’s also written a contemporary A Midsummer Night’s Dream called LOVESTRUCK. Set at a rock concert. No kidding.
My first Carole Matthews and such a delightful read too! I enjoyed it so much I didn’t want to put it down (however much of a cliche that sounds). A bit impractical but her quirky sense of humour more than made up for it. Emma, in all her craziness, is one of my favourite characters ever. I want a sequel of this one. Definitely awaiting more from Matthews’ pen.
Like I mentioned in the previous posts, the paranormal obssession’s definitely here to stay. And, I, for one, am all for it. Raven, the sole Goth in “Dullsville” has always dreamt of becoming a vampire. Things heat up in town when a vampire in shining sunglasses, Alexander, moves into the haunted mansion at Benson Hill. A very quick read and an engrossing one at that. The first of the Vampire Kisses series (Ellen Schreiber has 7 books in mind), this one is for pre/younger teens, I’d say. Perfect for a delay at the airport.
I don’t have much to say because what I say will not justify it. NINETEEN MINUTES is a gripping, edge-of-the-seat psychological thriller chronicling a school shooting while delving deep into the mind of the teen killer. Extensively researched, at times traumatic,although it does have its share of light moments (very few though) it’s one of those books that haunt you (in a good way) long after you’ve turned the final page.And, yes, there’s a twist toward the end. My next Picoult read will most probably be MY SISTER’S KEEPER (triggered by the movie, but only partly). Not worth a miss.
Adrian Mole was a legend in the 80s and rightfully so. I LOVE Adrian. He is your usual 15 year old teenage boy, drooling over his love, Pandora, and musing about his parents (and their respective lovers). Well, almost usual, except for the fact that he thinks, rather knows, he’s an intellectual and mails poems to the BBC hoping to get his own personal show on air. THE GROWING PAINS OF ADRIAN MOLE is a brilliant stick-in-the-eye on adult morality. If you don’t read this, you’ll be missing a gem. I don’t know what to say to Sue Townsend but…hats off. A genius of sorts.
I have tons else to talk about but as the owls hoots and the bats start their nocturnal days, I have to return to my writing (not the blog, the book), if I can avoid falling asleep on the keyboard itself (tiresome academia has it’s price…seriously, what’s the point?). So goodnight or goodmorning, depends on which part of the world you’re from, and wicked dreams. For a change. *Chuckle*
Bee –xoxo