Portraits of Celina – Sue Whiting


ARC from NetGalley

After the death of Bayley’s father in a freak accident, her mother moves the family from the suburbs of Sydney to the country – specifically, to the long abandoned house of their O’Malley relatives, whose daughter Celina disappeared decades ago. Bayley fonds herself increasingly possessed by Celina’s ghost, who seems to want her to avenge her murder. Doing so may cost Bayley her chance at happiness with a local boy. But ultimately, she may not have a choice.

The prose is nothing to write home about and the foreshadowing is delivered by means of what JK Rowling calls “anvil-sized hints” – I guessed every reveal but one. However, the villain is genuinely creepy and I couldn’t put the book down. I objected slightly to the statement near the end of the novel that Celina and her killer deserve each other – Celina is manipulative and puts Bayley’s life at risk, but her rage is legitimate and she’s not a murderer. Anyway, this is a fast-paced, shivery ghost story, but not a very satisfying mystery due to the aforementioned foreshadowing.

Forthcoming YA Novel About OCD

I’ve suffered from OCD for the last few years, of the Primarily-Obsessional variety. It’s an incredibly frustrating illness, and I’m excited to see a YA novel about this little-understood disease and its effects. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone features a protagonist dealing with OCD. It will be out from Disney-Hyperion on June 16, 2015. Catalog copy below.

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand:  Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to the Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

Five Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2015

1. Karen Memory – Elizabeth Bear
This one comes out next week. The way I’ve been selling it to my friends is two words: steampunk lesbians. It’s set in the Wild West, with an Indian love interest (that’s Indian from India, not American Indian) and is in first person with a voice that’s been getting raves in early reviews. Bear’s one of my favorite authors and I’ll be picking this one up as soon as it’s out.

2. The Shadow Cabinet – Maureen Johnson
Book two of The Shades of London ended on a major cliffhanger– how will Johnson resolve it? Though I only skimmed The Madness Underneath, I really liked The Name of the Star and am curious to see where this series goes.

3. Black Dove, White Raven – Elizabeth Wein
I had some issues with Code Name Verity and skipped Rose Under Fire due to the implausibility of the premise, but Wein did write the absolutely lovely The Winter Prince and I love that her latest is set during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, a lesser-known but fascinating and disturbing time period.

4. Until the Beginning – Amy Plum
In this sequel to After the End, the final book in the duology, Juno and Mike find Juno’s people, who have been kidnapped due to their discovery of a drug that prevents aging. Juno is such a great character, naive after being raised isolated in the Alaskan wilderness but fiercely competent as a result of the same circumstances.

5. The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson
Disclaimer: I know the author. But you want to read this book– it’s a heartrending lesbian love story, a brutal exploration of the effects of imperialism, a great secondary-world fantasy, and much more. Much love for the cover art; the crumbling mask refers both to the Empire of Masks which conquers Baru’s home and to the question of Baru’s own identity as she navigates a sea of intrigue.