Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Release Date: August 15, 2013
(Thank you to my wonderful critique partner!)
Published by: Dial

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery...who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.


**In an attempt to be more conscious of spoilers, I have blacked out potentially revealing information, though some of it isn't *that* bad, for those of you who are spoilerphobes.**

Ten likes/dislikes:

1. (+) Violet, the protagonist - Violet is unlike a lot of protagonists that I've read in YA lit. She embraces her eccentricity. She wears old clothes from her grandmother's closet, curls up with her books (and thus uses "odd, awkward words without thinking"), manages what little funds she and her artist/muscular jock-esque brother have (since their parents are on a trip to Europe and have not communicated with them in a while), already drinks coffee, and has a know-it-all gaze. She's smart; she quotes from obscure texts/poems and doesn't take her brother's crap when he tries to acting like a douche. Like her parents, she's also kind of an elitist and she paints. Here is what River says of her (p. 74, note that this could change in the final copy): "You're careful. Thoughtful. Perceptive. More honest than most. You hate recklessness but are impulsive yourself, when it suits you. You hate your brother, and you love him more than anything in the world. You wish your parents would come home, but you've learned to live without them. You like peace, but are capable of toe-curling violence, if pushed far enough."
2. (+) The Setting - This book is described as having elements of Stephen King (whose work I have not read) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (whose work I have read). As such, the Fitzgerald elements really show in the descriptions not only of Violet's old money family but also of her house, Citizen Kane, and its crumbling estate and guesthouse. And the town itself, where a lot of the creepy happenings occur.
3. (+/-) The Romance - River is certainly not portrayed as the typical romantic interest of young adult literature. Part of that is because of Violet - she notices his lean, panther hips and Byronic tendencies and linen pants (which she thought "only stubble-jawed Spanish men wore in European movies set by the sea") and swagger. While he grocery shops, he runs his hands through a barrel of cranberry beans and opens an egg carton to stroke the egg shells. He cooks and folds dollar bills into animal shapes and gives them to Violet because he worries about her current finances and because it's an apology of sorts. And he's deeply committed to "justice." I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that River is fishy and does fishy things. Violet, however, knows about these fishy things. She comments several times that she is not sure what to think of River, and yet she falls in love with him. I was okay with their relationship up to a point--and I think that it would have been better had Violet not specifically thought about how she loved him, because in my mind, everything that was said and done was not enough for love, and I don't think I would have gotten there as quickly as her, though their chemistry is obvious. (And yeah, the summary says that this is all a part of River's manipulation, but Violet is a smart girl; she still sees this going on. Is it *that* inevitable?) At any rate, I do think that this is the kind of portrayal that will work for other readers, even if it didn't work for me.
4. (+) Creepy Factor - The horror in this story... Well, April Genevieve Tucholke does not waste any time before delving into the story and heightening the creepy factor. That mention of cemeteries? Nothing in comparison to what happens. And I love that there are twists in this not only due to the paranormal factors.
5. (--) The Villain - The portrayal of the villain offended me. At least his background, and his motivations for doing what he did. They seemed not only flat, but in the face of everything else, which was well done, this happened? (I'm trying not to spoil it for you all.) Up until I read the last 1/4th with him in it, I would have rated this book 4 stars (1 less because of the romance). I still haven't decided how much I would rate it now. But I also get the feeling that this might not bother a lot of other readers.
6. (+) Side Characters - The writing is so strong and fluid that even if I don't necessarily understand the motivations for the side characters, I can picture all of them clearly. How they look and how they act and maybe even what their facial expressions are like when they deliver their lines. (I like the hint, too, of there being something else that drives every character and that Tucholke wasn't afraid to show her characters' flaws.) And just so you know, I'm not generally a visual reader. This writing though...
7. (+) Paranormal Parts - The paranormal takes a back stage in the horror and the setting and familial drama. I like that it was offered as an explanation for some things, and though its exact mechanisms are not as developed as other things, it fits well with the Gothic horror elements.
8. (+) The Writing - The synopsis promises gorgeous writing, and so this book delivers. Yes. Every last bit of it. It's not too much purple prose, though it is fluid and poetic. Here's an example from p. 81: "He kissed me. My lips met his and I just. Stopped. Thinking. I didn't think about the fact that River was still a stranger. I didn't think about the tunnel, or Jack, or the Devil, or anything. My lips melted into my heart, which melted into my legs, which melted into the earth beneath me. / Afterward, River walked me home in the moonlight. Neither of us talked. / And everything was damn near perfect."
9. (+) The Pacing - The pacing was done fairly well throughout the book. I mostly had issues with the beginning and end; first chapter is a bit slow, and toward the end, I started to get antsy, wondering when everything would be all well and good. Other than that, steady.
10. (+) The Cover - This cover is quite possibly the most gorgeous cover I have seen. I love the font choice and size. I love the colors. I love the Gothic element. I love the couple and how they're close to a cliff and the symbolism in that. I love the rushing waves and the black and white fog and just everything. Everything is a win there.

Readers looking for superb writing, well-established Gothic horror, unforgettable settings/settings & family history that play a role in the plot, and an unusually quirky protagonist will enjoy this debut from a truly talented author.

PS - If you're interested in this book, Jen at YA Romantics is giving away a finished copy!

40 comments:

  1. I've heard good things about this one, so I'm sure I'll check it out eventually, but gahhh why do villains always have to fall flat at some point? Still, everything else looks promising (and who knows, maybe the villain won't bother me like he did you) so I'll keep this on my radar. (Plus, pretty cover! I'm a sucker for pretty covers :P)

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  2. Definitely, Asti. I've seen a lot of reviews for this one, and I seem to be in the minority for the villain. Another reviewer who was bothered by him/her was Christina (Reader of Fictions), but everyone else? Loved the book and the writing and that was not a concern at all. ALSO: YES, THIS IS THE PRETTIEST COVER OF 2013 (Probably.).

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  3. She fell in love with him because he was controlling her though, like with his devil power so I think that explains why the romance was how it was. But it is hard to connect with it - although I don't think we're really supposed to especially once we learn about him. I really enjoyed this one the atmosphere was epic and it was just so creepy and creative! Great review, chickie! :)

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  4. Yeah, that could explain it, but it's hard to tell since we don't get to know her before River came (what's non-love Violet like?). It's definitely an unusual romance, and I can't quite tell if we're supposed to like River and want him to stay by the end, or if all of it it's supposed to be a part of the horror aspects. Confusing, but I'm sure there'll be more explanation in the sequel. The atmosphere was epic as was the writing, and glad you enjoyed this one as well :).

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  5. I'm kind of waiting on the next book to make my judgment on the romance. Was it all manipulation? We'll only know when he's been gone for awhile, right? If she still feels the same, then I think that, well...I don't really know what I think. I wanted to smack her around and tell her that she couldn't love him yet, but I also wanted to push her toward him because, hello, I like hawt boys with a penchant for evil as love interests. :) I loved the gothic setting, the side characters were a riot, and those creepy kids in the cemetary...well, that's when the creepy factor went off the charts for me. I cannot wait to see this story's continuation.

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  6. Yeah. I just got the feeling that it would go places that I would not like - even though he'll be gone. I like River as a character - not his personality, but that he's complex and given a bit of that villainous edge. I like that he's not a typical romantic interest as you point out - but I am definitely caught between that NO WHAT WHY and o.o please-sequel-don't-do-this-should-i-even-get-the-sequel phase. The cemetery - yes, she did wonders with a typical setting and elevating the creep factor.

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  7. Great review, I'll definitely be reading this one soon. Gothic horror and quirky protagonist sound good to me! ~Pam

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  8. I wasn't crazy about the villain aspect either, but because of all the other stuff I loved, I got over it. I loved the uncertainty of it all - I don't read a lot of horror but I love when horror takes a common insecurity - what if I can't trust him? - and magnifies it into something horrific….
    Hope your weekend is good too :)

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  9. I am super excited about this book. Most people I know that I have read it early have liked it and it comes out on my birthday, which is weird because its a Thursday, but I am taking that to mean it was meant for me ;)

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  10. Ugh, Most people I know that have read it. Tired fingers today.

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  11. Ameriie 에므리August 9, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    Great review, Christina! That quote (in the writing section) was one of my many favorites from the novel. I imagine they'll be traveling in the sequel, and since the writing here was so atmospheric, I wonder what the atmosphere will feel like if/when they go to other cities/towns.

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  12. First of all, I adore your reviews. I love the breakdown because it makes it so easy for me to tell whether I'll like a book, since I tend to know what elements of books I like or don't like. And I think I'll LOVE this book. It's been on my TBR but it just got bumped up. The quotes you have here are AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS. I have a soft spot for writing that's clever and sees the world in an unexpected way. The thing about the Spaniard in a movie...fantastically fresh. I wonder if I'll react to the love story and villain as you did, since I tend to have qualms about those things, but we shall see. Fabulous review!

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  13. I've been SUPER curious about this book, so it's great to get your thoughts before I decide to order a copy. I really like the sound of Violet. I like that she isn't a cardboard image of every other heroine in YA fiction, and that she has a bit of an eccentric quality about her too. But I'm totally unsure about the romance. I'm one of those readers who HAS to enjoy the romance to be able to fully enjoy the book. I'm hoping that it works better for me than it did for you.


    I'm thrilled that you enjoyed this book overall, though. I can't wait to give it a try myself! Lovely, detailed review as always. :)

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  14. Oooh, Sam, if you have to really enjoy the romance, I don't know about this one. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but this book is unusual in that department and people have reacted very differently to it - some finding it a unique twist, some finding it repulsive, some like me finding it "blah."

    Violet as oldie eccentric works really well with the atmospheric setting, and she's definitely a unique twist on those other kinds of heroines.

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  15. Yes, I agree with the trust part, and it's good that that makes it into a part of the horror genre portrayal rather than encouraged as the PNR part, which some other books do. The villain's not so bad as to ruin the book for me either, so I agree with you. Yay, thank you!! :)

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  16. The Thursday release date surprised me. It'll be harder for the book to make bestsellers lists, but if they're confident about it...


    I am going to make a note that it comes out on your birthday so that I can wish you a happy bday when it comes :). I hope the book makes for a great gift!

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  17. I wish I'd written down more quotes too :D. Lots of great writing. Wow, it's been so long since I've read the book that for a moment, I was like... wait, they're going to travel? I bet the writing will still have that dreamy aspect, but maybe the atmosphere will settle once they settle down somewhere?

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  18. C.J., I think you will love the writing and the atmosphere. I am not so sure about the romance and villain. The romance has gotten people to react very differently, and the villain... have you read Julie Kagawa's Immortal Rules series?


    Generally the people who have loved this book are those for whom the writing was so beautiful that the other aspects weren't as bothersome. So if you're pleased with the writing here, you might be good to go.

    Also, I owe you an email, and I promise I'll get to it soon!!!

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  19. UGH. THis book. I love that we both reviewed it this week and we both have a lot of (not good) feelings about it. The cover is pretty. Darn those misleading covers.

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  20. WOW. Your review and mine mirror each other so closely! we definitely took away the same things from our reading of this book! I loved the vague setting, the Gothic horror, the quirky characters, the romance, the supernatural/paranormal storyline,the urban legends, and especially the writing. Oh and River. Yeah, totally fell for him--manipulative ways and all:) This book really has a little something for everyone. Great review!

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  21. It does. Even though I'm apprehensive about some things, I still want more and will probably read the sequel. The writing. Oh, the writing. Yay, Heather! Glad we both enjoyed the book :).

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  22. The cover is probably my favorite of 2013. And lol, covers are nearly always misleading :P. Some of my favorite books have covers I've totally overlooked on multiple trips in various bookstores.

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  23. Lisa (Lost in Literature)August 10, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    Ohmygoodness, reading all of the rave reviews for this is killing me!! I won a copy, so I'm patiently... okay, not so patiently... waiting for it to be released so I can receive my copy and FINALLY read it!! Glad to see you enjoyed it. Great review! :)

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  24. I haven't read Kagawa. It's on my list. We shall see. (: I'm intent on reading it. Sometimes writing can overcome plot for me.


    Ha, I was writing that above part as I read your second paragraph. I agree!


    (:

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  25. Woot! You won a copy? That's awesome. Not long now before you'll get to read it then--and here's for hoping it's one of the ones that accidentally gets shipped early! And well, that you enjoy it :).

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  26. I'm not sure their traveling was in there explicitly, but for some reason I came away with them having to go after the half-brother...oh no, I could totally be mixing something up here. :p

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  27. OOH, intriguing, Christina! It seems like some things about it definitely counted against it for you - River is garnering some really interesting opinions in the blog-o-sphere - but I'm happy you liked it. I think so far I've only seen one really low-rated review, which leaves me hopeful for it.

    I have read Stephen King, but not Fitzgerald, so I'm really curious what my reaction will be to the horror and Gothic atmosphere - I hope I like that part of it, and Violet, let you did. Thanks for the giveaway heads up, and thanks for stopping by my blog recently. :)

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

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  28. I remember River leaving and that's when she had the thought about loving him. I don't remember if they decided they'd go with him--a part of me says yes, a part of me says no. Usually I'm better with remembering these things, but not anymore, I guess o.O. I'd trust your memory over mine!

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  29. From what I've seen, River is the most polarizing part of the book, which I'm sure would please him if he knew o.O. I haven't seen many low-rated reviews either, since for most people, the writing seems to make up for any flaws they've perceived. Ooh, I'm curious to know how you'll react and which aspects of the horror are reminiscent of King books! Either way, I hope you like it, and thanks for stopping by too :).

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  30. Hope you like the book, Pam! Its release is definitely fast approaching :).

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  31. Jenny @ Supernatural SnarkAugust 11, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    I'm glad you enjoyed this one for the most part Christina, you already know I absolutely adored it! The romance was really interesting for me since River was so anti-hero, and that just made this one really stand out in my mind. I like a book that challenges me as well as the boxes I want to put all the characters in so things will work out the way I want them too, and the characters in this book just kept fighting me. Loved it:) I agree the villain at the end was the weakest part, but I was such a fan of everything else that it didn't bother me. Lovely review as always!

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  32. His being an anti-hero definitely helped it stand out and there were quite a few things about the book that are unboxable. Even with the villain, the book is a stand-out. And thank you :).

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  33. Very nice review about the pacing and writing

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  34. UGH, the romance made me so freaking angry. I was on board when she knew what was up but then in the end she loves him anyway? NOPE NOPE NOPE. The creepy was definitely done well, but the romance, the incredibly stupid twist, and the flat characters (particularly her brother and the neighbor girl) made this book a big fat fail for me. SIgh.

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  35. Haha, I referred to you in a couple of these comments so others could get a second opinion on villain and romance. And I think we pretty much agreed on everything, though with different intensities in our reactions. While the writing made it enjoyable for me, you weren't a huge fan of the writing so... well, at least your TBR is smaller :).

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  36. Great review! I've heard lots of good stuff about this book and I can't wait to read it. ;) The creepy factor is especially exciting. Bit worried about the villain now, but I'm definitely reading this book to see how it pans out.

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  37. Wonderful, Cait! Hope you enjoy the book, and even if I didn't like the villain part, you may or may just love the writing enough that it doesn't matter :).

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  38. I really fell in love with this book and the author. I adore Gothic fiction and think YA needs more of it. Cannot wait to read more from April!

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  39. Agreed! Would love to see more Gothic fiction in YA. Another one I can think of that's got a lighter edge than this is Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, if you're interested.

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