The Devil’s Triangle by Toni De Palma

Today, I am making an exception. The first book exception this blog has ever seen. The Devil’s Triangle by Toni De Palma is NOT her first novel. BUT, I thought it would be okay, seeing as I get to interview her later this month! It was an exception I was more than willing to make, seeing as it is the means to a very, very exciting end.

The Devil’s Triangle by Toni De Palma

From Goodreads:

When 17 year old Cooper dies in an attempt to burn down his school, he finds himself in the afterlife. Lucy, the Devil’s sister who has crossed party lines, decides to give Cooper another shot at heaven. The deal? Cooper returns to Earth and has to find a girl named Grace. The rest is up to him.

While Cooper figures out his mission, he’s thrown into the life he’s always wanted. Great parents, a spot on the Varsity football team and a real future are all within reach. But what he 13610688really wants is Grace, a feisty girl with an abusive boyfriend who can pound Cooper into pulp if he doesn’t watch out.

While Lucy plays demonic-puppeteer, clues to an unknown past between Cooper and Grace start to unravel. Cooper discovers that what’s keeping him and Grace apart is far more sinister than anything this bad boy could have ever imagined.

First Impressions: I was skeptical of the plot, because I don’t really care for ‘devil books’ (any book where the conflict revolves around the intervention of the devil). They kind of freak me out, to be honest. But De Palma’s take on it was refreshing and exciting. Very original and funny. You should read it if you enjoy romantic comedies that are also a bit scary and suspenseful.

Okay, when I started reading The Devil’s Triangle, I was a bit freaked out. I mean, Cooper is kind  of scary. He burned down a school! So I was nervous at first. But as I kept reading, I became really involved in his story.

He’s had a hard life so far, jumping from foster home from foster home, so obviously he’s going to be jaded. I could understand where his anger came from, but it scared me that he tried to dispose of it so dramatically. I think De Palma wants us to think this about him, as it is revealed later on what is running through his head as the walls of his school begin to burn.

Then, he confronts the people who decide where you go after death. This was the biggest victory of the book. I fully expected this scene to be as cliche as anything and to not be entertaining at all. I was completely surprised. De Palma’s take on what happens after we die is original, and truly hysterical. Cooper’s interactions with his judges are a perfect combination of comedy and anxiety. All of a sudden, I started to actually care for Cooper and what happens to him. This scene totally enhanced my opinion of the story; it promised more wit and heart, and it made me sympathetic to Cooper and his choices.

He gets a second chance to change his fate, and is thrown into a whole other life. A life which at first he resents, but then comes to realize it is what he should have always had: a family, a future, a friend.

As he struggles to fulfill his heavenly assignment, he undergoes some intense character development (which is, by the way, my favorite part of any book). He starts out as this angsty, upset kid and transforms into someone who loves and dreams and hopes for a better life for himself and the people he cares about. He becomes quite selfless.

So while I think it was a risky plot to write, De Palma executes it with complete comedy, drama, suspense, and success. I am absolutely pumped to read the next book she writes in this series and totally looking forward to interviewing her!

If you’re interested in her interview, check out my blog in the coming month!

8 out of 10 stars.

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Holy cow it’s been a while since I posted a book review. Here we go.

From Goodreads:

A smart and slyly funny tale of love, temptation, confusion, and commitment, “The Innocents” is a generous and deeply satisfying look at a close-knit society in which one young man’s pre-wedding panic illuminates the universal conflict between responsibility and passion.

Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is the prize12190308 catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both sixteen and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. To Adam, Rachel embodies the highest values of Temple Fortune; she is innocent, conventional, and entirely secure in her community—a place in which everyone still knows the whereabouts of their nursery school classmates. Marrying Rachel will cement Adam’s role in a warm, inclusive family he loves. 

But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when Rachel’s younger cousin Ellie Schneider moves home from New York, she unsettles Adam more than he’d care to admit. Ellie—beautiful, vulnerable, and fiercely independent—offers a liberation that he hadn’t known existed: a freedom from the loving interference and frustrating parochialism of North West London. Adam finds himself questioning everything, suddenly torn between security and exhilaration, tradition and independence. What might he be missing by staying close to home?

First Impressions: THIS IS NOT A YA NOVEL!!! When I bought it, I didn’t think it sounded like YA, but that was the section it was in so I went for it. It was misshelved. Don’t be fooled.  But basically, for the first 200 pages, I loved it. The characters, the story, the conflicts, I was so into it. Then it slowly became more tedious and whine-y and I ended up totally hating the main character. I couldn’t even sympathize with him. I just really hated his guts.

I’m not too wild about this book. I thought it sounded really great, and I liked it at first, but it didn’t hold out for me.

So there’s this guy named Adam and he’s been dating Rachel for a long time (too long) and then he finally decides to propose to her. And in swoops the troubled, beautiful, blonde, model, angsty, worldly, younger cousin who’s known ‘real tragedy and has a real reason to be sad and needs Adam more than anyone else’ (this is in quotes because I am being sarcastic). He believes this even though younger cousin never actually says this to him.

When it comes down to it, the story is totally played out and boring (we’ve seen this plot line a trillion billion times). The characters are predictable and not entertaining and I don’t really like any of them. Except for Rachel’s father, grandmother and Adam’s sister. They are the undisputed stars of the story. Where Adam and company are aggravating and usual, they stand out with their forgiveness, humor and colorful diction. They were my favorite part of the story.

Another part of the story that I really liked was that it takes place in London (!) which I did not know when I bought it. And, as it turns out, the characters live in Northwest London, which is where I live! So I knew where everything was and it was pretty cool. Her descriptions of the city and of its different attitudes in different areas was spot on and really fun to read. Lots of brownie points for that.

Overall, though I really didn’t like the main characters and the story, Segal has such a pretty way of writing. It’s pretty and smart and makes you think about your own inferior writing. Her literary voice was kind of inspiring, because it reminded me of the voices of the classic writers. I felt like the book could have been written back when diction was more elegant and dialogue more complex. So her writing (not the story) was very intriguing to read. Though I didn’t like her story, I would definitely read another book by her, just because she’s a really interesting writer.

P.S. More props to her, she used to write the debut fiction column for The Observer. So that’s pretty freaking cool.

I give it 5 of 10 stars!

Thursday Thoughts: Creative Writing Class?

Finally, I am writing a Thursday Thoughts on time. During my stay in this fine city of London, I am enrolled in a creative writing class. This is the first creative writing class I have ever been in and, let me tell you, I’m not so sure about it.

I’ve never been one to enjoy sharing my writing with other people. Well, that’s a lie, seeing as I write this blog and that’s what a blog is. I guess I don’t like reading my work out loud to a group of people who are ready to critique it and pick it apart right in front of my weak, weak heart. I find it incredibly terrifying. Writing is a personal process, and everything you write possesses within it a part of you. So, really, you are presenting a part of yourself to a frenzy of critical peers. And it is scary!

I know this is the only way to be a better writer. You must share your work and you need feedback. That is necessary to growth. But sometimes, I think that the whole system has a kind of high school hierarchy to it. People in my class are so talented, but I think they all try to be better than they are in the hopes that they will receive less feedback and therefore less time on the chopping block. At least, try to be better than I am, and then my writing just turns out horribly. The pressure that I put on myself strains my works and it’s a vicious circle.

I wish there was a way to just get used to expressing yourself so plainly through your writing before having to add on the trauma of critique. But that’s not the way the literary world works. Or the real world, I suppose.

Update: all I eat in London are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 42 so far (not that I’m counting).

January Favorites

Quite obviously, number one is….

1. London! Today marks the first whole month of my semester in London. This day, one month ago, I was a sweaty, tired, scared mess. Now, I’m still a mess, but one with a much better sense of direction. London is my haven. I love it. I love waking up and knowing that I’m here. I love walking down the street and seeing buildings that are older than my favorite books and I love the history. Also, I love the cider. London is a place where things happen. I’ve only been here a short while, but this is a place that I will always keep in my heart. I went to Ireland last weekend, and while it was absolutely beautiful, I still felt a buzz of anticipation as I boarded my flight back to Heathrow. Gone for three days and I had missed it more than I ever would have expected.

2. Freaking chocolate. The chocolate here is insane. I eat it on the daily. It’s a problem and yet, I can’t stop won’t stop buying more more more.

3. Pink toilet paper. The TP in London is pink! Enough said.

4. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. The third installment in the Graceling series, this novel does not disappoint. I totally adored it. I grew so attached that I put off reading the last chapter for a good week. I wasn’t ready to let go. Cashore, if you are by some miracle reading this, please God please please write another Graceling novel please I’m begging you.

4. Mr. Darcy. I went to the Jane Austen House Museum (post here) and they had a whole section dedicated to Mr. Darcy. I am now the proud owner of an “I ❤ Darcy” keychain, featuring the lovely visage of one Mr. Colin Firth.

5. The UK university system. It is seriously awesome. I have twelve weeks of class, two of which are considered reading weeks, where classes are not in session so as to provide time for independent study. I have no finals, and only have to write a paper per class. Apparently, this is the norm amongst many UK universities. I’m okay with it.

6. Billy Elliot. This week, I went to my first big West End musical and it was Billy Elliot. This kid is 13 and has been the starring role on Broadway and now in the West End. So my blog is starting to feel quite insignificant. Time for chocolate.

Thanks for sticking with me through this rather off-kilter blogging month. It’s been a crazy four weeks. For more details about my happenings in London, check out my other blog Seeing London Seeing Life.

Check ya later, son.