All Our Pretty Songsby Sarah McCarry
This is a story about love, but not the kind of love you think. You'll see…
In the lush and magical Pacific Northwest live two best friends who grew up like sisters: charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora, and the devoted, watchful narrator. Each of them is incomplete without the other. But their unbreakable bond is challenged when/b>/i>
This is a story about love, but not the kind of love you think. You'll see…
In the lush and magical Pacific Northwest live two best friends who grew up like sisters: charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora, and the devoted, watchful narrator. Each of them is incomplete without the other. But their unbreakable bond is challenged when a mysterious and gifted musician named Jack comes between them.
His music is like nothing I have ever heard. It is like the ocean surging, the wind that blows across the open water, the far call of gulls.
Suddenly, each girl must decide what matters most: friendship, or love. What both girls don't know is that the stakes are even higher than either of them could have imagined. They're not the only ones who have noticed Jack's gift; his music has awakened an ancient eviland a world both above and below which may not be mythical at all. We have paved over the ancient world but that does not mean we have erased it.
The real and the mystical; the romantic and the heartbreaking all begin to swirl together in All Our Pretty Songs, Sarah McCarry's brilliant debut, carrying the two on journey that is both enthralling and terrifying.
And it's up to the narrator to protect the people she lovesif she can.
“McCarry's beautifully rich narrative is smooth and seductive...effortlessy dropping references to authors from Rousseau to Block...Goths and romantics both will eagerly await the second installment of this suspenseful planned trilogy.” Booklist (starred review)
“[A] lush, spooky contemporary fairy tale… the characters and landscapes come to life through careful detail and precise, poetic language. Haunting, otherworldly and heartbreaking.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“If you love Francesca Lia Block, Neil Gaiman, or mythology--or if you know what it's like to have best friend who is your soulmate--you will devour this book. (It also has a diverse cast of characters, which is something that you sadly don't see enough of in young-adult fiction.)” Rookie Magazine
“A stunning debut that fans of Neil Gaiman and Francesca Lia Block will devour.” Elizabeth Hand, author of Radiant Days and Available Dark
“A brilliant dose of the creepy and sublime.” Neesha Meminger, author of Into The Wise Dark and Jazz In Love
“I loved every minute I spent in McCarry's hypnotic and beautifully-drawn world.” Madeline Miller, New York Times bestselling and author of The Song of Achilles
“A punk rock remix of the myth of Orpheus that is as much about best friends as it is about first love. Buy it, love it, pass it along.” Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh
Gr 10 Up—Art and music run rampant through an unnamed narrator's journey with her best friend, strikingly beautiful Aurora, as frightening and elusive strangers promise drugs, fame, and love. The writing is rich and lush, yet conveys immediacy and is comprehensible even when the events are not. The teens have been as close as sisters since childhood, united by their mothers' friendship, which has since ended. Aurora's rich, druggie mother married a rock musician who made it big and then died, while the narrator's mom is poor, vegan, and dabbles in tarot-card reading and spellcasting. The money that Aurora carelessly uses to fulfill her wishes doesn't make her happy, and her reckless behavior has placed the protagonist into a guardian role. The budding artist thinks that her own lack of stunning beauty might mean that she will never be loved-until Orpheus-like Jack appears, along with the mythic Minos and other shadowy characters who become both real and symbolic temptations. Billed as the first book in a trilogy, this title will appeal to readers of Francesca Lia Block with its blend of romance and the ultra-hip music world. The mesmerizing cadence of the internal dialogue is fresh, distinct, and surprisingly sharp. The descent into the underworld is riveting as the heroine tries to fight for her loved ones' fates. Raw sex and foul language accompany the shadow world that promises fame and one's heart's desire, and only faith in the narrator makes the journey endurable. Brilliant in concept and execution.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO
Read an Excerpt
All Our Pretty Songs
By Sara McCarry
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Sarah McCarry
All rights reserved.
Aurora and I live in a world without fathers. Hers is dead and mine was gone before I was born. Her house in the hills is full of his absence: his guitars in every room, his picture on all the walls, his flannel shirts and worn-through jeans still hanging in the closets, his platinum records on the mantel of the marble fireplace that is so big we both used to crawl inside it when we were little. He is everywhere, and so we never think about him. Aurora's mother is a junkie and mine is a witch. When I say it like that, it sounds funny, but that doesn't mean it's not true.
* * *
This is a story about love, but not the kind of love you think. You'll see.
* * *
Aurora and I grew up like sisters, and this is how we match: same bony, long-toed feet; same sharp elbows; same single crooked tooth (Aurora's left canine, my right front). Same way of looking at you out of the corners of our eyes until you blush. Same taste in music: faster, harder, more. Same appetite. Same heart.
Aurora and I live like sisters, but we are not alike. I am tidy, and Aurora has never cleaned a mess she made in her life. Aurora sleeps until four if you let her, loves Aliens, smiles often, is the kind of girl who will break into your car to leave you a present you don't know you want until you find it. Aurora's mom is richer than anything you can imagine, and mine is poor. Aurora is sunlight, and I'm a walking scowl. Aurora's skin is dark, and mine is watery cream. She bleaches her black hair white and smokes unfiltered Lucky Strikes and drinks too much. She wears dresses made out of white lace and gloves with the fingers cut off, Converse with holes at the toes and old-lady satin pumps, and if you think right now of the most beautiful girl you know, Aurora next to that girl is a galaxy dwarfing an ordinary sun.
I am not beautiful at all, but I am mean. Every day I wear black jeans and the worn-out Misfits shirt that used to be Aurora's dad's and combat boots with steel in the toes. People keep away from my fists in the pit at shows. I cut my dark hair short and my eyes are grey like smoke when I am happy and like concrete when I am not. Every morning I get up at six and run seven miles, into the hills and back, and where Aurora's body is model-skinny, mine is solid muscle sheathed in a soft layer that all the miles in the world can't skim away. Aurora breaks hearts, and I paint pictures. We are both pretty good at what we do.
Before we were born our moms lived like sisters, too. They drove up and down the coast in Maia's diesel Mercedes, following punk bands and sleeping on the beach, dyeing each other's hair pink and blue and orange and green. Maia met Aurora's dad backstage at a show in Los Angeles, before anyone knew how famous he would be. Back then he was just a sad-eyed boy from a shitty town in the Northwest with a guitar and dirty clothes. Maia chased him out into the parking lot and they fell in love as the moon rose over the Pacific. Cass drove them around while they kissed in the backseat. "It was so much fun we drove to Mexico," Cass said, the only time she told me the story. The three of them spent a week living on the beach and swimming naked in the ocean every day, sleeping on striped blankets they bought in a market. They had no money, but that was a time when you didn't need money, when it was enough to be young and beautiful and in love. Cass drove them back to LA and they got married in a twenty-four-hour chapel next to the freeway, with Cass as their witness and a hungover Elvis impersonator officiating. Neither Cass nor Maia owned a dress. Maia wore a white slip she'd bought that afternoon in a thrift store and a headdress Cass made her out of roses and silk ribbons. Cass wore cutoffs, a dog collar, and the Misfits shirt she stole from Aurora's dad and later gave to me. Before the year was over Aurora's dad would make one of the bestselling albums of all time, and then Maia and Cass would have Aurora and me, and then everything would fall apart. Now Maia sleeps away the years like a friendless fairy-tale princess behind a wall of thorns, and Aurora's dad is dead, and Cass and I are stuck in the real world of never having enough money for bills despite all of Cass's spells.
"But that week," Cass said. "That week was the most perfect week of my life." Maybe it was perfect for Maia, too. I've never thought to ask.
* * *
Aurora's room is like an antique store and a record store exploded while mating. Posters hang all over the walls: Arthur Rackham prints, the Pixies, a wet cat hanging from a tree branch with the motto HANG IN THERE. Aurora's embellished the cat with a markered-on mustache and fedora. Piles of magazines, Vogue and Ben is Dead and Spin, Sassy with all the quizzes dog-eared and filled out in different-colored inks (red for Aurora's answers, blue for mine). Every inch of wall that isn't covered in posters is covered in pictures: Aurora in her dad's arms as a baby, his face already haunted; Aurora and me at every stage of development, from infants with the same fat, formless faces to our first junior-high dance (Aurora in sunglasses to hide how stoned she is, me looking serious and faintly alarmed); Aurora and Maia; Cass and Maia. The famous picture from Rolling Stone: Aurora as a wide-eyed toddler, clutching her father's guitar, surrounded by the members of his band. It was taken right after he died. The guitar dwarfs her. It's an original print, unframed, tacked carelessly next to a sheaf of dried roses tied together with a dirty ribbon and hanging from a nail. Empty Dr Pepper cans and sticks of incense, rhinestone-covered dresses, Christmas lights and piles of silk scarves, an empty bottle of Chanel No. 5 in a dish full of quarters. Her dad's record collection—crate after crate of old punk and new wave, obscure soul music, seven-inches his band recorded before they were famous. Books on witchcraft, travel guides, old anatomical textbooks, Flowers in the Attic. Her battered copy of Tam Lin that we traded back and forth as kids until the covers fell off. Winterlong and Weetzie Bat.
I used to borrow Aurora's clothes, but as I got older, as it became apparent I'd be the draft ox to her dragonfly, I quit shimmer for death-metal gloom. But sometimes when we're bored we stay up all night eating ice cream and listening to her dad's records. We raid Aurora's makeup drawer for mascara wands and compacts of pressed powder; iridescent eyeshadows; rich, dark-red lipsticks by the handful. I let her paint my eyelids with the intense concentration of an old master, color my lips a Jazz Age maroon. We take Polaroids of ourselves and tape them to her walls, steal Maia's video camera and film ourselves gyrating to the Clash. When we're finally exhausted we fall asleep in her giant bed, curled around each other in a pile of silk and feathers. We don't wake up until long after the morning sun gives way to afternoon.
Tonight, we're catnapping in Aurora's bed, watching Heathers for the fortieth time and eating Cheetos. Cass would die a thousand agonized deaths if she saw the color of the chemicals going into my mouth. Aurora's in love with Christian Slater, but I think he is too cheesy, even as JD. It's a longstanding bone of contention between us. "Look at him." I lick fluorescent orange powder off my fingertips. "He's, like, engineered in a factory. A factory for teenage girls."
"You comprehend nothing," Aurora says, wounded. "I would totally have gone the distance. Winona Ryder isn't worthy."
"He tries to kill her," I point out.
"Only because she wouldn't follow through with her own vision. You have to commit. That's the lesson. God, look at those cheekbones." But nothing she says can convince me. There's no real torment behind those eyes. JD is a sham.
"How very." I smirk. Aurora hits me with a pillow.
When the movie is over it's time to go out. Aurora puts on Joy Division and turns it all the way up, knots her bleach-white hair, paints her mouth vampire-purple, puts on dresses and takes them off again, dancing around the room in her underwear. I pretend to be bored. It's our ritual. When she's ready we drive downtown in the old Mercedes that used to be Maia's, windows down, the Jesus and Mary Chain cranked so loud we can't hear ourselves talk. We have fake IDs, but we rarely need them. I've never seen anyone say no to Aurora. We're barely inside the club before someone's buying her one drink, and then another, boys and girls getting in line to cajole her into a smile. Every other drink she hands to me, but I give them back most of the time. Somebody has to keep us safe on the way home. Aurora never thinks about what comes after; she's all now, all the time. This moment, this kiss, this second holds everything. People like Aurora don't have to live with consequences. The stage lights go down and we push our way to the front, ready for magic, for wild rumpus, for anything. Ready to go ecstatic.
Tonight, we aren't disappointed. This band is on fire. The singer's tiny, her shaggy red-dyed hair sticking up like a ragged halo. She's wearing a long-sleeved thermal, its fraying sleeves hanging to her knuckles, her bony fingers barely visible against the guitar strings. The music is heavy, a sludgy mass of guitar that makes the room seem even darker. When she opens her mouth to sing the voice that rips out of her is a banshee howl climbing to an operatic shriek. She paces the stage in smaller and smaller circles, pivoting around the axis of the mic stand, energy crackling off her in waves, never once looking at the audience. The drummer is moving so fast her arms are blurs. The bassist plays the way I love best, cigarette dangling, eyes closed, completely still except for his fingers. Like he's asleep standing up, too cool even to acknowledge how good he is.
Here's me and Aurora in the pit: hot press of bodies, humid smoke-thick air, the two of us up against the stage, elbows planted on the dirty wood. When the music starts with a roar we throw ourselves backward into the crush of people behind us. All the way inside our bodies and all the way outside them at the same time. A wall of noise crashes through us, washing us clean. Like when we are on the edge of coming and the whole world blows wide open for a second and we can see all the way to the center where everything is still. Guitar so loud we can feel it in our chests. Someone else's hair in our faces and someone else's knuckles in our teeth and sometimes, when it's really good, a current charges from body to body and everyone around us is part of it, part of us, part of the drumbeat thundering through us so hard our breathing shifts to follow its pulse. Music turns us inside out with hunger, the need to hurt ourselves, get drunk, fuck, punch strangers, the need to take off all our clothes and run around in the grass screaming, the need get in a car and drive off in the middle of the night with a pack of strangers. We let the music shake us loose from the moorings of our bodies and hearts and brains, until we are nothing but sex and sweat and fists and hot hot light.
Up front we are often the only girls, and we learned early to make a space for ourselves, to punch if anyone gets too close in the wrong way, kick out like boys, throw ourselves at everyone around us like our bodies are stones. People know who we are now, know Aurora's face and my fists, smile at us, leave room. Sometimes a boy will kneel down, weave both hands into a step for one of us, let us put one booted foot into the cradle of his fingers and then catapult us over the crowd, hands rising to keep us aloft, carrying us to the edge of the stage and then back again. Our bodies are rafts moving across a sea of brothers, fathers, lovers. The air is charged and reckless. Up front is when I feel all the way alive, deep in my animal body, a live wire humming electric. Me and Aurora together, like sisters, like twins. Do you know what it's like to be a girl pieced together out of appetite and impulse? We do. In that place of heat and noise I forget everything, forget being poor and being scared, forget the looming misery of school and the adult world, forget walls and masks and pretense. Up front I forget everything except drum and guitar and heat, the anchor of Aurora's hand in mine as we're tossed across an ocean made out of bodies, breathless and alive and blooming with sound.
When the show is over we are soaked and panting, holding each other tight. Aurora's eyes are huge. "Oh my god. That was, like, the best." The boy standing next to us is already trying to ask her name, but she ignores him. "Come backstage," she says to me. "I know that girl."
This is the part I hate. I like to keep the magic close, not ruin it with people. "I kind of want to go home."
"Are you kidding? You're no fun."
I sigh. "Okay." She takes my hand and tows me after the band. Backstage, she hops in place while they drag their amps offstage, take apart the drum kit and cart it to their van. I stand, awkward, digging the toe of my boot into the concrete floor. The singer comes over to us and gives Aurora a hug. Up close she's even more beautiful than she was on stage. I'm so shy I don't know where to look. She and Aurora jump straight into gossip. The bass player, still cool, lurks nearby, pretending not to pay attention.
"You got a light?" It's the drummer.
"Yeah, sure." I follow her outside. Behind the club the alleyway is dark. I light her cigarette for her, and then mine. "You guys were great."
"Thanks." She smokes like she wants to chew on the filter, taps her fingers against her thighs. She's wearing a white men's undershirt. The muscles in her arms ripple as she brings the cigarette to her mouth, patters out a rhythm with her free hand. "You know Aurora?"
"Yeah. She's like my sister."
"Same mom? You don't look alike."
"No, grew up together."
"We lived in the same house for a long time. Our moms are old friends." This is not exactly the truth. Our moms were old friends. Our moms haven't spoken since I was a kid.
"You knew her dad?"
"I mean, kind of. I don't remember him. We were really young when he died."
"Yeah." I wait for her to pry. I'm used to deflecting questions about Aurora, about her dad, about her life, about her money. But she drops it.
"Sorry. That's messed up to ask. I can never think of the right thing to say to people."
I laugh. "Me, either. Aurora's the one who's good at that stuff. I stand around."
"She doesn't either, right?"
"I guess that's some pretty heavy stuff to carry around. Shit," she says, exhaling. "There I go again. Sorry."
"No, it's okay."
We smoke the rest of our cigarettes in silence. Back inside, the bass player's made his move, slinking up to Aurora as she chirps away. The euphoria of the show has worn off. My ears are ringing and I'm tired. I can tell by the way Aurora is leaning into the bass player that it's going to be a long night.
The band invites us over. I make Aurora let me drive, follow their beat-up van to an old industrial neighborhood down by the water. Their apartment is the whole third floor of an abandoned factory. It's obviously supposed to be a practice space, but they have a hot plate plugged into a wall and a curtained-off toilet that I guess passes as a bathroom. Every surface is covered with overflowing ashtrays, coffee mugs stuffed with cigarette butts, empty beer cans, half-empty bottles of whisky. There are nests of blankets and clothes in three corners of the enormous room. Somebody, more ambitious than the rest of the band, has gone so far as to hang a moldy shower curtain from the ceiling for privacy. I walk over to the huge windows that overlook the bay and try to ignore the smell. This place must be freezing in the winter, but underneath the filth it's pretty amazing. I can see the streaming lights of cars on the viaduct, and past that the wine-dark water. Far away, the firefly glow of a ferry moves toward the far horizon.
"Pretty great view, huh?" It's the drummer again. Behind me the bassist is pouring Aurora a drink. I can hear him apologize for the lack of ice, and she giggles.
Excerpted from All Our Pretty Songs by Sara McCarry. Copyright © 2013 Sarah McCarry. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Sarah McCarry was born in Seattle and lives in Brooklyn. She is the recipient of a MacDowell Colony fellowship and has written for Glamour, The Stranger newspaper, the Rumpus, and Tor.com. She is the editor and publisher of Guillotine, a nonfiction chapbook series focused on revolutionary nonfiction.
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All Our Pretty Songs was a confusing read for me. On the one hand, there’s very lyrical, poetic prose, which I liked. Somewhat. I mean, it was all great in the beginning, but by halfway through the book, when things started happening, the events and actions were completely dominated by the lyrical prose, which made me feel like nothing was happening at all. The book is told from first person POV, and it’s one of the best first person POVs I’ve ever read, I’ll grant the author that. By page fifty or something, I was so deeply enthralled in the main character’s world and mind, that I’d deeply connected with her, and with her best friend, Aurora. If the book had been all about Aurora and our MC, then I could’ve lived with the action scenes flying by too quickly. The friendship between Aurora and the MC is amazing. They’ve been BFFs since they were both little kids, and before that, their moms were best friends. Both without a father – MC doesn’t know who her father is, and Aurora’s dad passed away – and without reliable mother figures, they only had themselves to depend upon. While they’re both very different, this only strengthens their relationship. Aurora and the Narrator both have history, they share many years together, and they both deeply love each other, almost like sisters. But then, Jack comes into the picture. Our Narrator’s relationship with Jack is weird from the get-go. Whereas the relationship between the Narrator and Aurora is convincing and heartwarming, Jack doesn’t convince at all. From the moment they meet, our Narrator falls head over heels for him, and Jack instantly likes her back. The problem is that her reaction to this guy is completely over the top and exaggerated. The Narrator talks about going all Juliet on him if he doesn’t want her (as in, killing herself), and not being able to live without him, blah blah. I get that emotions can be strong when you’re in love for the first time, but this strong is heavily exaggerated, and not a very good example. There were things I absolutely loved about this book. The paranormal part – we get glimpses early on, but it’s only fully explored in the later half of the book – is great. It’s a twist on classic mythology, and I’m a huge fan of mythology, so I’m definitely on board. I liked the Narrator. She’s not your general, typical YA main character. She’s down to earth (except when it comes to Jack), courageous, intelligent, willing to do everything for her best friend. The music was another great addition to the book. And the dark and gritty feel and unsettling atmosphere were excellent as well. But like I mentioned, whatever action happened, it was over in the blink of an eye. Everything was dominated by the prose, making this book a lot slower and more boring than it had to be. That said, I did enjoy the book enough that I’ll give the second one in the trilogy a shot. This one had a rather unsatisfactory ending, and I’d like to see what happens next. So while I found the action greatly lacking, I’m invested enough in the characters, particularly the MC, to want to know more about what’ll happen to them. If you’re a fan of lyrical prose and friendship stories, All Our Pretty Songs may be a good choice for you. Keep in mind though, this is definitely not for the younger YA audience due to language, some more explicit scenes (nothing too graphic, of course) and a possible bisexual relationship.
I’ve followed Sarah McCarry’s blog since her early days as the awesome and anonymous Rejectionist, and when I saw that her book was coming out, I was thrilled. When I read the premise and the first page–both of which were posted early at her blog–I was obsessed. McCarry has mentioned that Francesca Lia Block’s writing informed a lot of her own, and between the lyrical prose and the mystical premise, it isn’t hard to see how. The nameless narrator has grown up like a sister to her best friend, the beautiful extreme Aurora. They have the kind of easy camaraderie and complex communication that defines close female relationships, and until the day they meet Jack, an almost supernaturally talented musician, nothing has ever come between them. Contrary to what I expected, the story didn’t start out bleak. With the exception of their parents and their upbringings, and a few allusions to how strange both of those are, the first third of the story is surprisingly normal. I loved those descriptions of summer days, falling in love and running wild between jobs and the occasional few hours of sleep. The narrator’s burgeoning relationship with Jack starts off a little fast and reckless perhaps. Their early first kiss made me wonder if the connection they both recognized would extend to anything beyond the physical, but any doubts of mine faded by the next chapter. If anything, I fell in love with Jack just as much as the girls did. I craved more glimpses into his past, his life outside music. Most of the Greek-inspired mythos and culture cropped up in the second half of the story, and that was also when the tension ratcheted up. Because of the comparatively light-hearted first half, the sudden increase in tension could’ve been choppy or uneven, but managed to largely avoid both. The scenes that set up the narrator’s slow descent into the understanding of hell and how closely it intertwines with her friends were creepy because they weren’t completely far-fetched. In fact, the horror came from wondering how much of the nightmare was real. Hell wasn’t as terrifying as it’s sometimes portrayed in other fiction, and that worked for me too. I spent a large portion of the climax alternatively pitying and fearing everyone involved. And that ending! The final few pages left me gaping, wishing I had more pages to turn. McCarry’s next book comes out in a year, I think, and as much as “All Our Pretty Songs” lived up to my expectations, I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel.
All Our Pretty Songs is a truly unusual book. It is one of those rare reads that I am finding difficult to process, unsure of how I feel about it. It is a dark and disturbing read in so many ways, something I generally appreciate as it is a more realistic look at life. The prose is very lyrical, with a sort of altered state feel to it, appropriate to the themes of overindulgence in booze and drugs that are key to the plot. There are moments when that prose just takes you away from anything and everything that makes sense, but it always comes back around and sucks you back into the madness. The two main characters, Aurora and our nameless narrator. Not once is that narrator's name revealed, not even in dialogue. That was an odd choice, an original approach that I can appreciate. I think it was a mark of the character's inherent feelings about herself. Aurora is continually described in an almost ethereal way, beautiful and free-spirited and flirting with danger. The narrator sees herself as more of a tomboy, less feminine and beautiful than Aurora. She puts Aurora on a pedestal and seems to see herself as less special, less worthy. The two girls are extremely codependent with one another, after a lifetime of essentially raising themselves and each other. Their mothers were once the best of friends, but have been estranged for years. Aurora's mother Maia is a junkie now, spending most of her time in a haze, while Aurora runs wild and free as a rich girl without boundaries. Cass is the narrator's mother, poor as dirt and a witch hippie with as little mothering skills as her former friend. Then enters Jack, the older boy of indeterminate age. He is mysterious and beautiful and talented in a way that seems magical. So much of the narrator's story waxed poetically about him and his music, with metaphors and similes galore. But his presence seems to signal inevitable destruction... for himself, for Aurora, and for our narrator. There are moments of clarity throughout the story, but most of seems to take place in a bit of an altered state. Some of that is due to booze and drugs, but there are moments when it made me wonder about the mental health of the narrator. It was like she continually lived in another world, another reality, one that was dark and disturbing and based in her own mind. There is a lot of "stream of consciousness type prose which elevates that altered state sort of feeling. I am not sure how it is possible, but throughout the second half of the book the story became more focused while the prose became increasingly more wandering. That increased stream of consciousness prose lent itself to the feeling of chaos and further descent into destruction/madness that was taking place. There was a paranormal aspect to this book, to be sure. But the meandering prose and drug/booze themes sometimes made that aspect seem as much a result of those substances as anything else. Things to love... --The lyrical, "altered state" prose. --The emphasis on the narrator's lack of appreciation of herself seen in the lack of a name. Things I wanted more/less of... --Maia. There seemed to be some kind of back story with her experiences with Minos. My Recommendation: This is such an unusual book. If you like your reads straightforward and clear, this is not the book for you. But if you enjoy the dark, the disturbing, and the mind trip... this is an excellent read.
Absorbing, gorgeous and stunning. McCarry's voice is original, raw and arresting.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry Book One of a trilogy Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin Publication Date: July 30, 2013 Rating: 1 star Source: eARC from NetGalley Summary (from Goodreads): Set against the lush, magical backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, two inseparable best friends who have grown up like sisters—the charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora and the devoted, soulful, watchful narrator—find their bond challenged for the first time ever when a mysterious and gifted musician named Jack comes between them. Suddenly, each girl must decide what matters most: friendship, or love. What both girls don’t know is that the stakes are even higher than either of them could have imagined. They’re not the only ones who have noticed Jack’s gift; his music has awakened an ancient evil—and a world both above and below which may not be mythical at all. The real and the mystical; the romantic and the heartbreaking all begin to swirl together, carrying the two on journey that is both enthralling and terrifying. And it’s up to the narrator to protect the people she loves—if she can. What I Liked: Literally, nothing. I'm sorry, I don't say this a lot, but this book appealed to me in absolutely NO WAY. Just the cover, I suppose. And the glowing synopsis. Gosh. I really, really wanted to like this book, but it totally fell flat for me. What I Did Not Like: There isn't much to this book. It's extremely short (something like 240 pages, which seems even shorter on a Kindle), and it's not what I would call dense. I'd seen a few things about this book before reading the book - that the author has a beautiful writing style, beautiful prose, a really beautiful way with words. Also, the synopsis leads us to believe that there is some powerful romance, an amazing friendship, and some mythical aspect to the novel. Sounds great, right? Well. I'll start with the writing style. I really don't see what's so beautiful and amazing and gripping about it. I found the writing style and the narration boring and repetitive and not at all engaging. I was expecting something fabulous, something dynamic that would sweep me off my feet - and instead, I got flat, boring, lifeless narration, brought on by a not-so-awesome writing style. Then there's the fact that this book is really short, and not that dense, and not a lot happens in this book. Literally, all that happens is the narrator describes her life with her best friend, then Jack appears, the narrator falls in love with Jack, but then Aurora (the best friend) does too, and then Jack and and Aurora disappear, and the narrator feels the need to save them. TRUST ME when I saw that my cute summary above is more interesting than the entire book. NOTHING HAPPENS. The first part of the book WITHOUT Jack is the narrator describing how not-hot she is, and how gorgeous and perfect Aurora is. She describes how Aurora barely remembers her dad, and how she (the narrator) doesn't know her dad. Then Jack comes along, and sweeps the narrator off her feet. That really irritates me - that Jack appears and the narrator and him just fall in love. It's total insta-love, insta-lust, whatever. There is no powerful love story in this book. I don't see or feel any all-encompassing pull between Jack and the narrator, that makes them soul mates, or something. It's complete insta-love, with a giant dose of lust. Seriously. They cannot keep their hands off each other, and all the narrator can think about is Jack, so much that she can't see straight. So much that she doesn't realize when her best friend falls in love (or lust) with Jack as well. Assuming I understood that correctly from the story. There is a good chance that I didn't understand the entire story. I originally thought that Aurora and the narrator had the same dad - which would make the constant "close like sisters" references make sense - but I never got an explanation on that (surprise!). I kind of hated the narrator throughout the entire story. She acts like a tough girl - she even thinks she's tough - but she bows to whatever Aurora wants. She runs off with Jack at every chance. She blindly tries to get Aurora and Jack from whatever hell they put themselves in (I seriously mean hell - that's the mythological part). She constantly tells Aurora that no one means more to her than Aurora, but when Jack comes along, we know that's not true. Everything is Aurora, Aurora, Aurora, and Jack, Jack, Jack. I expected some sort of threesome to happen at some point in the book - in which I would have STOPPED, and clocked in my first DNF. I don't know about your sexual preferences, but threesomes are NOT for me. So, there is a love triangle, sort of. And I hate all three people in the love triangle. You know it's bad when you disliked (hate) all of the main characters in the book. The only character that I could stomach was the narrator's friend who saves her at the end (and I cannot remember his name, for crying out loud!). I touched on this, but the plot is ridiculous. It feels like NOTHING happens, and then at the last couple of percents, the narrator goes on some life-changing quest to get Aurora and Jack, and that all in itself is so confusing and pointless and UGH! Can the author at least TRY to explain ANYTHING?! I don't understand the "mythology" part of the book. I'm putting it in quotes because I don't even know if it's mythology, or the narrator is doing drugs or drinking alcohol, or the narrator is off her rocker. No characterization (the narrator does not grow up AT ALL), no plot, no explanation, crap romance... how did I even finish this book?! Thank goodness it was so short - because I remember getting violently angry on so many occasions while reading this book. Good thing I love my Kindle. I think that the people who say the author's writing is beautiful must have a better understanding of how to muddle through confusion nonsense nothings that make absolutely NO SENSE. It's rare that a book confuses me. It's rare that an author twists a story that I can't figure out. It's also BAD when I meet a story that I can't understand, because I am not stupid, and yet, I cannot make head or tail of this book. I'm done. I apologize to the author, the publishing house, and the team of people who worked hard to get this book to where it is. But to me? This book is absolutely awful and a complete waste of my time. (and we all know how many books are out there...) Would I Recommend It: No. Nonononononono. Do NOT make the mistake of thinking that there is a pretty cover, a wonderful romance, and a mysterious story waiting for beneath that deceptive cover. Like I did, unfortunately. I had really high hopes for this book, and it ended up being an utter disappointment. Rating: 1 star. Trust me when I say that I would have given it 0 stars, had I the chance.
**I received a copy of this book through Netgalley from the publisher for an honest review. Thank you to St. Martin's Griffin!** I was so excited when I was approved on Netgalley by the publisher, St. Martin's Griffin, to review a copy of this book! I don't think I've ever read a book this early. Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Griffin for giving me a copy for an honest review. First of all, I think it's hilarious I didn't even realize the narrator is unnamed. Yep. I must not be as observant as I thought. I honestly didn't know it until I finished the book and read a couple of my blogger friends' reviews where they mentioned it. It didn't affect my reading experience since I didn't even notice, and I think it's different and unique. There must be a special reason for not naming the narrator, and I love speculating what that reason could be. I'm not even sure I want to know why because it's so much fun coming up with my own theories. When I finished the book, I wrote the following on Goodreads: "Wow. I don't even know what to say except it'll take me a while to process everything that's happened. Beautiful, lyrical writing." This book was so strange, but in a good way. First of all, the title caught my eye as it's part of the lyrics to a Nirvana song, and I'm a Nirvana fan for sure. I was a teen of the nineties during the grunge era when my friends and I wore concert T-shirts with flannel and Doc Martens. This book had me reminscing about those awesome days when it seemed like the coolest bands around were all coming from Seattle and Portland. So much happened that I couldn't stop thinking about it for days afterward, and I still think about it from time to time. Something I pass by will remind me of a moment from the story. It's one of those books I want to read a few times over because I know I'll pick up more from the story each time much like my favorite movie of all time, Donnie Darko. That's a movie that doesn't seem to make any sense the first time you watch it, but each time you watch it again, you pick up something new that enhances the storytelling. That's exactly how I think this book will be. I think the biggest part I needed time to wrap my head around was the shift that seemed sudden from the first half of the book to the second half. The first half seemed like a contemporary young adult novel, but once you reach the second half, it switches to full on fantasy and mythology, which I found a bit jarring but really interesting and cool. I wish there had been more mythology in the story because those were my favorite parts. I believe I read somewhere that there's going to be a second book, so I'm looking forward to delving back into the narrator's world. I think this is going to be one of those books where people will either love it or hate it. I doubt there will be any inbetween. Personally, I recommend this book. I guarantee you'll have a completely different reading experience than any you've ever had.