Friday, January 04, 2013

Review: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

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Paper Valentine
Brenna Yovanoff
Publication date: January 8th 2013
by Razorbill

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

*A copy was provided by Penguin Canada for review purposes*

Being my first Yovanoff book, let’s just say that I now consider myself a fan. I was terribly impressed with the writing: Brenna has a wonderful way with words that makes you feel all the creepy. The story which could easily have been a clichéd murder mystery, becomes a work of great atmosphere inside Paper Valentine. There’s murder, romance, ghosts, enlightening characters; this is a good one, folks!

This book has a lot going for it, as stated above, it’s not just a murder mystery, it has substance and emotions. It even has a flair of contemporary when we learn of the way her ghost friend died from anorexia. Which, and for obvious reasons, affected Hannah a great deal as she’s feeling both sorrow and guilt from her loss. We see this darker, depressed side surface regularly in the novel, giving a very realistic portrayal such a death leaves behind. Furthermore, we have a romance that is satisfyingly budding with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, whom Hannah is drawn to even through her suspicions. Suspicions that put a wedge between them even though they didn’t always know it was there.

Clever with a fantastic creepy flair, the mystery part of the book is great with a fairly unpredictable ending. I say “fairly” because it’s not that it’s impossible to guess, it’s how so many people are made suspects that even if you do figure it out, it’s hard to be convinced your guess is right, and it will most likely change back and forth while the story progresses. I find these types of mysteries the most engaging; being suspicious of everyone, and trusting no one. There are some details of the mystery, as well as the motive, I wish had been given deeper meanings or explanations, though, seeing this is a stand-alone. I was also disappointed about the non-mystery regarding the dead birds. I expected more than “just because of the heat”. I guess this is what I get for not reading the synopsis. Unexplainable bird death is just so awesome! I mean in a creepy way, of course. Not at all because I hate birds. Even if I do. There is just something spine-chilling about flocks of bird found dead. It’s something I have heard in the news a time or two and I always think the world must be coming to an end. Birds will be the death of us, people! I can feel it! They are vile, evil creatures!

Hannah herself is a great protagonist for this type of story. She keeps her head in the game and doesn’t trust people at the drop of a hat. She also has a side to her, a hidden depression, that only her dead friend and the reader gets to glance at. It makes her a very interesting character study, giving it several layers. The same can be said for the love interest which is filled with intrigue as we get his story throughout the book, little by little.

It may be my first, but it won’t be my last novel by Yovanoff. Her style of writing is so unique. Lyrical, yet dark and morbid, it really clicked with me. Even though the ending could have been more fleshed out to give complete closure to the several storylines introduced in this book, it remains a small complaint in the bigger picture where I enjoyed everything else so much. This book does contain a mix of genres, but it was written for readers of dark thrillers; It gets bloody, and it gets eerie. If you see yourself in this description I would hand this one to you in a heartbeat!

4 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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44 Responses to “Review: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff”

  1. Nick

    This book has been receiving a lot of rave reviews from early reviewers. I’m glad that you enjoyed it too, Giselle. It sounds like such a deep book with all the themes it seems to handle. Plus, the themes are well-handled. I guess I’m going to have to emotionally prepare myself before I go into the book.
    And I completely agree about birds! They are definitely evil! *Shudders* Have you watched the movie, Birds? It scared the hell out of me!

    Anyways, great review, Giselle!

  2. Mel@Thedailyprophecy.

    I keep seeing positive reviews about this book and I’m happy. My first book from this author wasn’t a success (the Replacement), but I definitely will give this one a try. Ghosts, a great MC, a good romance and tackling of difficult subject all sound like aspects I like in a book 🙂 I don’t hate every bird, but I do think that gulls are horrible creatures!


  3. Amy

    Awesome review chick!! I love when you keep having to second guess your pick in a mystery! It makes it so much fun. I haven’t read any of her books before, but The Space Between is on my TBR list as well as this one. Now I am really looking forward to this one.

  4. Michelle

    I’ve never read any books by this author, but this one looks really good! Awesome review, I think I’ll pick this one up 🙂

    PS- Cute redesign on your blog, I love it!

  5. Emmelien

    I’ve seen this book a few times before and loved the cover, but never acutally read something about it. Now I wonder why not?! Sounds like an amazing dark story, and I love me some dark stories! This is definitely going on my list.

  6. Christina

    Yay, so glad both you and Jenny liked this too! And we all have the same rating. Woo!

    I totally agree that the book would have been super boring without the atmosphere. Like, it’s not the best mystery ever, but everything else came together really nicely.

  7. Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

    Wonderful review!! I was completely swept away in the awesomeness! Haven’t read a good murder mystery in so long, I think I’m definitely going to check this one out! I love the sound of this author’s writing as well; lyrical diction is something I’ll always appreciate, haha! Thanks for sharing your lovely review, Giselle!

  8. Kristilyn (Reading In Winter)

    Brenna does have a really unique way of writing. I’ve only read one of her books, but I’m definitely hooked! I can’t wait to read this one. The cover always jumps out at me and the good reviews it’s getting means I’ll be getting it sooner rather than later!

    Thanks for sharing, Giselle!

  9. Bonnie

    I’m not usually a fan of murder mystery type books, or anything terribly dark but I think that I will have to make an exception for this book. It sounds incredible and your review has me very excited to read it!

  10. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    I really liked this one too! Brenna pulls off the creepy like no one else! I remember not being able to put it down, and while the big reveal was a little meh I was still more than satisfied with the novel!

  11. Sarah Elizabeth

    I read ‘the space between’ but haven’t read this one yet, I found some of the happenings in ‘the space between’ seriously strange, but it seems like you liked this so I think I’ll probably give it a try!

  12. Alexa Y.

    Your enthusiastic review has me thinking I really need to read this one! It sounds absolutely wonderful, and I do love a good mystery every now and again.

  13. fredamans

    This is the second decent review I have seen for this book while on my Google reader today. I wasn’t sold the first time, with the issues discussed in the book I figured it wasn’t for me, but the more I see good reviews, the more I think I’m missing out.

  14. bookworm105

    The first book i read of Yovanoff was The Space Between and i instantly fell in love with her writting. I’ll definitely be reading this one as well, love the sound of the dark thriller.

  15. Aneeqah

    I totally love a good creepy book, so this one is definitely going on my TBR list! The writing definitely seems eerie, and I love how the author didn’t make this one a cliche. Even though the mystery is only ‘fairly’ predictable, I still think I’d like it! I love it when all characters are suspects, because that ensues second-guesses and such, which is always fun. I also think it’s neat how there’s a depressing side to this story, which totally portrays death well. That’s something that I believe authors tend to shy away from, and I’m glad the author in this case is embracing this depressing side.

    Even with the small issues you had with this one Giselle, I still think I’m going to pick it up! I love a good, creepy mystery. 😉

    Also, about the birds, LOL.

  16. Leanne Yang

    All the reviews I’ve seen so far have been good reviews. I think I’ll give this one a try, it sounds like a very… chill inducing book. The reason that I was reluctant to read this was because I didn’t like her other book, The Replacement.

  17. Sirtsu

    Even though it’s only January 4th, I’m more than sure that this cover will be on my top 10 of 2013. It’s so freaking gorgeous!!
    And just as Nick and you, I hate ’em birds! They just give me the creeps. Especially ravens and all birds alike. Ugh *shudders*
    I love that it’s an issue book with mysteries, romance and unpredictable outcome. Well, sort of, as you mentioned. I want to get my hands on this book asap. Love that you and Jenni both liked this one so much:)

    Siiri @ Little Pieces of Imagination

  18. Millie

    I’ve never read anything by Yovanoff, but this books sounds really interesting. I’m finding that I’m getting really interested in murder/mysteries, and this book looks like it can supply what I want. And I’m so glad to see that you enjoyed this book! Isn’t the cover gorgeous?? Anyway, fantastic review, Giselle!

    Millie @ Millie D’s Words

  19. Eileen

    This one looks so utterly creepy! I agree: dead flocks of birds make everything much more scary! I’ve never read any of Brenna’s other books either, but I should probably start since her books do sound really great! I’m sorry the mystery was a little unexplained though; overall I’m glad that you really enjoyed this one! Besides, who doesn’t love a mysterious love interest? 😉

    Awesome review as always!

  20. Megan K.

    You lucky gal! PAPER VALENTINE’s on my wishlist, but I don’t think I’ll be getting an ARC at all now. 😛 HA. ‘Not because I hate birds.’ Well, unless they shit on the windshield of your car, of course. But anyway, I’m so glad that there was more depth and meaning to this book than I would’ve understood if I’d just read the synopsis.

    Awesome review, Giselle! <3

  21. Shooting Stars Mag

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one because it sounds great and I really DO want to check it out! I’m glad to hear it’s more than just a typical murder mystery. A book with layers is always nice…and a character with layers is even better. I’m such a character girl.


  22. fishgirl182

    ooh so jealous that you read this one already. i actually haven’t read any of her books either even though i keep telling myself that i really want to. paper valentine looks awesome though and i just may make it my first yovanoff book as well. and how gorgeous is that cover? glad you liked it.

    fishgirl182 @ read now sleep later

  23. Jesse Burgoyne

    Can I just say I adore the cover of this book? Because I do. I haven’t read any of Brenna Yovanoff’s novels yet, but I have read her short stories in The Curiosities and she definitely has a flair for the creepy. I’m glad that this book had a nice mystery with a lot of suspects. I don’t mind guessing an ending, but I’d like their to at least be a little challenge in it. If a writer can make me doubt my guess, then I’m going to enjoy a story.

    P.S. I’ve found birds creepy ever since I watched The Birds when I was like seven and now every time birds gather outside my house I’m waiting for them to attack. Vile creatures is right!

    Jesse @ Pretty In Fiction

  24. Kat Balcombe

    I was hoping this would be a good ‘un! Bring me the creepiness!

    I haven’t read one of her books before, but if she can write creepy, I’m in.

    Great review 😀