Ash by Malinda Lo

February is for Lovers
I may not be a huge fan of love stories, but I found several that I enjoyed reading this month. I incorporated a variety of genres into this category, including short stories. I had a few unexpected overlaps, including 2 characters called Ash. Maybe it's a sign?

In this Cinderella-retelling, our heroine is named Aisling (ASH-ling) or Ash. Raised in a loving home near the woods, she is always told stories of the fairies who reside there. When her mother dies, her belief begins to grow. Her first encounter is that very night, as her father sits vigil at her mother's grave. Looking out, she sees the grave is unwatched, and rushes out to prevent her spirit from being taken by the fey. In that moment, she is transported, she hears voices, she is covered in gold dust, and then she wakes up in her bed. Was it a dream?
Her father leaves on business, and returns with a wife. Her new stepmother seems a little cold, but it not until after her father's untimely death that she turns against her completely. They sell Ashling's home, and move into her stepmother's estate. She is relegated to a hired hand in order to pay off her father's debts. Her only solace is in the woods. Drawn to a presence, she meets Sidhean. In a dreamlike trip from her stepmother's home, back to where she lived with her family, she takes a secret path, a magic path...and Sidhean brings her home safely. He gives her a cloak, and asserts his claim over her.

She continues to yearn for the day when she can escape her stepmother, and join the fairies. Until she meets Kaisa, the King's huntress. What begins as a harmless friendship begins to blossom into something deeper. As the day of the hunt approaches, Kaisa invites Ashling to join her. Turning to Sidhean as her only hope, she makes a promise to go with him, if he will only allow her to join in the hunt. She is torn between what she thought she wanted, and what she has begin to recognize as what she does want.
"Ash woke in the middle of the night from a dream of horses—tall, thundering white horses with foaming mouths and slender, wraithlike riders. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and went to the window that looked out over the Wood. She searched for the light of the candle by the grave but saw only darkness. Then there was movement at the edge of the trees, and she shivered," (Lo pg. 5, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Ruined: a novel by Paula Morris
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lo, Malinda. (2009). Ash. Little, Brown and Co.: New York, NY.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Ash was born with a curse, she can SEE faeries. Just like her mother and her grandmother, she has spent most of her life trying to avoid them. They are mean, spiteful creatures, and their beauty belies their true natures. They are afraid of iron, and that is one reason that she spends so much time with Seth.

Seth, the best friend she has, and who recently has started to creep into her thoughts as more than a friend, lives in converted train cars. When everything else is chaos, she can come to his safe haven and relax. That is until strange powerful fey begin to follow her around...Keenan and Donia, the Summer King and the Winter Girl.

For centuries, Keenan has looked for his Summer Queen. The one who would rule beside him, and restore his full power. The game, however, has a catch. She who would be queen must be willing to take up Beira's Staff, and risk Winter's Chill if she is not the one (as Donia knows too well). Those who are wooed by Keenan, but who choose not to take the risk, become Summer Girls. Once mortal girls who are turned fey lose their inhibitions, and rely on Keenan to sustain them.

Aislinn wants none of it! Although she has the advantage of being able to see them for who they truly are, she also is aware of the danger she is facing. She decides to share her secret with Seth, and to her surprise, it brings them even closer together. She must find a way to keep her current life without exposing herself, her friends or her family to the faeries' wrath. Can they discover the answer in time?

"'Yes.' She wiped her cheeks. 'They're real, Seth. It's not that I see things. There are faeries, creatures, almost everywhere. Awful things. Beautiful ones. Some that are both at once. Sometimes they're horrible to each other, doing really'--she shuddered at the images she didn't want to share with him--'bad things, sick things.'" (Marr pg. 29, 2007).

If you liked this, check out:

Marr, Melissa. (2007). Wicked Lovely. HarperTeen: New York, NY.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

Nick seems a little confused. He plays bass for a queercore band, whose name is ever changing, and doesn't have a drummer. He's hung up on his ex, who is already parading around with some other guy. He drives a car that is probably illegal in 30 states, and he's the only one who can get it to go. So when he turns to a girl, desperate to ignore his ex, and asks her to be his girlfriend for the next 5 minutes, the last thing he expects is Norah...

Norah kisses him, hard on the mouth. It isn't like her, but she needs a change. She knows this boy, or knows of him-Tris's ex, who always made her the amazing mix CDs. She has admired this boy from afar, and she isn't sure how to tell him that. Maybe agreeing to his plan is a good first step.

The night starts out relatively well, with Nick's bandmates asking Norah to show him a good time, and offering to take care of Caroline (her best friend, and general lush). Then things start to go downhill. As Nick's car refuses to start, who walks up but Tal, Norah's ex?!

In a style that is fresh and vibrant, Cohn and Levithan take turns telling us the story of Nick and Norah's first night. It's awkward and brilliant; hot and then cold; full of stops and starts, moments of uneasiness and perfection woven together in a way that you won't soon forget. Unabashedly following each person's thought process, and subsequent actions, it unfolds a believable love story that is fraught with all the problems of real relationships.

The movie has Nothing on the book, and I was disappointed by the missed opportunities in the film. There is so much about young, budding relationships that is less than attractive. These authors capture this quality so well. The focus on music will attract readers who may otherwise be turned off to a 'traditional' love story, and the twists in plot keep you guessing. The risks that we all take as we embark on a new path with a potential partner are raw and exposed in this text, and made beautiful by the way they are experienced so sincerely. Highly recommended.

"Because he said 'I love you' and, you know, I was just not feeling that back. And I know it must suck to say that and not have the other person say it back, but I felt like now was the time to set him free, so he could find someone else, someone who could say that back to him, because someone should say that back to him. I figured it would hurt him much worse later if I had let him believe he had something he didn't, so I took the brutal route," (Levithan and Cohn pg. 91, 2006).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
King Dork by Frank Portman
Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers

Cohn, Rachel and Levithan, David. (2006). Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, NY.