"It's probably going to be blood," Thomas says in a regretful tone that doesn't match the devious excitement in his eyes. "It's almost always about b...more"It's probably going to be blood," Thomas says in a regretful tone that doesn't match the devious excitement in his eyes. "It's almost always about blood."
If your dead, ghostly girlfriend sacrificed herself for you, you'd hope she'd at least finally be at peace, right? But it turns out poor Anna is still a lost, unmoored soul, and Cas Lowood is still haunted by her face everywhere he goes. In this sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood, which was one of my favorite books from 2011, Cas must find out what's happened to the girl he loves, all the while uncovering more long-held secrets from his past.
Sequels are always a tricky business, so I breathed a sigh of relief when I found that it was easy to immerse myself in this world again. I love the dark beauty of Kendare Blake's writing and her macabre humor, and I think most readers who enjoy a bit of levity with their horror will appreciate the way this story is written.
His skin is black as a struck match, cracked and oozing liquid metal heat, like he's covered by a cooling layer of lava. The eyes stand out bright white. I can't make out from this distance if they have corneas. God I hope they have corneas. I hate that creepy weird-eye shit.
There are some fantastically spooky scenes, particularly a jumpy one involving a Mrs. Bates-type of moment, and a tension-filled chapter set in the depths of an eerie Suicide Forest similar to this one. I do wish there were more spooky scenes, however, and that we spent more time with Anna. She is such a crazily vengeful, strong-willed spirit that her absence was keenly felt. What can I say, I love wallowing in ghoulish excess! I think I was a bit spoiled after the last book's non-stop creepfest, but it truly doesn't mean I enjoyed reading this book any less.
The tone in Girl of Nightmares is a little more serious than its predecessor, but we also get more emotional content as well since Cas is struggling with the loss of his girlfriend. I liked that the vividly imagined world we were introduced to in Anna is expanded here and that the story follows a logical progression, although I'm a little sad that it appears we won't be seeing more of these characters. I didn't realize when I started the story that this would be the last book in the series, but this conclusion is exactly what I would have hoped for. It feels...right, and I am very satisfied with the end of Cas and Anna's story.
If you enjoy dark humor with your YA ghost stories, you've probably been salivating after this book as much as I have. But if you haven't met Anna yet, what are you waiting for? She's one ghost you really, really don't want to make angry.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Here is Kendare's doodle in the ARC she sent me:
Nothing could set the tone for this book better, hah.
Win a copy of Girl of Nightmares!
While I wouldn't give up my doodled copy for all the magical athames in the underworld, we do have an extra autographed ARC to give away to one lucky winner! It features the first design with a bloody red cover, which is slightly different from the final one that matches the colors of the first book a bit more.
Take a photographic tour of the Monstrous Beauty world as Elizabeth Fama stops by The Midnight Garden to kick off her blog tour! Plus win a finished h...moreTake a photographic tour of the Monstrous Beauty world as Elizabeth Fama stops by The Midnight Garden to kick off her blog tour! Plus win a finished hardcover of the book.
It was a woman--as pale and luminescent as a ghost, with swirling white hair. Ezra startled, dropping his pencil into the water. Her face snapped toward him. Her eyes were too large, clear green, and had horizontal, slit-shaped pupils, reminiscent of an octopus.
Did your pulse quicken when you read that paragraph? Mine did! I had a feeling I was going to love this book, because it blends several different things that I love: mermaids, the nineteenth century, and ghosts. What I wasn't prepared for was an unconventionally striking story that will definitely not appeal to someone looking for a typical YA paranormal book. I found this dark fairy tale to be wildly exciting and utterly gorgeous, however, and I think it will find its audience in readers who enjoy literary fiction or more mature YA.
In the late 1800s, a mermaid named Syrenka makes a terrible mistake in judgment as she seeks companionship. More than a hundred years later, 16-year-old Hester searches for the mystery behind a tragic curse that has haunted her family for generations. The book alternates between past and present in a small fishing town in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the shifts in time and multiple POVs are handled with skillful aplomb. Deep secrets are slowly revealed in both young women's pasts, and a fine thread of tension running through the story eventually escalates into scenes of shocking madness and violence.
There are despairing stolen souls. Creepy churchyards. A woman drowned in a sarcophagus. Rape. Underwater doll graveyards. A boy who (view spoiler)[quite literally (hide spoiler)] gives his heart for the one he loves. A truly repulsive mermaid queen (view spoiler)[with rows and rows of sharp teeth, like a shark (hide spoiler)]! Through it all, the seductive beauty of the language irresistibly lures the reader into the story's unique mythology, so that by the end of the book the lonely, painful fates of the characters seem as gut-wrenchingly immediate as your own.
"Even in rage, she was eerily beautiful."
Syrenka is such a splendidly doomed creature, however, that Hester unfortunately pales just a bit in comparison in the beginning. Because readers see the perspectives of both past and present, they'll likely guess certain truths well before Hester does, which provides a few moments of frustration. Later in the book, however, Hester's story takes on more shape and her choices are both brave and heartbreaking in their necessity. The plot has many twists and turns, and while I did guess quite a few of the surprises, this didn't detract from my enjoyment of this beautifully crafted story at all.
Mermaid lovers should note the sea creatures in this story are incomparable to anything that has come before them; the disturbing nature of their animal instincts and deadly muscularity is boldly unapologetic, and the story is all the better for it.
Readers who appreciate literary young adult fiction will love this book.Monstrous Beauty's dark moodiness is incredibly evocative, and the startling originality of its story--as well as the lush vividness of its imagery--will not soon be forgotten.
Strongly recommended: for fans of Angela Carter, Cat Hellisen, Margo Lanagan, and possibly Laini Taylor; for adults who don't normally read young adult fiction and for mature YA readers; and finally, for anyone who has been searching tirelessly for a mermaid book that truly transcends its genre.
Heed the siren call: this mermaid story is unlike any other you've read.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Check out our Q & A with Dan Krokos, who chats with us about his new book and some of the controversies that have rocked the YA community this yea...moreCheck out our Q & A with Dan Krokos, who chats with us about his new book and some of the controversies that have rocked the YA community this year. Some interesting thoughts on GoodReads' author program, too.
Of the many young adult science fiction novels that have been released recently, False Memory stands out as an extremely fun, solidly entertaining debut. This action-packed, suspenseful story follows Miranda North, a teenage girl who wakes up without any memory of who she is. Before long, she discovers that her unusual ability to release a painful pulse of energy is the reason why she's being relentlessly pursued...and the reason why her life, as well as the lives of many others, is now in danger.
From brain wave manipulation to rogue agents to a tonally genuine romance, this book includes a lot of different elements, and manages to present them all in a surprisingly engaging way. The author understands how to balance tension and levity, as well as how to up the ante both physically and emotionally as the story builds to its climax. It's rare to find a YA action novel that is this well-paced, especially since most of its protagonists are also well-developed. Miranda's blind panic and fight or flight adrenaline practically leaps off the page with her POV, but her observations about the other characters also allow us to know them as well.
I had a really great time reading this story because it was just so much fun, but what I appreciate most about it is an interesting sensitivity in its heroine that I frankly find rather unusual coming from a male YA author. Miranda is a sensible, fast-thinking character, but she's also very feminine in a way that doesn't rely upon endless descriptions of her appearance or other surface things; it's more of a subtle but very present emotional mindset that I found very appealing, particularly in the way her feelings about her teammates Peter and Noah change over the course of the book.
I really liked the way the love triangle is handled here, by the way. Miranda is placed in a very tricky situation, and even though her confusion and anger lead to some complicated situations, it wasn't hard to understand her predicament, nor to feel sympathy for everyone involved.
This novel is a promising start to a planned trilogy, and it's going to be thrilling to see where the story goes next. False Memory surprised me with its electrifying blend of mystery, drama, and action, and my guess is that fans of science fiction thrillers will absolutely love it.
Recommended for:fans of Divergent, Legend, The Darkest Powers series, Unraveling, and Partials.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
On a more serious note, I want to briefly address the fact that I originally placed this book on a "will never read" shelf following a serious incident back in January. The author made some ill-advised remarks in defense of a fellow author on a pre-review written by a friend of mine, and like many others, I was absolutely outraged that she was repeatedly goaded on her own space in that way. The author did apologize to the reviewer, however, and following some additional information that I learned, I decided to give the book a chance--and I'm very glad I did, for more reasons than one.
If you'd like more information about what happened, there is a long discussion on this thread, and my reasoning for changing my mind is posted on message #210 here. I've also had the opportunity to discuss what happened with the author at some length since then, he has some very interesting insights from an author's perspective. I've invited Dan to the blog for a chat that will appear next week, so I hope you'll come back for that discussion. I think anyone who is concerned about this current author/reader divide will be interested.
Are you in the mood to spooked? Here is a delightfully dreadful tale that will give you the creepy-crawlies.
12-year-old Victoria's best friend Lawren...moreAre you in the mood to spooked? Here is a delightfully dreadful tale that will give you the creepy-crawlies.
12-year-old Victoria's best friend Lawrence has gone missing. Not only is she confused and lonely after his disappearance, but no one in town seems to remember who he was. Prickly, persnickety Victoria is determined to find out what happened to him, and gradually her questions lead her straight to the tall, gray-brick Home at the end of her street where the bright-eyed Mrs. Cavendish lives.
Written in brisk prose reminiscent of Roald Dahl's, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls showcases a gratifyingly smart debut by author Claire Legrand. The clever writing assumes that its readers are intelligent thinkers, with vibrant verbs and grim humor marching the story purposefully along with its spirited heroine and her quest.
There is much wickedness afoot in this story, with the dastardly deeds ranging from abusive behavior to murder to...eating things that one really oughtn't. (Truly, I will never look at butterscotch candy the same way again.) One of the things that makes it especially deliciously creepy is that Victoria partakes in some of these activities without even knowing it, so the gradual realization of what's really going on in this dark carnival house is a shudder-inducing experience.
I loved the scenes in which Victoria is overcome by nightmarish swarms of insects and when the dark walls move and breathe and when she realizes exactly what the beautiful but ghoulish Mrs. Cavendish has been up to. There were moments in the ending chapters that were absolutely magnificent in their gleeful fiendishness, and they made me do happy creepy dances in my seat. This is a story that may not appeal to those with more delicate sensibilities and probably isn't suitable for very young children, but Legrand's deft hand certainly makes it palatable for middle grade readers.
I think some of the scenes would have had more impact if they'd been lengthened, however, as the horror is so brilliant that holding that tension just a bit longer would have allowed us to relish them more. Conversely, the build-up of the mystery also felt a little long for my personal taste. I would also like to have seen some deeper emotion, as the story skims on some sadness and fear, but doesn't quite leave the sort of lingering feeling that a reader like me yearns for. I still loved reading the story, however, and I'm very much looking forward to the author's future work.
If you're in need of handsome presents this holiday season, by the way, this one fits the bill in more ways than one! The book itself is absolutely beautiful, with a textured book jacket, lovely end papers, and wonderful illustrations by Sarah Watts. As you turn the pages, there are also surprises in the form of smudgy little cockroaches sprinkled here and there throughout the text. *shudder* The design is perfect for this book, and makes it an even more pleasurable reading experience. (More photographs of the hardcover can be found here.)
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is an elegant nightmare that will appeal to imaginative children with a sense of humor, and to those of us who have longed for stories that aren't afraid to scare us--but also puts a reassuring arm around us in the end. The next time you're in the mood for a shivery read, Cavendish the perfect thing to curl up with on a blustery night.
"Can we be certain of anyone's soul, human or otherwise?"
Fiction is often most meaningful when it explores questions we find too disturbing to ask in the everyday world. Through one girl's struggle to claim her own identity, The Lost Girl addresses some fascinating ethical questions, all the while presenting a measured, powerful essay on the value of human life.
Fifteen-year-old Eva lives, sleeps, and breathes someone else's existence. As an echo, a carbon copy of a girl halfway across the world, she learns everything that Amarra learns and is even nearly forced to suffer the same physical injuries as her other. There have been various books that explore cloning, but what's so unusual about this one is the psychological element, since it's not just Eva's organs that are being harvested, it's her entire entity and identity.
One of the things I liked best about this book is the way the science fiction elements are handled. The creators of these echos are called Weavers, and they are presented in somewhat mystical and mysterious manner. It has a similar tone and feeling to the film Children of Men, and the book is not unlike the way some of Bradbury's futuristic tales are written; that is, these just happen to be human beings in extraordinary circumstances, rather than a fantastical, tech-heavy setting with some humans in it.
The writing is also well-paced, thoughtful, and beautifully descriptive, deftly balancing gravity and humor, as well as joy and sadness. Eva recalls a man with "a voice like thunder and lions" and upon her relocation, marvels at how familiar her new home seems.
I had been sent pictures all my life, of course, and Mina Ma had told me long stories about Bangalore. She had described streets, places, pieces of her life. As a child, I sat at her feet and drew picture, inspired by her voice and the flickers of memory passed on through Amarra's and my consciousness. So many of those pictures had been true. There were ashoka trees down the middle of a long road, just the way I'd imagined...There were little stalls along the roads, open late, tea stalls with clinking steel cups and sweet shops with packets of crisps hanging from makeshift roofs. Or chips, as Mina Ma called them. Coke and Pepsi in glass bottles with steel caps. Men crouched on the edge of the road, smoking tiny not-quite cigarettes.
Every character left an indelible mark, from Eva herself to her gruff caretaker Mina Ma to her brother Nikhil to her friends at school. I was enraged by the casual cruelty Eva endures, and the parents later made me so angry that I couldn't see straight. I do wish that Sean and Ray had a chance to be a little more developed, though the love story--and the love interest--still squeezed my heart.
"I'd rather spend the rest of my life without seeing you again," he says,"than to watch them destroy you because of me."
When I initially finished the novel, I rated this a 4.5 because there are some elements that might have been explained a little more, and I thought the ending was a bit rushed and becomes perhaps more of a typical YA thriller. But who am I kidding? A book that treats human life with this kind of reverence deserves nothing less than 5 stars.
This book explores loss and grief in a way you wouldn't necessarily expect in speculative fiction and tears dripped down my face for nearly an hour as I was reading it. It is an stunning elegy for those who have been lost, a cry of sorrow for those who are left behind, and a profoundly sad lament for those whose very existence is denied. This elegant novel touched me deeply, and will leave readers with a lingering feeling of grief that is all the more devastating for its restraint and its dignity.
Hmm, I'd DNFd this one, but seeing two glowing reviews from 2 friends whose opinions I respect means I may have to keep going at some point. Taking aw...moreHmm, I'd DNFd this one, but seeing two glowing reviews from 2 friends whose opinions I respect means I may have to keep going at some point. Taking away the original 2 star rating for now. (less)
It's amazing how Chelsea Cain manages to create new stories that connect more dots to her previous novels, in a way that doesn't feel forced. This one...moreIt's amazing how Chelsea Cain manages to create new stories that connect more dots to her previous novels, in a way that doesn't feel forced. This one was really good (and less far-fetched than the last one), with some genuine thrills and some glimpses of complexity in Gretchen's past.
We really need to stop seeing Susan bumble into the climax of each book and making a bad situation worse, though. And Archie...Archie's self-destructive thing is getting old. It's been 5 years, you know? Time for a little progress.
Love this series, though. Gretchen Lowell is one sick little puppy.(less)
2.5 stars This was...fine. But felt like an urban fantasy set in a fantasy/dystopian world, and I didn't really care that much about the characters.
I...more2.5 stars This was...fine. But felt like an urban fantasy set in a fantasy/dystopian world, and I didn't really care that much about the characters.
I did like the way some of the action scenes were written, and the (view spoiler)[person under the cloth (hide spoiler)] was genuinely shocking. It was the only time I felt emotion while reading this, though.["br"]>["br"]>(less)