Velveteen Monroe is dead, murdered at the hands of a brutal killer, Bonesaw, who’s taken no less than 3 more victims. Being dead doesn’t make her less of a force of nature though. When she’s not working with her team of Salvagers in the City of the Dead (aka Purgatory), she’s taking forbidden trips into the daylight, haunting her killer. She’s particularly fond of destroying his house and belongings, his infuriatingly normal house and belongings (well, ok, except for that weird salt and pepper shaker collection.) Bad news, though. Bonesaw has another victim now, so Velvet must rescue her before she meets a fate much worse than death. Unfortunately, Velvet can’t stay too long in the daylight, or her absence will be noticed, and haunting is punished severely, so she has to time her clandestine jaunts just right, and hope that Bonesaw keeps this girl alive long enough for Velvet to rescue her, and just maybe, destroy him in the process.
Think Velvet has enough on her plate? Well, she does, but fate continues to hand her more. During what will be her fifty-seventh soul extraction, she finds herself faced with one newly dead Nick Russell and is undeniably attracted to him (and he to her), but when he’s assigned to be on her Salvage team, the hope of any sort of relationship is dashed, since fraternizing with coworkers is a huge no no. Oh, then there are the revolutionaries that are wreaking havoc and burning effigies all over the City of the Dead, and things are escalating fast. A growing group of souls are not happy with the status quo and aren’t afraid to show it.
Velveteen begins with Velvet haunting her killer, and it’s immediately obvious that Daniel Marks is really good at piling on the creepy. I’m an old hand at reading thrillers involving serial killers and he even got my little neck hairs to stand on end. Bonesaw is one nasty, evil guy. That said, Velvet still has a job to do back in the City of the Dead and when she returns there, you’ll really see why this author is one to watch. Imagine entering a world where everything is various shades of grey, there’s no electricity, so gas lamps light the streets, and a mountain with a train station atop, and tracks radiating out of it like arms of an octopus dominates the landscape. The souls glow so brightly that they are forced to cover themselves with ash so as not to hurt each other’s eyes. Clothes and anything else of material value has to be stolen from the daylight (the living world), so buildings are an amalgamation of different styles and building materials. I particularly enjoyed the scenes in Purgatory, because it reminded me quite heavily of the movie Dark City. Yes, I realize that dates me a bit, but there it is. Did I mention I love Dark City?
One of my favorite things about The City of the Dead is the Paper Aviary. Velvet is friends with the proprietor, Mr. Fassbinder, and he’s been a particular comfort for her since her death, not only because of his wonderful, animated origami collections, but because he’s always been kind and willing to talk about things she loved in life, such as old movies. We meet him right away, and it served as the perfect intro to Purgatory. The only thing I had an issue with in this book (and it’s my fault, not the book’s) is that some of the interactions between Velvet and Nick (who’s a bit of a puppy dog, when it comes to Velvet), pulled me out of the story. As I said, this is my fault, because I’m not a teen anymore, so teen romance is a thing of the past for me. I think teens (teen girls especially) will LOVE the romance, but I found myself wanting to get back to the politics of Purgatory, the impending revolution, and Velvet’s killer.
Daniel Marks has a wonderful, fertile, sick, and awesome imagination. Since this is technically YA, I feel I have to mention that some parents may take issue with some of the language and his frank handling of Velvet’s killer (nothing is gratuitous, but her killer a psycho, after all). However, I think older teens will love this book, and I appreciate the fact that the author never talks down to his readers, and indulges his wonderfully obscene sense of humor to great effect. One of my favorite scenes involves Nick taking over a rotting body at a body farm where Velvet is conducting his training for the Salvage team. It’s hilarious. Trust me on this one. Velveteen is a smart, scary read, rich in atmosphere, and Velvet, in spite of her perennial crankiness and the constant chip on her shoulder (which I find endearing), is a heroine to root for. I can’t wait to return to this world and considering the ending, I have no doubt there will be another installment. Velveteen is top notch storytelling, and I highly recommend it!(less)
I’m notoriously hard on YA. Not because there’s not a lot of excellent stuff out there,there is,but because my (almost) 35 year old self has trouble identifying with a lot of the voices and situations on offer. I have to be able to connect with my protagonist,and sometimes with YA,that’s hard for me to do. Not so with Anna Dressed in Blood. Cas is one of the freshest narrators to come along in a while,and he’s a boy,which in and of itself is unusual with the recent proliferation of romantic,female protag infused novels. Cas is a cynical 17 year old,with his eye on the business at hand,which is killing ghosts. He travels the country with his mum,working on tips from his small network of acquaintances,who know what he does. His athame,a knife left to him by his father,is the source of his power,and he doesn’t know where the ghosts go when he uses it on them,he just knows that ghosts that kill people have to be stopped,and he’s the one to do it. Until he meets Anna…
I adored this book,absolutely adored it! It has a couple of parallels with the tv series Supernatural,and to me,that’s a good thing. Cas reminds me a bit of Dean,unwilling to get close to anyone,and with a overreaching goal of avenging the gruesome death of his father at the hands of an unknown evil. It’s the boys’ mom in Supernatural,but you get the idea. It also has the same feel to it,with the crackling,gloomy undertones and sense of creeping dread. Cas has come to Thunder Falls with one goal in mind,to kill the ghost they call Anna Dressed in Blood,but Anna is different. When one of the most popular guys in Cas’ new school meets his demise at Anna’s hands,Cas gains a circle of friends that he doesn’t really want,but that are determined to help him with his mission,including the beautiful and popular Carmel,and the telepathic and sweet Thomas,who turns out to be a key element in Cas’ goals. Anna’s story is a tragic one,and I won’t give anything away by giving too much detail,but the mystery of Anna might lead Cas to the truth of his father’s death,and you’ll want to be with him every step of the way. Anna Dressed in Blood gallops along,bringing with it all the best elements of mystery and horror,and if I didn’t know better,I’d think it was written by an old pro. There are no missteps here,and Ms. Blake is expert at creating a sense of terror,and while she has no trouble with gruesome detail,she knows just when to reign it in,let the creep factor take over,and also when to provide some much needed levity in the form of gallows humor. I could hardly put Anna Dressed in Blood down,and would probably recommend it for more mature teens and certainly for adults. The crossover potential of this book is fantastic,and anyone that loves horror and ghost stories will devour this in one sitting!(less)