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The Grave Winner

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Leigh Baxton is terrified her mom will come back from the dead -- just like the prom queen did.

While the town goes beehive over the news, Leigh bikes to the local cemetery and buries some of her mom’s things in her grave to keep her there. When the hot and mysterious caretaker warns her not to give gifts to the dead, Leigh cranks up her punk music and keeps digging.

She should have listened.

Two dead sorceresses evicted the prom queen from her grave to bury someone who offered certain gifts. Bury them alive, that is, then resurrect them to create a trio of undead powerful enough to free the darkest sorceress ever from her prison inside the earth.

With help from the caretaker and the dead prom queen, Leigh must find out what’s so special about the gifts she gave, and why the sorceresses are stalking her and her little sister. If she doesn’t, she’ll either lose another loved one or have to give the ultimate gift to the dead – herself.

238 pages, Paperback

First published May 12, 2013

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About the author

Lindsey R. Loucks

53 books531 followers
Lindsey R. Loucks is a USA Today bestselling author of paranormal romance, science fiction, and contemporary romance. When she's not discussing books with anyone who will listen, she's dreaming up her own stories. Eventually her brain gives out, and she'll play hide and seek with her cat, put herself in a chocolate-induced coma, or watch scary movies alone in the dark to re-energize.

Check out her website for more information and to contact her. She would love to hear from you! http://www.lindseyrloucks.com

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5 stars
72 (36%)
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35 (17%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 72 reviews
Profile Image for Christina (Ensconced in Lit).
984 reviews288 followers
May 26, 2013
I was given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Grave Winner by Lindsey R. Loucks doesn't fall into an easy category. The genre is most similar to a YA horror/paranormal (like the wonderful Anna Dressed in Blood), but I don't want readers who aren't into horror to discount this book. It has a lot of really terrific paranormal elements and is a wonderful read. I'm not a horror buff either and I loved it! This book stars Leigh, a typical rebellious teenager that has just experienced what every other teen hopes not to experience-- the death of her mother. A popular girl at school has just come back from the dead, and Leigh is determined not to have her mother come back that way. But events take an ominous turn and she struggles to keep her family and friends safe as creepy things start to happen. She also gets into a bit of a romantic triangle between a cute graveyard caretaker and the brother of her best friend. Will Leigh be able to work all of this out in time?

I loved this book. Every time I thought I could pigeonhole the book, it surprised me in some way. I had some questions along the way that I wasn't sure would be answered, but they were, in a most satisfying way. The characters are terrific-- I think I would have been lucky to have friends like Leigh and Jo in high school. The two love interests sizzle, although I think I definitely have a soft spot for the best friend's brother, Callum. The setting is creepy and appropriate.

I have to mention this as well-- Loucks has the best swag I've ever seen any author have. The items she has are pivotal players in the book, and I was delighted to see how those elements revealed themselves. I think it's a talent to have swag that enhances the book even more.

Overall, a terrific and creepy read-- make sure you have a warm blanket, pet, or significant other to squeeze during the scary parts! I'll be watching Loucks career from here on out.
Profile Image for Floryie.
295 reviews27 followers
September 19, 2015
*Free copy from the author for an unbiased review*

It took me a while to write my thoughts on the book after I finished it. Because I liked it so much that I didn't know where to start fan girling about it. I am going with a 5 star for this one and I am awaiting the next book which is being released September 29 anxiously. I just can't wait to know what's happening next!!

I will start off with the book cover to share my thoughts. It pulled me in with its dark vibe and the book name wasn't that bad at attracting my attention with the surprising tone to it.

When I started the book, I was expecting the usual horror fare but the blurb didn't at all hint at the great writing. The author has written an unusual, original take on supernatural horror. Yes I do agree it's a horror inspite of its mildness. There were only few scenes which had me looking out of the corner of my eyes or behind me. I really got spooked when I was reading the scenes where Sarah was giving Leigh the spooks tapping her window. I was sitting up late reading it and I had a window too at my back and I was so scared to turn and look! No book has ever given me that feeling till now, movies yes but books no.

And then there's the romance element. On one hand, I was sad that it was another triangle love story though I am not sure Leigh likes Tram or Cal but on the other hand, it wasn't a in-the-face part of the book. It kind of took the back seat when the goings on went off the rails. I am not sure for whom to cheer because I like both Tram and Cal! The other part I liked was the relationships portrayed in the book. The friendship between Leigh and Jo and the sibling relation between Leigh and Darby were done with the right touch of realistic emotions.

The one character who surprised me with her behaviour and involvement in the tale was Sarah. She is my absolute favourite. If you want to know why, just read the book! She is gutsy enough to not hesitate in helping out Leigh inspite of being caught in between.

The story wasn't either fast or slow. It was the right pace throughout the book. The incidents taking place had the right pinch of mystery and originality to keep me anchored to my seat till the end of the book. The culmination of the tension in the action tinged ending was crafted well. Though few questions were answered there are still more plaguing me which I believe will be brought to light in the future books.

I can easily see this book leading down untrodden paths in the sequels. And I hope the author keeps it up in all her books!

Phew, I think I almost got my thoughts out on the page about the story. Now I can happily look forward to the sequel while hoping that you guys will have a look at this book. If you especially love supernatural fiction, this will be your cup of tea!

My one line review : A horror tinged supernatural tale with a pinch of mystery and a massive amount of originality!

My rating : 5/5

My reread factor : 4/5

September 5, 2013
I received this book in exchange for an honest review (LoP or Lovers of Paranormal)

On the day of her mom’s funeral, 15 year old Leigh sees the reanimated corpse of a recently deceased classmate lurking in the graveyard. While the townspeople and the media find this a fascinating miracle, Leigh has firsthand knowledge of the wrongness (not to mention smell) of said miracle. She gets it into her head that if she buries her mother’s favorite things with her, it will somehow prevent her too from rising. That turns out to be a really bad idea, sparking off a chain reaction involving sorceresses, the living dead, and lots and lots of spiders.

This book is a mild YA horror with a dash of romance. The plot is very original and unpredictable, and Leigh and her best friend, Jo, are great characters with very true to life personalities and great voice. While a love triangle does pop up over the course of the book, it takes a back seat to the rest of the plot.

My favorite character in this book was Sarah, the resurrected prom queen. The poor dead girl was dragged into the whole mess just because Tweedledee and Tweedledum needed her grave. Ultimately, Sarah ends up being both the victim and the hero of this tale, and a more tragic hero I have never seen. She committed suicide and now she is the living dead, forced to return to the world she was willing to die to get away from and rotting away piece by piece. She’s decaying, smells to holy hell, and can’t speak, but does she stay in her room and lament her fate? Possibly. But she also tries her damnedest to help Leigh, which really speaks to her character.

The story was pretty low on angst despite some of the main concepts like death and sacrifice, but emotive enough for the reader to make an emotional connection. All in all, this was an enjoyable read that I would recommend to other paranormal lovers.
Profile Image for Pam Godwin.
Author 43 books8,934 followers
August 17, 2014
This action-packed crossbreeding of undead horror with punker girl attitude is full of surprises. In a creepy-blood-dripping-like-sap-from-a-tree resurrection of sorceresses, prom queens, and arachnids, the plot goes serious when the stakes are teetering, and gets cheeky when Leigh and her BFF catch their breaths.

The cast of supporting characters accentuates this eerie tale's charm. Pitched to a YA audience, the dynamic between the best friends is genuine and rich with heart-warming moments. Add to that, the dueling potential love interests: the BFF's brother, Callum, and the other world hottie, Tram. The boys are so different, how could Leigh choose between them? Doesn't matter. This tough girl has neither the time nor the inclination for boyfriend dramatude.

The narrative voice is snarky and lively, the premise is just off-the-wall enough to keep you careening at the turn of every skin-tingling page. And the writing is so polished, it's hard to believe this is a debut novel. As a critique partner, I had the honor of witnessing the birth of this story. Ms. Loucks hypnotized me with her magical story-telling skills from draft one and hasn't let go.

Profile Image for Shayna Varadeaux.
Author 5 books100 followers
August 6, 2013
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.


I was captivated from the get go with this book. I started reading it as a very sleepy girl and had to know what happened next! I powered through 39% before sleep won me over and I delved into dreams about being in Leigh's world and three was everywhere!
When my reading infiltrates my dreams I call that impact. The Grave Winner definitely impacted me in many ways.
Leigh is sixteen and just lost her mom we come into her life at the funeral. I love this part, and it's not for a morbid reason I just love how you can almost taste the emotions pouring out of the pages. You understand the loss an devastation for Leigh and her family. Tears welled up in my eyes on more than one occasion here.
I think the authors definition of the people and places made Krapper Kansas (LOL) come to life!
I like the use of the words dead Sarah as Dead Sara is one of my favorite bands and I think Leigh would approve. :)
I love dad he is such a believable guy and he is so raw from the loss of his other half, most of my tears were for him and Darby.
Darby is a cute character with crazy dark secrets. Leigh had amazing ways of dealing with her mom's death and a lot more added drama with Lazy Russ Syndrome LOL or Lazarus Syndrome in her town.
And yes parts of this book are a bit cliché but bobble headed mini minded cheer chics are kind of a fact of life. Though not all cheerleaders fit the stereotypical connotation.
The best friend, Jo is great with her nun chuck wielding, brass knuckle carrying, crazy leg hair finally shaved self. She's a very believable no nonsense kinda girl and I like that. Leigh and Jo totally have each other's backs.
Callum was a great character too! Sensitive and caring yet vulnerable and jealousy that's perfectly done! He kept me guessing.
Tram is mysterious and goes MIA after telling Leigh she could call anytime. But he disappears and she's left to figure things out on her own. That definitely doesn't turn out well.
Time is ticking for Leigh will she and Tram find a way to stop Ica from helping One, Two and Gretchen? Or will Leigh become the next Three? You have to read to find out!!!

Get your copy now!!!

Holy Trammelers and stinky One and Two! I want to read this book again and my daughter wants it too!

I recommend it! A very very good read! I most definitely need more!

Unless of course you are one of the brave few who wants to know before you read it! Then by all means click away!
That is all..... carry on.....

Profile Image for Julie.
632 reviews149 followers
October 2, 2013
I was given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Grave Winner is a unique kind of YA horror story. I would say I give it about 3.5 stars. I liked it and thought it was really entertaining, but there were a few things that didn’t quite work for me, so it didn’t quite earn that 4 star rating.

I liked the way the plot unfolded and how we really didn’t know what was going on at first. Leigh’s mother dies and as they bury her, Leigh sees the former cheerleader Sarah in the graveyard, surrounded by all this darkness. Thing is – Sarah committed suicide. So now Leigh is terrified that her mother will come back from the dead and starts to bury some of her mother’s belongings in the grave to keep her mother where she is, and trying to help her rest peacefully. Oops, apparently giving gifts to the dead is a bad thing. A strange boy keeps digging up her “gifts” and from there the story line unravels and I enjoyed how we slowly learn a little more about the Sorceressi and the Trammelers until we get the final bombshell at the end, that I’m not going to share here, but I am going to say that I didn’t see that coming so that was really cool and things finally made sense.

This story was so creepy! All the scenes with the Sorceressi in the graveyard were so dark and the descriptions gave me some creepy visuals. The spider scenes – well, those made my skin crawl and I wanted to scream “Riddikulus” to make it better. Some of the graveyard scenes toward the end of the book were a bit over the top for me, and I thought the Sorceressi fighting over their “grave winner” was a bit obnoxious. I found myself skimming over some scenes that were just too much for me.

I enjoyed the friendship between Leigh and her best friend Jo and the great bond Leigh has with her kid sister Darby. I didn’t feel the love triangle was quite that believable. Callum’s feeling seem to come out of nowhere and his behavior wasn’t consistent. Though, teenage boys aren’t really all that consistent with their feelings are they? He just rubbed me the wrong way for a love interest. I did like Tram a lot though, and liked how their feelings grew and weren’t instalove.

I really liked how our young main character Leigh had to make a sacrifice to protect a loved one. I really enjoy stories where the characters have to make difficult choices and sacrifice for others. Even though that part was predictable based on the blurb, it was still an enjoyable part of the book.

This was an enjoyable read and I would definitely recommend it to fans of YA and horror/paranormal.

Profile Image for Katherine.
173 reviews6 followers
May 18, 2013
The Grave Winner is an unusual story and a great debut novel. The premise of the story is totally unique and really captured my attention. Leigh, the 15 year old heroine of the story, is afraid that her mother will come back from the dead. And she has a good reason to be afraid since she saw the dead prom queen come back to life at her mother's funeral. She soon learns that two dead sorceresses evicted the prom queen from her grave to bury someone who offered certain gifts. Bury them alive, that is, then resurrect them to create a trio of undead powerful enough to free the darkest sorceress ever from her prison inside the earth.
I have to admit that I was afraid I wouldn't like this book since I am not a huge fan of horror books or zombie books...but this story isn't truly a horror story or a zombie story. Ms. Loucks managed to blend the idea of the walking dead with magic and fantasy. The plot was fast-paced and exciting. There was action, creepiness, suspense, humor, and romance. The story was well-written and flowed smoothly. Although I wish the backstory about the Trammelers had been fleshed out a little bit more.
The characters were great. Leigh had so much emotion and was such an intense character. She's sarcastic and rebellious but also loving and loyal. And she definitely is a kick-ass heroine. Her best friend Jo is the perfect sidekick - quirky and fun, always believes Leigh and is willing to do anything for her. Some of the funniest parts were conversations between Jo and Leigh. Sarah, the dead prom queen, was an interesting character. She was creepy but also sad. And I felt bad for her because of the way she was treated by everyone.
I'm not a huge fan of love triangles and I really didn't think that the love triangle in this story was great. Cal couldn't seem to make up his mind about Leigh - he acted like she was so important to him and then he acted like a jerk. Tram was much more swoonworthy and the fact that it was a little bit of forbidden love made him even more interesting to me. Between Cal and Tram, I was totally on Team Tram.

Overall, this book surprised me and I really liked it. I can guarantee that I will be reading the next book in the series when it comes out.
Profile Image for Jason Crawford.
Author 15 books100 followers
July 2, 2013
I give the Grave Winner a solid 4.0/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 4/5. I really liked the cast of characters that Lindsey has presented; she shows a good grasp of YA characters as Leigh and Jo grapple with high school interactions as well as evil sorceressi. I wish that I could have seen more of the father, though, as I'm curious as to how he got ahold of that book he was reading.

Plot/Storyline: 4.5/5. Consistent, clear, easy to follow but not predictable. I liked the gradual revelation of the Trammelers and especially the relationship between Leigh and Gretchen. The book kept me reading, kept me enjoying, kept me caring, and that's about all I can legitimately ask for in a novel :)

Flow/Writing Style: 5/5. I enjoyed the writing style very much and felt that it was well suited for the YA audience. The descriptions were fantastic and the dialogue well-written. Congratulations!

Spelling/Grammar: 5/5. I noted no spelling or grammar issues when I read this novel, although that does not mean there weren't any. However, if they were so few and invisible as to not distract me from the reading, then the author has succeeded!

Overall: 4.0/5. I would have no hesitation in recommending this novel to anyone who enjoys paranormal fantasy and/or romance. Lindsey has left the door open to a potential series; I hope she takes advantage of it!

Jason P. Crawford
Profile Image for Jeanne Drzewiecki.
25 reviews41 followers
September 11, 2013
I was given this book to read thru Lovers of Paranormal (LoP) and wanted to thank Lindsey Loucksfor the chance to read and review her novel.
I found the idea and concept of the book very refreshing and loved Leigh's character. The book was beautifully written and I adored the supporting characters especially her best friend Jo and Jo's brother, Callum, and Tram. Tram was a difficult character to understand as he did not really reveal all that much of himself in the book which made it a little hard on the reader but kept a depth of mystery about him that left me wanting more.
I am hoping that this is not a stand alone book from Lindsey Loucksand that The Grave Winneris just the beginning of a series by the author as I NEED to know what happens to Leigh's and Tram? Leigh and Callum? Jo and Miguel from Spanish Class?
I will never be able to look at another cemetery again without looking over my shoulder and paying attention to tree formations - yikes!
Profile Image for Laura  Hernandez.
789 reviews82 followers
September 18, 2015
I received an ARC when I signed up and was selected to host the book tour. I made no guarantee of a favorable review and the opinions expressed are my own.

Leigh has just suffered a devastating loss; the death of her mother, so when she sees her dead classmate while at the cemetery she shucks it up to her emotional state of mind. Needless to say she couldn't be more further from the truth if it slapped her across the face as this is only the terrifying beginning.

This paranormal/horror read kept me on my toes and every turn of the page is packed with dark and supernatural twists and turns. The author weaved an amazing and intricate plot and the characters were well written. I'm looking forward to reading book two.

A word of advice; you might not want to read this right before going to bed.

I give this book 4 and 1/2 high heels.
Profile Image for Danielle .
86 reviews1 follower
October 6, 2015
I won this book from Goodreads giveaways!

I really like this book and can't wait to see what else is in store for Leigh.

Leigh's life falls apart when her mom dies, but her funeral is just the beginning of the pain to come. A mysterious boy is giving her warnings, her prom queen class mate is back from the dead with a darkness following her that kills everything in its wake and fear is lurking around every corner. Leigh quickly learns that the normal life she was used to will never be the same, spiders are invading, death is eagerly waiting for her and everyone she cares for is in danger.

This book was unique and interesting from start to end. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Leigh and Callum and the whole dark world Loucks has created.
1,635 reviews8 followers
October 7, 2016
I always say that I’m not a fan of horror stories, they give me the chills and the need to sleep with a nightlight, but always end allured by a horror story that keeps me reading non-stop because I want to know what happened at the end, who was saved and who died. The Grave Winners is an interesting story with very good descriptions and narrations (scary, creepy and all the things that scare me) that made me felt very intrigued. Well written, good plot development and characters that made me want more, even if it scares me. Long time I didn’t read a book like this. Hope to get my hands on another one. Read it in the box set Be Witched: A Paranormal Romance Boxed Set of Witches and Magic. Love the surprises in the box sets!

Profile Image for Kirsten.
697 reviews27 followers
July 12, 2013
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. I've got to say I've never read anything like The Grave Winner. Ms. Loukes has created a world with sorceresses, and other beings I've never heard of before - which is awesome. The pace of the book was fast, always something happening. At times I was a bit confused, but then things would become clearer as I read more. I really hope there is a second book, cause I want to find out more about this world. The relationships between the characters was believable and sometimes almost heart-breaking. Leigh, Jo, Callum, Sarah and Tram are all people I want to know more about.
Profile Image for Xiamera.
395 reviews16 followers
August 1, 2016
This book held my interest throughout and I especially liked that Leigh didn't feel the need to be as secretive about what was happening as characters normally are in these type of novels. The only thing that caught me as kinda of strange was the readiness of her best friend and the best friend's brother to believe what was going on. Normally people deny and deny some more until ish really gets real. Another thing I liked was the spin on the best friend's brother romance.
Profile Image for Chris.
183 reviews
December 21, 2017
So I've finished The Grave Winner and I struggled a bit to decide what rating to give it. I don't love the book but I definitely don't hate it so that's why I settled on 3 stars. I think the author's writing style is good. It didn't suffer from inconsistencies or poor flow or any other weird issues, so that's always a plus. I really like the characters in the book, especially Leigh. I felt as though she had good character development. We got to feel what she felt and get a good look at what makes her tick and it was so easy to gravitate to her and want to be in her corner. One important thing I liked about Leigh as well as Callum and Jo were how they reacted to these major life moments and situations. It was believable.
Why the 3 stars when I liked the writing and the characters? Because I thought the whole premise of the story...the plot was...weird....and a bit confusing and had no real depth. Honestly, it seemed kind of....lame. I did happily read to the end to see what kind of resolution there would be (which was also kind of anticlimactic) and to see what happened to Leigh. I'm not sure I would read another book in the series though but maybe.

Profile Image for Carly Kirk.
803 reviews6 followers
November 20, 2017
Holy cow, WOW! This is such a good book that as soon as I finished I immediately bought the other two in the trilogy because I have to learn what happens! The story is fast paced and intense and the magic interesting and horrible and so much is unfair about what's happening to Leigh especially that none of the other sorceresses or sorcerers have come forward to help or even teach her anything useful.... how the heck will this all end??
Profile Image for Mary Beth.
447 reviews9 followers
February 12, 2018
Great page turner

Leigh, her best friend Jo and Jo's brother Callum watch as Sarah, a high school classmate returns from the dead. Now, Leigh is wanted and just might be next, if a strange boy named Tram can't help.
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,514 reviews41 followers
May 4, 2017
This is the first book in the Legends of The Damned box set.

It was a fast and intriguing read. After reading this you won't look at trees in the same way.
Profile Image for Nancy (The Avid Reader).
2,326 reviews103 followers
September 11, 2014
The following review is my opinion and not a paid review. I was received a free copy of the book from the author for my honest opinion.

Leigh, her little sister Darby and her Dad Ken are all three in her bedroom listening to Darby who is nine years old read from a book that Darby and their mom was reading together before she died. They buried their mother today and while at the cemetery Leigh saw Sarah a cheerleader from her school that killed herself last week. And now Leigh is sitting in her room with her Dad and little sister who are both asleep. Leigh hears a taptaptap on her bedroom window and she knows it is not the storm.

Leigh is at her mother's grave burying some of her things and putting bricks on her grave like they use to in the old days. Putting bricks on a grave was some kind of ritual that was supposed to keep the dead from rising. Leigh is afraid her mother is going to come back like the cheerleader Sarah did. Everyone is calling it the Lazarus Syndrome, like Lazarus in the bible who came back to life. She doesn't want her mother coming back like that. Yes she would like more anything to have her mother back again but her coming back like that would be wrong and scary.

Leigh is beginning to fall in love with Callum her best friend's brother. Callum and Leigh don't think that Sarah coming back from the dead is Lazarus syndrome. They don't know what woke her up but they don't believe it is that.

Leigh met another boy at the cemetery and now she is starting to have feelings for him. When she first met him she called him scary boy but she found out later his name is Tram. Leigh can't figure out who he is. He explained to her who he was but he is still a mystery. He is seventeen years old and lost his parents when he was small and can't really remember them.

Leigh is still trying to keep her mother from coming back from the dead. She has returned to the graveyard and the same boy is there that was there the last time. He is telling her not leave things for the dead. He doesn't know that Leigh is trying to keep her mother from coming back. But why should you not leave gifts for the dead?

Leigh hit Callum because he brought another girl to his room a cheerleader, Megan. Jo told her that he broke up with. Callum tried to explain it all to Leigh but she was not having any of it. I mean a guy she was attracted too and who she thought was attracted to her is still supposedly dating his ex-girlfriend. He tries to explain it to her but Leigh is hurt and mad so yeah she hit him and busted his lip. Callum has to walk around school for a couple of days with red and swollen lip.

Leigh is just a child herself a fifteen year who is experiencing something no child should. She is empty inside without her mother. At the same time she is trying to take care of her little sister Darby. She is trying to make Darby's hurt and life better. She has now been put in the position of trying to be a mother for her little sister. She is hurting but she puts her pain way, tucks it way down deep inside of herself so she can put on a smile for her sister.

Darby is having a harder time I think than anyone over losing her mother. I know Leigh is too I mean, is everything that she is seeing and going through real or is she hallucinating? But Leigh is a great big sister never turning Darby away always comforting her when she needs it. I think Leigh is trying to take on Darby's and her Dad's pain too. Leigh loves her family very, very much. The things she would go through or do to save them now that is love. She has a heart bigger than the whole world. Poor girl no wonder she may be imaging everything that does not seem real. But at the same time I really don't think she is imagining it.

Leigh has gotten herself in trouble and who knows how she is going to get out of it alive. All she was thinking about was saving Darby. She knew what would happen if she promised herself instead of her sister. She traded her life for her sisters. They all miss her mom and now she is wondering what she has got herself into. What will her father and sister do without her and her mom?

Tram is still not telling her everything. What is Leigh going to do to get herself out of the mess she has gotten into? What about Callum? Does she love him or does she love Tram? Which one does she care about the most? Which one of them will win her heart in the end? I am still asking myself the same question is Tram real? Is Leigh losing her mind?

The Grave Winner is one great big mystery that will keep you up at night. You just have to keep flipping those pages because you just have to know what Leigh is going to get herself into next. If you like reading books where the dead come to life The Grave Winner is definitely the book for you.
Profile Image for S.B..
32 reviews
June 29, 2017
I really wanted to like this book. I was looking forward to reading a horror story but found myself disappointed to find a lot of the story direction predictable. While there were some pleasant (& not so pleasant) surprises, the majority of plot ideas I'd considered predictable, were just that. Eg: why does she have a younger sister? Who is her mother? & how does that affect her? Who is this mysterious guy? What role is inevitable for her? Can she be saved? By whom?
While I didn't have all the answers, many became obvious. It was a relief that it wasn't all predictable and some events were well outside my consideration. (as they should be!) This is partly why I continued reading this book.

The majority of secondary characters felt like cardboard cut outs, only existing to enable the storyline to continue and the protagonist to reach various places she couldn't accomplish alone.
The protagonist was more rounded, more fleshed out but her very self absorbed persona had only a few redeeming features. Even after taking her recent bereavement into consideration, I was left with little emotional investment in her well being.

The ideas that create this story are probably its strongest asset. The writing isn't bad but character development, as stated, is very limited.
At times, I had trouble discerning who the protagonist was speaking with.
Also, the fall out from many important adventures was never explained.

I liked the idea for the story but not the execution.
Needless to say, I won't be reading the follow up book in this series.
403 reviews55 followers
May 17, 2013
Rating Clarification: 3.5 / 5

See more of my reviews @ Moosubi Reviews!

Usually when you think zombies, you probably think something along the lines of The Walking Dead or a gory horror movie. The Grave Winner , on the other hand, is more of a fantasy-zombie hybrid, with both enchanting magic and romance you might expect from a fantasy novel, kick-butt action and creeps you might expect from a zombie novel, and strong characters and storyline a reader would want from any story!

As a whole, I really enjoyed the characters! Leigh is your classic kick-ass heroine, whether she’s fighting off evil witches, zombies, or cheerleaders. But at the same time, she’s also a loving, normal girl who cares for her best friend, father, and cute little sister. I personally admired her ability to keep a clear head and put her family and friends’ well-being before her own, especially when there were zombies, her mother’s death, and high school drama to deal with. By the end of the novel, her character really grew on me!

Other than Leigh, I also really enjoyed Jo’s character. She was a really quirky and happy character, which I always adored and always added light to the story. And just like how Leigh stuck by Jo through thick and thin, Jo also stuck by Leigh. In a way, Jo even reminded me of Jenna in Rachel Hawkin’s Hex Hall series, by always making me smile even in the most serious (and maybe inappropriate) situations.

I think the only character I had trouble connecting with was Callum, mostly because I found the other love interest Tram to be much more swoonworthy. Usually love triangles don’t work for me since I find myself liking one interest much more than the other, and unfortunately, this one is the same case. In my opinion, Tram was much sweeter, a lot more loyal, and just all around a great guy. And as much as I like the friend-turned-lover path, Callum didn’t appeal to me as much since he always seemed to change his mind about Leigh. Nevertheless, I did admire his loyalty to Leigh. Hopefully more of his relationship with her, not only as a lover, but also as a friend, will develop in the next book!

Which brings me to the rest of the storyline! What I think makes it so appealing is that there’s something that might appeal to every kind of YA reader. For fantasy readers, there are the powers, rituals, witches and spells. For the romance fans, there’s, of course, the love triangle (though, again, I’m Team Tram all the way :D). For action fans, the quick pace and large number of fight scenes will definitely satisfy them. Even for contemporary fans, the different relationships between characters and classic high school drama might appeal to them. I personally enjoyed this combination of action, magic, and character, as it just made me even more engrossed in the story.

Above all, The Grave Winner was a book that I immensely enjoyed. Though I had issues with the love triangle, its quick paced storyline definitely compensated. I’d recommend it to fans of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, as they would probably devour the magic and action as I did! Otherwise, I’d suggest it if you’re looking for a quick, action-filled fantasy read!

* Thank you to the author for providing me a review copy of this book!
Profile Image for Sapphyria  .
1,734 reviews47 followers
September 12, 2014
First thing, and totally unrelated to how I rated The Grave Winner, the cover of this book is Kick Ass! Seriously, I'm a cover fanatic and sometimes the covers just blow me away. Oh, and just wait until you see the cover for book 2 of the series, What Gifts She Carried, when I review it next week. Holy Cow! Love, Love, Love!!

Ok, now that I'm done drooling over the excellent artwork, how about I review the contents that are between the covers?!

Not only is the cover of The Grave Winner phenomenal, the book itself is just as fantastic. The Baxton family, Leigh, her sister Darby, and their dad just suffered a serious loss. Burying her mother was not what 15-year-old Leigh wanted to be doing at the beginning of the novel. Emotionally overwhelmed and furious at the fates that destined her and Darby to be motherless, Leigh tries to flee the cemetery. In doing so, Leigh stumbles into another area of the cemetery that has unusual vegetation. The vegetation isn't the only thing that is unusual because as Leigh is standing there, a mysterious darkness moves toward her, a rotten odor comes up, and the popular girl who killed herself last week steps out from behind a tree.

Afraid that her mother will rise from the dead as a gross depiction of herself, much in the same way Sarah, the prom queen did, Leigh jumps into action. Leigh collects several of her mother's possessions from their home and takes them to the cemetery. As she's being to dig holes to bury them, a mysterious guy halts her. Tram tells Leigh that giving gifts to the dead is a sure fire way to get on the radar of evil.

Not one to be told what to do, Leigh is, after all, a teenager, she buries everything anyway. Now Leigh has the spirits of two dead sorceresses hot on her trail. Figuring out what they want won't be easy but in order to keep the people she loves safe, Leigh must come face-to-face with the evil.

Leigh is a fantastic character. She's spunky, spirited, and devoted to those she loves. She's a rebel which, in my opinion, adds to her strength. She has a potential love triangle going on with Callum, the brother of her best friend, Jo, and Tram, the mystery guy from the cemetery, who isn't exactly all he seems. Jo is a great sidekick, although Leigh keeps quite a bit from her at first. Callum and Tram are both important in their own ways, Tram more so than Callum.

The plot is intricate and weaves a love triangle in among the thriller. There are complications and distractions and the reader is left wanting more. The novel is fast paces and completely engaging. The Grave Winner drew me in from the very beginning with it's powerful imagery, well written characters, and fantastic storyline. There is a small amount of terror written throughout the novel especially at the beginning, evoking a wonderful play on the reader's emotions.

Overall, this is an excellent book.

Content note: There is some harsh language.

Review Copy Courtesy of the Author, at no cost, in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Toni.
Author 4 books95 followers
August 26, 2014
First things first — the cover. Does that cover not make you want to start reading this book immediately? Dark, ominous, and a badass heroine – that is the scientific formula for a ‘must read’ book for me. My reaction was one of pure insanity. I think I showed it to my husband several times, begging him to adore it as I did. Eventually I calmed down and read the synopsis. Wow! How much fun does a prom queen coming back from the dead sound? Then Loucks adds in dead sorceresses and a hot cemetery caretaker? Holy paranormal-fantasy goodness! I was salivating like a puppy staring at a pound of perfectly crisped bacon. Yes, I said pound. No one wants just one piece of bacon.

The Grave Winner starts out pretty darn good. The writing is simple, but intelligent. I was drawn in by the raw emotion of Leigh dealing with her mother’s death, standing at the grave with her dad and younger sister. Then shit got creepy real fast and I thought, “Yes! I knew this was going to be awesome!” In fact, now that I think about it, I may have verbalized it instead of simply shouting it in my head.

The Grave Winner is not without flaws, but I expect that from a first book and always take that into consideration. At times Leigh is flat, the narration monotone and very matter-of-fact. Parts the story had a “she did this, and then he did that” kind of a feel to it — most of this being early on and did become more fluid and dramatic as the story unfolded. For the most part, Leigh is very witty and amusing, even making me laugh out loud, as I had fully expected her to be. Her sarcasm is perfectly placed which made it easy for me to relate to her. Her relationship with her best friend, Jo, and their playful banter had me cracking up at times, and I loved that!

“He asked you to marry him?”
“No. But he did ask me to a party this Friday.”
“Start your razors. You could make a hat from your leg hair for him.”

– Lindsey Loucks, The Grave Winner

And let’s not forget about the hot cemetery caretaker and his blonde curls hiding under his green hoodie. What’s his story? Oh, it’s an interesting one! I think the back story could have been fleshed out a bit more, but it was all kinds of awesome, nonetheless.

The level of creepiness soared off the meter every time Sarah, the dead prom queen, made an appearance. I caught myself holding my breath without fail whenever she was on the scene. My reaction to the prom queen easily rivals the heart-stopping fear that whats-her-name in The Exorcist evokes in me when she crawls down the stairs upside down. *shivers*

Overall, I think this is a good, solid start to this YA Paranormal Romance Fantasy series. The humor, paranormal elements, and spine chilling creepiness in this first book were spot on, making this an enjoyable read for me. I will definitely check out the next book in the Grave Winner series!

By the way, Ms. Loucks — I’m STILL feeling itchy, since about half way through.
Profile Image for WickedLovely1.
28 reviews8 followers
June 7, 2013
*I received this book from the author, via Goodreads, in exchange for an honest review*

This is the story of Leigh Baxton, a slightly rebellious (in a good way!) goth teen in small town Kansas. She has just lost her mother, and now needs to be the rock for her Dad and sister, Darby.

Strange things are happening in Krapper. Dead prom queens suddenly showing up, well...not quite dead. Someone is raising them. Why? To create havoc and mayhem, of course! Oh, AND to raise a dead, evil sorceress.

Leigh wants her mom to stay buried. Not come back a scary, undead version of herself who oozes death and kills all living vegetation. So, she thinks maybe if she gives her mom some of her favorite things, then her mom won't NEED to come back. She buries these mementoes at her mom's gravesite. Enter Tram, who warns her that you don't leave gifts for the dead. But, Leigh doesn't listen, and she captures the attention of sinister forces who have decided that Leigh is about to become their Grave Winner...

I loved this story! Leigh is funny, quirky, and loveable. She understands the importance of family, friendship, and love. Her desire to keep her sister, and Jo, safe rivals her own sense of self-preservation. Her realization that Dad has a secret of his own was a heart breaker in more ways than one.

Jo was the perfect friend/sidekick. The kind of friend you want to have, because she is loyal and protective of you, even if it causes her to not get exactly what she wants. Callum was great, partially because he kinda resigned Leigh to the friend list, but then they have their "moment", and it's a game-changer for him. I hope to see where their relationship goes.

I wasn't a huge fan of Tram, because I don't really like insta-love. He is an integral part of keeping Leigh safe, so I see the importance of his character being the way he is. He is the "tragic" love, because they aren't supposed to be together.

I was glad that Leigh was allowed to remain a normal teenager til the end of the story. (Well, as normal as normal can be in a town that just accepts, without question, that a dead prom queen suddenly is undead!) I am anxious to see how her character grows in the next book. And I absolutely LOVED how common household pests played such an important role! Don't think I've ever seen that in a book.

There is no graphic violence and no sex in this book, and that makes it an appropriate read for any age teen. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a great, creepy read!
Profile Image for Valencia Lee.
26 reviews5 followers
January 19, 2015
Leigh, a 15 year old high school student is dealing with the recent death of her mother and she is doing her best to cope. What amazes me about this novel is that it really goes into interesting details about how a teenager rise to cope with the death of a parent. Leigh being the heroin of this story, is strong, self assured and will do whatever it takes to keep her mother from coming back from the dead like the recently departed, yet reawakened Prom Queen that everyone in her school was mooring as well. WHOA……..talk about the walking dead. Anyway who wouldn't be freaked out by that and would want to make sure that a recent family member stayed buried.

However Leigh has a best friend named Jo , the relationship between then two of them is humorous, loving and even sad at times as they interact during the book. Leigh, like a normal teenager is mourning her mother the best way she knows how and finds some solace in her best friends older brother Callum (Cal) who is being really nice to her. After finding out that the HS Prom Queen has somehow come back from the dead, Leigh heads to her mothers cemetery with a few her her mothers possessions to bury in her grave to make sure she stays there. In the midst of burying her mothers possessions, Leigh has an encounter with a cute boy named Tram who tries to warn her against doing such a thing, but Leigh does it anyway.

Ugh!!!!! I'm so trying not to give spoilers and its so hard…….however. Leigh and her entourage tries to figure out why the dead are coming back to life and why all of these strange things are happening in Krapper. Leigh has to battle paranormal entities whom are after not only herself, but her family and friends as well.

Who would have known that death can really come back to haunt you? This was a really interesting book to read as I loved the twists and turns that the author took in the plot. The heroin, Leigh was very strong and could hold her own and there was a little love triangle going on in the background of the book, which actually is typical high school issues. The characters are believable and interesting to read as well as the plot was a very much unique as this was a different type of paranormal book for me. However I overall enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others to read especially if you like books were there are walking dead and other supernatural beings. Overall it was a great debut novel and I'm actually looking forward to reading a sequel to this as the ending sort of hinted at the possibility of another book.
Profile Image for Jackie.
Author 20 books473 followers
October 27, 2013
We first meet Leigh at her mom’s gravesite on the day of her funeral. This is a day that will change Leigh’s life forever and it’s not just because her mom has died. While standing at the gravesite she sees a girl who was dead a couple of weeks ago walk toward her in a horrific look of dirt, mud and gore. Leigh hurries back to her family only to return later to bury some of her mom’s favorite items so that she will stay in the ground. While trying to bury the items at her mom’s grave a strange boy comes along telling her not to do that. That she should never offer gifts to the dead. Leigh ignores the “Scary boy” as she comes to call him and does exactly what she wants. Though Leigh continues to do what she likes strange things begin to happen starting with visits from the undead girl from school and culminating with a spider infestation in her house. At first Leigh doesn’t know how this all connected to her or why this is happening but she soon discovers that she must make some decisions that will save those she loves but possibly hurt the world.

This was a wonderful book. It was a fast paced easy read. It keeps you turning the pages to see what will happen next. I loved Leigh’s character. I thought she had just the right amount of teenage angst with a touch of responsibility that is thrust upon teenagers going through what Leigh has been through. I also loved the love triangle. It’s still a bit unresolved but I do find that this plotline allows for more in the series to come. The supporting characters of Cal, Jo and Tram are wonderful additions. They ad depth to the story without slowing things down. Jo is the best friend for Leigh. She adds just enough quirkiness along with an emotional attachment that Leigh’s character needs. It’s not just the characters though that makes this story great. It’s the paranormal world that Lindsey R. Loucks has created. The story with the sorceresses and the Trammelers was unique and something I have never come across before. I am quite excited to see where this series goes. It has a lot of potential and a wonderful start with this first book, The Grave Winner.

Profile Image for Rorie.
60 reviews1 follower
September 4, 2013
I received a free copy of this book for an honest review.

The Grave Winner is a YA paranormal story and a lot is going on in the book. Leigh, our heroine, has just lost her mom and at the funeral witnesses the resurrection of the suicidal prom queen/cheerleader. This leads to a lot of questions and concerns about her mother being raised as well. In her efforts to keep mom resting in peace, she comes across Tram. He is a a warrior against dark magic trying to save the world. Leigh has unwittingly garnered the attention of the dark sorcerers. Throughout the book, Leigh is unraveling the causes of the dark magic, trying to save her family and friends, while not dying herself. We get some good character development of Leigh, but the rest are a bit flat. We now them mostly through Leigh's interactions, but we really don't know much about her family. There are insights and nice details about the difference between her family and her friend Jo's that provide depth. I wished that the pieces connected a bit more. The finale is a big one, but its unclear how the puzzle came together. Leigh is frustrating throughout the book because there are really obvious clues to some of the happenings and she simply misses the boat.

I am generally to a YA advocate as these stories always seem to me to be it light on to and character, but this is one of the better ones I have come across. It's still a little rough around the edges. How does dead Sarah know the answers she does? Why would Leigh not think that a massive spider infestation might be related to all the dark magic around her? And when her friend gets sick, it takes far too long to put the pieces together there as well. Finally, the minor bits of romance between Leigh and Callum and Leigh and Tram are really not very essential except that perhaps it motivates Tram. Still, it's clear that he is not to be involved and the punishment is quite severe. How does the Counselor expect him to fight the good fight if he keeps beating him up. That part was really strange.
Profile Image for chucklesthescot.
2,905 reviews121 followers
June 26, 2013
* I received a free copy of this book from the author through Goodreads in return for an honest review*

Leigh is mourning the death of her beloved mother as her family tries not to fall apart. When a suicide victim buried nearby comes back from the grave in a grotesque form, Leigh panics that her mother might rise again and decides to bury a few favourite things to keep her in the grave, unaware that she has just started a chain of events that will put everyone she loves at risk.

There were plenty of good things about the book. The writing style was smooth and easy to follow, it wasn't over-descriptive and a decent amount of character development took place. I think the balance was pretty much spot on. Plot wise, it was a nice change to have the story as someone trying not to raise a dead loved one. I liked the story itself and the paranormal elements were nicely woven through the story. It was a bit slow to get into but the second half of the book moves along at a good pace as it reaches its conclusion.

The one thing that did annoy me a bit was the love triangle. Callum was a total jerk and he bugged me every time he messed Leigh about, blaming her for everything he does wrong, and having a go at her about stupid things when the girl is facing death and the end of the world. What is wrong with this idiot? As for Leigh, well put it this way, if I thought my mum was about to come back as a zombie, scary monsters were chasing me, and the end of the world was coming, the last thing on my mind would be which guy I like more! However, as annoying as it was, this is a YA book aimed at the Twilight market so love triangles and teenage hormones are part of that package and most of the target audience probably loved it, so I can hardly blame the author for appealing to her target readers!

Callum aside, I did enjoy reading the book and it will be interesting to see how the story develops in the next book.
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