Book Haul: Friday the 13th

Yesterday I braved the ominous weather and raided the local library’s book sale.  I went from amassing two hundred books and DVDs then downsized to about forty-four items.  My wallet is sad and deflated but my library is overflowing, so it was a good decision.

Here are the DVDs.

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Boy Meets Girl, Girl Murders People

Following my discovery of Young Adult novels back in 2010, I spent the next couple of years reading and rereading Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series and whatever Holly Black and Rachel Caine book I could get my hands on.  I recall having just finished a book about a fae disguised as a human when the spine of Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood whispered to me.  Despite not being remotely about fae or vampires, I let the creepy and blood-dripping girl on the cover lure me in.  A four year dalliance had begun!

After his father’s gruesome murder a decade earlier, Cas Lowood has taken up his father’s job: killing the dead.  Armed with his father’s mysterious athame, Cas travels around the country with his kitchen’witch mother and spirit-sniffing cat.  They follow legends and local lore and destroy the murderous dead, all the while keeping pesky things like the future and friends at an arm’s length.  Catching wind of a ghost, Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects to track it down, hunt, and kill it.  So the usual.  What he discovers, however, is a girl buried in curses and rage.  She’s a ghost he’s never faced before.Wrapped in a blood-soaked dress that she wore on the day of her murder in 1958, Anna has killed everyone who has had the misfortune to step into her crumbling Victorian house.

Yet she spares Cas’s life.

Unfortunately, my sanity while waiting to read the second book wasn’t.  Nevertheless, Anna Dressed in Blood and it’s sequel, Girl of Nightmares, was packed to the brim with sarcasm, wit, and epic ghost versus human battles.  From the violent beginning to the heart-wrenching end my heart was in my throat.  And the chills…  I’m still looking over my shoulder whenever I feel something running down my spine.

I rate the Anna duology a four out of five stars.

Lada the Impaler

After spending nearly two weeks avoiding getting my heart burnt by yet another literary love dawdling, I got my act together and finished Kiersten White’s And I Darken.  It wasn’t until I was four chapters into it’s sequel, Now I Rise, that I realized that it would be a good time to write a review.  Because nothing says fun like gathering your thoughts and emotions in order to write a non-spoiler-y review of four hundred eighty-four pages that just about murdered you.

Abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada and her brother Radu are pawns in a vicious game of politics and life.  Lada has always known that being ruthless is the key to survival while Radu longs for a place to feel safe.  Fighting to stay alive, Lada bides her time, plotting vengeance for the day she will return to her homeland, Wallachia, and claim her birthright.  Enter Mehmed: the defiant, lonely, and future sultan looking for a friend.  As the three of them grow closer and the years tick by, a dangerous and toxic triangle forms between them, straining under the pressures of war, politics, and deceit.

From the nerve-wracking build up to the constant worry that one of them was going to die, And I Darken reminded me of Game of Thrones, only with teens.  I cried and shrieked so many times watching the trio develop into the unique and driven bad asses they are, and I’m holding my breath with anticipation whilst devouring the sequel.

I’ve finished Now I Darken.  Whoa.  I’m still in shock.

I rate both books five out of five bleeding stars.

The Unofficial Grand Orchestra

Since I started reading manga steadily in 2012, I’ve discovered so many unique story lines and wonderful, warped, and wonderfully warped characters.  I’ve reread Kaori Yuki’s Grand Guignol Orchestra series four times since then, so I thought it was about time to write a review of the five-volume series.

Heading up the unofficial Grand Orchestra, Lucille and his companions Kohaku and Gwindel travel from town to town, entertaining the masses, making money, and facing their toughest audience.  Guignols, people infected with a deadly virus that turns them into zombie dolls, ravage the world.  Intent to stop the guignols before they destroy humanity, the Grand Orchestra roves the countryside, killing guignols as they go.  Unbeknownst to most of them, the town that they’re about to enter is full of secrets.  Deadly, tragic secrets.

I was thoroughly disturbed the first time I read Grand Guignol Orchestra but as I reread them over the years, I saw how horribly twisted and painfully human the characters were.  The series was definitely one you’d have to read a second time to fully understand because there were so many intricacies that would be difficult to appreciate the first time around.  Filled with more heartache and creepiness than I bargained for, Kaori Yuki has managed to pick my emotions apart in five volumes.  The short story at the end of the fifth volume had me biting my nails and reading through my fingers.

I rate the series as a whole four out of five stars.

Welcome to the Circus

Slice and dice,

We’re playing Tic-Tac-Toe on your skin.

Flip the knife and flash that smile,

And pray to God you don’t miss the apple on my head.

The lion growls and the crowd gasps

As he sticks his head in between the beast’s jaws.

Spinning, dancing, and soaring through the air,

Our eyes meet as I catch you.

Dark and handsome,

He sticks a sword down his throat.

Tiny the Elephant toots his horn

And balances on the ball.

“Freaks!” the ringmaster shouts in the din.  “Come see the freaks!”

Elsie the Two-Headed Telepath takes center stage

With Oscar the Albino and Jenny the Bearded Woman by her side.

They may be official

But we’re all weirdos here.

Welcome to the circus.

Copyright © 2017 by Nita Pan

All rights reserved. This post or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a review.

 

Welcome to Chi-Town!

Despite the threat of a horrid downpour, my mother and I defied the weather and went to Chicago.  The train ride there was relaxing and nap-inducing.  The countryside changed into urban, and fellow passengers filled the nearly empty train as we approached our destination.  Once we got off at Millennium Station, we got a little lost in the station.  Finally, we emerged from the darkened train station and into the sunlight, the loud, bustling city greeted me.  Cars, buses, and taxis stopped and started, horns blaring.  People from all over scampered to and fro and the scent of food, gasoline, and asphalt filled my nose.  I hadn’t properly been in the city in a decade and there was so much to take in.  So much potential.  So many people.  So much life.

Our first stop was the American Writers Museum.  It was only a few minutes away from the station, so it wasn’t long until we went up a snazzy elevator and went about exploring it.  The first exhibit was a kids’ room, it had a few neat exhibits of children’s authors.  After that, it opened up to a huge room filled with dozens of pictures of American authors.  There was a timeline from the time of Christopher Columbus to the 1980s, and, throughout the timeline, there were the authors under it.  With each author there was several paragraphs about their lives and their works.  On the second wall, there were panels with information of influential works in American history and who they were by.  There was a green room and a ‘reader’s room’ which talked about early magazines, comics, and bookstores.  Off of the reader’s room was a section where you could write the start of a story on a typewriter and someone else would continue it.  Further in that room was several activities where you could come up with a story with randomized words, learn about important pieces of literature and why they matter, and an area that introduced several native Chicago writers.  My mom and I raided their free bookmark area in the gift shop and got a couple postcards and magnets.

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On the way to our second stop, we passed a Nutella-themed restaurant, crossed a street in a pack (that’s a big thing for someone raised in a small town), and ended up eating lunch at Giordano’s.  We both got the Individual 6″ Pepperoni Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza (from the Lunch Pronto section) with a salad and a drink.  It.  Was.  Extraordinary.  Even though what we ordered was premade, the dough light, sauce and pepperoni balanced, and the cheese oh so gooey.  I fully recommend going to Giordano’s if you haven’t gone before.  I can’t look at pizza the same again.  It spoiled me.

At the second stop, After-Words New and Used Books, we browsed through the two air conditioned, well-kept floors.  The staff was accommodating and the books were in good shape, but I wasn’t able to decide what to get and I needed to use the bathroom, so we ended up getting a lone postcard.

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All in all, I had an amazing day.  I’m still in shock that I haven’t gone sooner and that we actually went.  If you’re in the area or are on vacation, plan a visit to Chicago, Illinois.  The sights, the foods.  The atmosphere was busy and rejuvenating.  I doubt that it’s for everyone but I adored it.  Not only did I get a ton of story ideas but I saw several lookalikes for my book characters and a couple celebrities doppelgangers.  The Windy City has certainly earned a place in my heart, and I’m hoping to be able to go back and make a weekend of it in the foreseeable future.

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Quarterly Writing Goals: July, August, and September 2017

Three months ago, I came up with a list of goals for the second quarter of the year.  They were to update this blog regularly, finish planning the second book in my 5-book series, finish typing the first book, to finish a short story I’ve been working on for ages, and to keep reading.  I finished planning the book and kept reading, but I didn’t finish typing the first book or the short story.  But I did complete a different short story and have gotten a bit through two others.

My goals for July through September are to:

  • update this blog regularly
  • continue writing the second book in the series and possibly finish it
  • finish typing the first book
  • finish the short story once and for all
  • keep reading (I have 58 out of 100 books read)

I’m hoping to continue to write book reviews and get back into poetry.  I might share a few short stories I’ve written, so keep an eye out.  I hope you all have a safe and relaxing weekend.  See you next week!