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.

Abigail William’s Revenge

561945cede85d098247b1725e7760384

History has always been my favorite subject in school.  No matter what we did in class, whether a test, essay or presentation, I enjoyed it.  That being said, the time when the pilgrims and settlers came to America and the early days of my country is one of my lesser favorites.  Why?  Because I’ve read about it so many times.  But there was something about the witch trials that has left an unspoken mark of horror on me.  My morbid fascination with it has left me restless for many a night.  It took awhile to convince myself, but, after five years, I finally read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

First produced in 1953, The Crucible explores what happens when a vengeful teenager accuses a rival of witchcraft in a 1692 Salem, Massachusetts.  As mass hysteria grips the community, these accusations multiply and consume the entire village.

Suspenseful and emotional, this gripping play of how quickly a pious community can become collectively evil, The Crucible is dark, terrifying, and an influential look at what we, the human race, could become again.  I rate this four out of five burning stars.

The Roanoke Girls

61urw0uad1l-_sx329_bo1204203200_

Unlike most books that I pick up, I got it after seeing the cover.  Usually, I ignore the cover and decide whether or not to get the book after reading the summary, but I had a feeling about Amy Engel’s The Roanoke Girls.  It probably helped that, at the time I checked out the Roanoke Girls, I had just finished Rooms, and this book echoed a similar creepiness.  Whatever the case may be, I didn’t regret my impulsiveness.

Following her mother’s suicide, fifteen-year-old Lane Roanoke moves in with her grandparents and cousin on their massive estate in Kansas.  knowing little of her mother’s family, Lane embraces her new life…  until she discovers the family’s darkest secret.  Eleven years later, Lane gets a call in her current home in Los Angeles from her grandfather: her cousin, Allegra, is missing.  Feeling guilty for leaving her behind, Lane returns and helps look for Allegra.

Weaving effortlessly between Lane’s first summer and her return to Roanoke, Amy Engel spins a tale of destructive relationships, gentle manipulation, and how twisted love can be.  Set in a town frozen in time, secrets are guarded viciously and family life is a game of whether or not your wits are intact.  Dark, terrible, and fierce, The Roanoke Girls will haunt you long after you’ve put it down.  I give this gorgeous wisp of a nightmare four out of five stars.

Heeere’s Wilson!

28226839

Once I read the description, any inhibitions I had to wait and read the other books on my shelf were thrown away.  Sorry The Crucible.  Sorry The Roanoke Girls.  Sorry my monthly dose of Poe.  Domino, Cain, and Wilson called my name.

Surviving in the gritty streets of Detroit, Domino and her friend live off of their wits.  But when disaster strikes and Madam Karina, a mysterious woman with secrets of her own, offers Domino a position at her girls’ home, Domino has no alternative and accepts.  It doesn’t take her long before she’s fighting her way up the ranks to gain Madam Karina’s approval and becomes the target or brutal bullying.  Along with the help of her new friends, Cain and Poppet, she discovers the madam’s terrible secrets.  Soon Domino realizes that she needs to escape, but how can she do that when the madam hates losing inventory?

Fast-paced and twisted, Victoria Scott delivers a snappy and whip-smart narrator.  The story hardly slows down and the grisly secrets of Madam Karina’s Home for Burgeoning Entertainers come to light in the most chill-inducing ways possible.  I felt like I was in an action/psychological thriller.  Domino was the best narrator for Violet Grenade; she captured the horror of her situation and added needed humor and the right amount of sarcasm.

Like the last two books I’ve read, I rate this five out of five stars.

Quoth the Raven…

51ttkxr78vl-_ac_ul320_sr214320_

This was one of those books where I saw the cover and cringed.  With a moody boy all in black holding onto a blonde bathed in pink, I had to fight my better judgement to read the description.  I was intrigued but unwilling to start a new trilogy.  It wasn’t until one of my favorite people, Leah, posted a promising character rant that I decided to give it a go.  After all, it was Poe-inspired.  How bad could it be?

Answer: very agonizing for my poor little heart.

Isobel Lanley and Varen Nethers couldn’t be more different.  Cheerleader and goth.  Popular and aloof.  If they hadn’t been paired for an English project, they more than likely wouldn’t have crossed paths.  They both made it clear to each other that neither of them wanted to have anything to do with the other.  But, after finding strange and grim writings and drawings in his journal, Isobel sought out different ways different ways to be with him.  Much to the frustration of her family, friends, and overly possessive boyfriend, Isobel got deeper and deeper into a dream world Varen created through the pages of his journal.  A place where Edgar Allan Poe’s stories are alive.

Filled with dangers both mundane and fantastical, Nevermore is a spine-tingling nightmarish thrill ride.  One minute I’d be basking in an adorably sexy moment and the next I’d be biting my nails, begging the characters to run and never look back.  they say not to judge a book by its cover, and I’m glad I gave it another chance.

I rate this five out of five stars.

Down, Down in the Underground

24763621

Holding promises of magic, music, and a fairy tale atmosphere, I knew that from the moment I saw S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong it would be love.  For once, I didn’t wait eons to bring it home.  I stared at it, smelled the pages, and began consuming it.

Ever since she was a child, Liesl heard stories of the Goblin King.  Inspired by them, she began musical compositions.  But now she’s eighteen and stuck running the family inn, and so her musical dreams are slipping away.  then, in the blink of an eye, her sister is kidnapped by the man who has haunted her as long as she can remember.  Liesl has no choice but to rescue her sibling.

With the seductive darkness of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and an aching beauty all of its own, Wintersong had me in tears and frustrated.  Not tears of frustration, but tears for a delectable spine-tingling agony.  S. Jae-Jones has spun an original masterpiece that delivered a dark fantasy wrapped romance dipped in mythology so alluring that even my cold heart swooned and shattered.  My review doesn’t do it justice.  The best way I can describe it is as beautiful ache.  Like (unrequited) love at its most painful.  I wanted to keep reading it over and over for the first time.

I bestow upon this first of a duet five out of five glimmering stars.

A Separate Peace

5148

About a month ago, I bumped into my cousin at the library.  We got to talking and I confessed that I needed something good to read but I seemed to be picking similar books.  After spending a good twenty minutes rifling through bookshelf after bookshelf, we finally decided on A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

Even though they are the best of friends, Gene and Phineas are vastly different.  Gene is introverted and an intellectual, and Phineas is an exuberant athlete.  Nestled in a New England boarding school, they spend the summer playing games, having adventures, and breaking the rules, all the while World War II looms far off.  But when one of them gets in a terrible accident and several of their friends enlist, the war becomes much more real and hits too close to home.

John Knowles tells a story of innocence lost and the friendship of two boys and how it’s tested.  The characters were wonderful and frustratingly human. and the line between truth and lies becomes increasingly blurred.  All in all, A Separate Peace was a quick, painful read, and I rate it four out of five stars.