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 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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Abigail William’s Revenge

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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

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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.