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.

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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.

Heeere’s Wilson!

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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…

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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

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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.

Evil Grandmas, SATs, and Other Things I’m Iffy About

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When my mom brought home Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie, I immediately thought, chick lit!  and I back peddled.  Not that there’s anything wrong with chick lit; it’s just not my usual cup of tea.  But, after reading the jacket and first page, I decided to give it a chance.  After all, don’t they say not to judge a book by it’s cover?

Lily Bennett has been having nightmares.  She wakes up in a cold sweat, clutching the bloodstain-shaped birthmark.  She’s had the nightmare, the same nightmare, for years, but since she and her mother moved to Fredericksburg, it has been much more frequently.  Soon after classes begin, she meets Cole Drepeau, a handsome, charismatic classmate who seems eerily familiar.  As they quickly become close, Lily discovers a murder that divided the town in 1985, over thirty years previous.

Told in alternating voices, Victoria Laurie tells a story of two girls living a generation apart and decades of family secrets, treachery, and young love.  All in all, it was a good story.  Probably someone who is more of a fan of romantic Young Adult novels would like this better than I did.  The story seemed to deteriorate halfway, and the suspense wasn’t quite as  gripping the last third of the novel.  Because of this, I’m giving it a three star rating.  I would’ve given it a two star but I happened to enjoy the first half, so I added a star.

Pass the Scalpel, Please.

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You better watch out,

You better hide.

You better run.

I’m telling you why,

Jack the Ripper is coming to town!

As you can tell from that little ditty I came up with above, I’m obsessed with Jack the Ripper.  Well, not just him.  I’m a big fan of unsolved crimes and the more sinister parts of history.  So, it’s safe to say that when I stumbled upon Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper on Goodreads, I was ecstatic.  Not only had one of my favorite authors, A.G. Howard, enjoyed it, but it had received a shower of positive tweets and reviews.  After devouring this gem, I’ve come to the conclusion that the praise was not undeserved.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth is not a person to be trifled with.  Determined to be both strong and elegant, she struggles to stand by her refreshingly modern ideals in an era where most wanted women to keep their mouth shut.  Secretly apprenticed to her uncle in forensics, she and her fellow apprentice, Thomas Cresswell, combine their sharp wit and observational skills to uncover the identity of the infamous Jack the Ripper.  Flirtatious banter are shared between the Audrey Rose and Thomas, not only in dark alleyways but over cold corpses, scalpels in hand.

But there is more to this case than meets-the-eye and romance is far from the only thing on their minds.  All the clues are pointing to someone close to Audrey Rose.  If only she can discover who the killer is before she becomes the next victim.

I am beyond pleased that this was the start of my 2017 reading challenge.  It was a clever romp in the gritty streets of a Gothic and gory Victorian England.  I can’t wait to read more of Ms. Maniscalco’s books.  I rate this five out of five stars.