Anna Dressed In Blood (Review)

9378297Title: Anna Dressed In Blood
Author:  Kendare Blake
Genre:  Urban Fantasy, YA, Horror
Publisher:  Tor Teen
Release Date:  August, 2011
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages:  316

Date Finished:  , 2014
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas’s life. 

I have been trying to find something to satisfy my craving for creepiness this Halloween.  I totally struck out with my first two choices.  Since I have seen this book suggested time and time again as a good ghost story, I decided I’d give it a shot.  I’m so glad I did!

My Review

Let me set the record straight…this book was not scary.  It didn’t creep me out in the slightest; however, it was rather gruesome in a few spots.  But, to tell you the truth, it really didn’t matter that it wasn’t scary.  It was a really good story.  I’m willing to sacrifice creepiness for good story spinning any day of the week!

Blake created some fun and memorable characters.  Cas, the hero of the tale, is a bit of a loner.  But, you would be too if you’d spent most of your life moving around the country, hunting ghosts, and killing them.  It’s not exactly the type of job where you can make a lot of friends.  Despite his best efforts to remain aloof, he finds some great companions (and eventually friends) in Carmel and Thomas.  Carmel appears to be the typically beautiful cheerleader type, but Cas soon discovers she has a good head on her shoulders and she is not easily flustered.  Thomas is the geeky outcast who has a penchant for the supernatural.  They end up being a rather motley crew of supernatural investigators.  Thinking he is going to just run in and kill Anna Dressed In Blood, Cas is thrown for a loop.  Anna is not your typical ghost; therefore, Cas ends up needing all the help he can get.

The story had a really easy flow to it.  I love a book that doesn’t make me go back and re-read sentences in an effort to figure out what the heck the author means.  I love a good turn of phrase as much as any reader, but come on.  If the story doesn’t lend itself to flowery prose, don’t use it!  Ok, I digress.  Blake’s writing style didn’t aggravate me in the slightest.

The plot was put together well.  There were no major gaps that I noticed.  Best of all, there were no crazy, artsy-fartsy twists at the end to make me hate it.

Wrap-Up

Thank you, Kendare Blake, for writing a good ghost story that had good characters, a good plot and good writing!  I have found out this Halloween how hard that is to come by.  This is a YA book, but it didn’t come across as childish.  I don’t remember rolling my eyes a single time!  It is a solid 4 stars.  I hope you will give it a shot!

Advertisements

Nyctophobia (Review)

21412133Title: Nyctophobia
Author:  Christopher Fowler
Genre:  Fantasy; Urban Fantasy; Horror

Publisher:  Solaris
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages:  320

Date Finished:  September 29, 2014
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

There are two things you need to know about haunted houses. One, there’s never been an actual authenticated haunted house. Two, it’s not the house that’s haunted, but the person.

Callie is a young architectural student who marries Mateo, a wine importer, and moves to a grand old house in Southern Spain. Hyperion House is flooded with light, it also has a mute gardener, a sinister housekeeper and a sealed, dark servants’ quarters that nobody has the keys for. And although initially happy, and taking care of Mateo’s daughter, Callie can’t help being drawn to the dark empty rooms at the back of the house, and becomes convinced that someone is living in there.

Uncovering the house’s history, she discovers the shocking truth. As Callie’s fear of the darkness returns, she comes to understand the true nature of evil.

My Review

In my search for a really creepy Halloween read, I came across Nyctophobia. I was positive this book was going to scratch my itch for creepiness. What better way to satisfy my spine tingling need than a haunted house and nyctophobia (fear of the dark)?

The first half of the book was pretty good. The lead up was a bit slow, but I understand the author has to build the back story. Then as our heroine begins exploring the back rooms of the house and strange things begin to happen, the creepiness definitely kicked into overdrive. I read this on vacation and was so glad I wasn’t in my own house, because it really would’ve creeped me out!

Then, poof! At about 60% everything just fell apart. The book made a 180 and lost its creepiness all together. Then, there was a really strange twist at the end that was just ridiculous. I think it was meant to be really smart and shocking, but it came off as silly. I was so disappointed.

Wrap-Up

I walked away from this book saying the same thing I say after most horror films…“that was stupid.” I need good characters, a good plot, and good twists that are at least somewhat plausible. This one just missed the mark. Maybe I just didn’t get it. Maybe I’m not smart enough to have picked up the deeper meaning. For some reason, I don’t think that’s it.

So, I have given it 3 stars because the middle of the book was really good.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Solaris, and Christopher Fowler for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches #1 (Review)

20821288Title: Maplecroft (The Borden Dispatches #1)
Author:  Cherie Priest
Genre:  Fantasy; Urban Fantasy; Horror

Publisher: Roc Trade
Release Date:  September 2, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages:  448

Date Finished:  September 26, 2014
3.5 Starts

Goodreads Description

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.

My Review

Hmmmm…I don’t know exactly what to say about this book.  It had its ups and downs.  It ended up with a very middle of the road rating.  I neither loved nor hated it.

Lizzie Borden has always fascinated me.  The story is horrific, and even though everyone assumes Lizzie Borden killed her parents, she was never convicted of the murders.  With that being said, I was naturally drawn to the book.  I liked the concept of a supernatural twist.  What if there was a terrible scourge that turned Lizzie’s parents into something horrible and she HAD to kill them?  Well…that is exactly what happened in this twist.  Now, this is where things fell apart.  It was a great concept, but the delivery was mediocre.

I liked the characters.  I thought Lizzie and Emma were very realistic.  They kept to themselves, basically sequestered from society because of the stigma of the murders.  They relied heavily on each other.  Lizzie and Emma had seen first hand what happened to their parents as they turned into something other than human, and they leaned on each other for support.  Both of them were mentally tough, and they pushed societal boundaries, which I really liked.  Usually good characters are enough to keep me tied to a story.  Unfortunately, that was not the case with this one.

The story got bogged down in several spots.  There was a lot going on in this book, and the plot lines seemed very haphazard at times.  If the author had been more concise with the plot lines and shortened the book, I think it would have been better.  I was really ready for the book to be done when I hit the 75% mark.  The end of the book also really bothered me.  There were no answers.  I like answers.  I really like answers when you are dealing with a completely new type of “monster” the author dreamed up.  I wanted some type of origin story.  I didn’t get it.

Wrap-Up

I was left feeling pretty ho-hum about this book.  It had a dark, creepy quality, and it had a couple of shock-value moments, but overall, it left me feeling flat.  3 1/2 stars was all I could muster for this one.

The Winter People ((5 Stars))

The Winter PeopleTitle: The Winter People
Author:  Jennifer McMahon
Genre:  Fiction

Publisher:  Doubleday Books
Release Date:  February 11, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  ARC from Netgalley.com
Pages:  336

Date Finished:  1/27/14
5 Stars

Goodreads Description

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

My Review

It is not very often that I give a 5 Star review.  Even most of my favorites will only get 4.5.  Not to be a Negative Nancy, but I can usually find something in a book that irritates me.  The Winter People earned every single star of this 5 Star Review!!

Let me start with the characters.  McMahon made every character in this book interesting.  Usually each chapter covered a different character and, not once, did I find myself rushing through one section to get to the next, more exciting, chapter.  I really wanted to know what was happening in each storyline.  As you can tell from the synopsis, part of the book is set in 1908 and part in present time.  I have read a lot of books where this can become quite burdensome and/or tiresome.  McMahon gave each time period its own distinct voice, and all of it kept the plot moving forward.

The mystery aspect was fabulous!  There is a mystery going on in both time periods.  I really liked how McMahon kept the mystery intact in both sections up to the very end.  In a lot of books, the reader is made aware of what happened in the past to feed the present day story.  McMahon avoided this scenario, leaving the reader to figure out what was happening in both.  It leaves you with that “edge of your seat” feeling through most of the book.

The paranormal aspects were not overdone.  McMahon had the opportunity to really go overboard, but she refrained.  It was just the right amount of paranormal and horror.  The way McMahon handled it made the scenarios believable.  It had the perfect balance of creepy and mystery.  There was one chapter I knew was going to start with one of the creepier storylines, and I could not bring myself to read it right before bed.  I had to put the book down and start again the next morning in the daylight!

Wrap-Up

The Winter People has great characters, a wonderful plot, enough mystery to keep you guessing until the very end, and enough thrills and chills to make you sleep with a nightlight.  I cannot say enough good things about this book.  It releases today.  Go get a copy!  You’ll love it!!

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley.com, Doubleday Books and Jennifer McMahon for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Vanishing: A Review

The VanishingTitle: The Vanishing
Author:  Wendy Webb
Genre:  Mystery, Fantasy (Paranormal), Horror

Publisher:  Hyperion
Release Date:  January 27, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  ARC from Netgalley.com
Pages:  304

Date Finished:  12/28/13
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description
Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired…and who the world believes is dead.

When she arrives at the Sinclairs’ enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her “too-good-to-be-true” position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls.

Review

This was one of the best books I have read in a while!  It reminded me a lot of the great old-school, gothic ghost stories.  A creepy old house, a creepy cast of characters who might or might not be what they seem, and a creepy plot with a female character who is trapped by her circumstances.  Oh, and did I mention ghosts?  This isn’t one of those books that tempt you with the allure of ghosts, but doesn’t deliver.  This one has real ghosts!  I found The Vanishing unexpectedly refreshing!

This book was full of likeable characters.  Julia was curious enough to keep you hooked on the story.  She was a bit gullible, but I couldn’t help but like her.  Amaris Sinclair was absolutely fascinating.  She was the supposedly dead gothic writer who has simply gone into hiding.  You want to know what happened to make her turn into a recluse at the height of her career.  Then, there is Andrew McCullough.  Whew!  Drew is a Scottish hottie who works as the stable manager/vet and may or may not be the original builder of the house from the 1880’s.

There are a lot of twists and turns throughout the book.  Just when you think you have things figured out, you realize you don’t.  Even the epilogue leaves you with a possible twist.

Drawbacks

Of course, there are always a couple of drawbacks regardless of how good a book is…

  • You really have to suspend your sense of reality in this one.  Julia makes some choices that no sane woman would make.  She chooses to overlook a lot of very strange occurrences, and she is way too trusting of these people she barely knows.  Of course, that is the way of most ghost stories.  Most people would never go to live with people they didn’t know.  Also, most sane people would run away at the first sign of a ghost, but ghost stories require a character who is willing to brave it all.  That is our fair Julia.
  • This book encompassed every trick of the trade from old-school ghost stories.  But Wendy Webb, the author, said, “I’m not trying to define a generation, or change the way you think about the world or your place in it. I just want to craft a good story that will delight you…and send some shivers up your spine along the way.”  Webb definitely succeeded in her mission.  Even using the same old trappings, Webb made it a very enjoyable read.
  • Julia has her first ghost encounter within the first couple of days in the house.  I wish that aspect of the story had been drawn out a bit more.  I think it would have heightened the creep factor exponentially.

Wrap-Up

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely!!  I’m giving it 4.5 stars.  I held back that 1/2 star only because some of Julia’s decisions were so incredibly unbelievable.  I hope you will read this one.  It was so much fun!

Special Thanks…

I’d like to thank Netgalley.com, Hyperion and Wendy Webb for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Born in Blood: Pre-Release Review

Title: Born in Blood
Author:  Alexandra Ivy
Genre:  Paranormal Romance, Action

Publisher:  Kensington Books/Zebra
Release Date:  December 31, 2013
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  ARC from Netgalley.com
Pages:  400

Date Finished:  12/5/13
4 Stars

Goodreads Description
Sergeant Duncan O’Conner has seen it all before. A beautiful erotic dancer is found murdered in her home—no suspect, no motive. But there’s one clue: she’s missing her heart. It’s enough to make the hard-bitten Kansas City cop enlist the help of a necro—one of the dead-channeling freaks who live in the domed city of nearby Valhalla. It’s a long shot, but desperate crimes call for desperate measures.

Unlike the other “high-bloods” in Valhalla, Callie Brown considers her abilities a gift, not a curse. But when she reads the dancer’s final thoughts, she senses a powerful presence blocking her vision. This is no ordinary homicide. This is the work of a legendary necromancer who controls souls. A ravenous force that will put Callie’s skills to the test, O’Conner’s career at risk, and both their hearts on the line…literally.

Back-Story

Sergeant Duncan O’Conner is recently divorced, emotionally stunted and a really good cop.  Callie Brown is a “high-blood” necromancer who sometimes consults with the police when cases are outside the norm.  They live in a world that has discovered there are a lot of “high-bloods” who range from necromancers to psychics to witches.  After the world’s discovery of these folks, they of course relegated them to Valhalla (think X-Men meets Indian Reservations).  They have their own domed city, their own laws, their own law enforcement, etc.

The story opens with O’Conner at the scene of a woman’s death.  There is no apparent cause of death other than her heart is completely gone even though she doesn’t have a mark on her.  It’s obvious this case falls into the freak category so O’Conner calls in Callie Brown for a consult.  When Callie arrives with her ever-present Sentinel (body-guard) she gets to work.  If you have ever read any other books involving necromancers, you will know they usually have the ability to raise the dead.  In Born in Blood, this is not the case.  Necromancers only have the ability to enter the dead person’s mind and see the last few minutes of their lives.  You can understand why this would be helpful to the police investigating the case.  While Callie is poking around in the dead girl’s last thoughts, she realizes there is someone else in there with her.  He is powerful, he is scary and he knows Callie’s name.

Needless to say, it just gets weirder from there.  O’Conner and Callie must work together to save the world.

Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It was fast-paced and high-energy.  The beginning was a little slower than the end, but overall it was a really fun read.  O’Conner was a hottie with attitude, but a good heart.  Callie was somewhat fragile, but strong when it counted.  She was unsure of herself at times which made her more real and likeable.  O’Conner and Callie had definite chemistry which both of them wanted to explore, but they were aware they were from different worlds which would make a relationship difficult.  (Nod to Romeo & Juliet)  Once they decided to go for it, there were some seriously steamy scenes.  This book has a little of every genre in it…romance, crime, action, mystery, thriller, paranormal and horror.  So, if you’re like me and you like a lot of different genres, you will probably like this book. It has something for everyone.

The bad guys were really bad and the good guys were really good, so this always has a tendency to make things a little predictable.  I personally like a little more inner turmoil in my characters.  Other than that, I can’t really say anything bad about this book.

Release Date:  Born in Blood is officially being released on December 31st!  Pick it up and make it your first read of the new year.  Happy reading!!

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley.com, Kensington Books/Zebra and Alexandra Ivy for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Heavens Rise (ARC Review)

Heavens RiseTitle:  The Heavens Rise
Author:   Christopher Rice
Genre:  Horror, Paranormal

Publisher:  Gallery Books
Release Date:  October 15, 2013
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  ARC from Netgalley.com
Pages:  336

Read Dates:  Oct. 29-31, 2013
4 Stars

Goodreads Description
It’s been a decade since the Delongpre family vanished near Bayou Rabineaux, and still no one can explain the events of that dark and sweltering night. No one except Niquette Delongpre, the sole survivor who ran away from the mangled stretch of guardrail on Highway 22 where the impossible occurred . . . and kept on running. Who left behind her best friends, Ben and Anthem, to save them from her newfound capacity for destruction . . . and who alone knows the source of her very bizarre—and very deadly—abilities: an isolated strip of swampland called Elysium.

An accomplished surgeon, Niquette’s father dreamed of transforming the dense acreage surrounded by murky waters into a palatial compound befitting the name his beloved wife gave to it, Elysium: “the final resting place for the heroic and virtuous.” Then, ten years ago, construction workers dug into a long-hidden well, one that snaked down into the deep, black waters of the Louisiana swamp and stirred something that had been there for centuries—a microscopic parasite that perverts the mind and corrupts the body.

Niquette is living proof that things done can’t be undone. Nothing can bring her parents back. And nothing can save her. But as Niquette, Ben, and Anthem uncover the truth of a devastating parasite that has the potential to alter the future of humankind, Niquette grasps the most chilling truths of all: someone else has been infected too. And unlike her, this man is not content to live in the shadows. He is intent to use his newfound powers for one reason only: revenge.

Cons

Ok, I’ll go ahead and warn you that Goodreads’ book description is misleading.  You assume Niquette (Nikki) Delongpre is going to be your main character, but she isn’t.  She is one of the driving forces of the novel, but she’s really not present very much.  Ben Broyard, Anthem Landry and Marshall Ferriot are really your key characters here.  Ben is Nikki’s BFF, Anthem is Nikki’s boyfriend and Marshall is the bad guy who wants Nikki all for himself.  Trust me when I say, I’m not giving anything away by telling you Marshall is the bad guy.  You come to that conclusion within the first couple of chapters.

In addition to the misleading description, the writing had some serious flow issues.  It seemed very disjointed in certain sections.  The jumps between past and present could be whiplash inducing.  I also struggled with knowing who was speaking during conversations.  The quotation marks were there, so I’m not sure why I had this problem.  There just wasn’t enough definition I guess.

Lastly, some of the characters were under-developed.  Nikki and Anthem both could have used more fleshing out.

Pros

Ben was by far the most developed of the characters.  He came across as very “real” to me.  His struggle with being gay, the supposed loss of his best friend and his inability to connect with people really made this a coming of age story for him.  He is driven to do the right thing, but often feels impotent.  He is flawed yet loveable.

Marshall was also pretty well-developed.  As I stated before, he was the “bad guy” here.  He was not your normal bad guy.  Marshall was sick and sadistic.  A psychopath by its very definition.  Getting into this guy’s head was rather disturbing.  His aloof attitude about his actions made him even more vile.  I felt like I needed a bath after every chapter he narrated.

Another main character in this book was New Orleans itself.  It truly has its own presence throughout the story.  I was recently reading a post by Tif Talks Books.  She was talking about the three aspects of every story: character, plot and setting.   We both agree that characters are typically the most important part of every story for us, but she attended a writing workshop that pointed out the setting is the most important.  I don’t think she necessarily believed this, nor do I, but in The Heavens Rise, it is definitely applicable.  New Orleans permeates every part of the tale making it a stand alone character.  I don’t think this book would have worked if it had been set anywhere other than New Orleans.

The plot definitely held its own.  It was not overwhelmed by the characters or setting.  There were plenty of twists and turns to keep me interested.  I found myself wanting to get back to it in order to find out what was coming next.  To me that is always a good sign.  It is one of the deciding factors in what my final rating will be.  I can forgive a lot as long as the plot keeps me hooked.

Wrap-Up

I was torn between 3.5 & 4 stars, but my final rating is 4 out of 5 stars.  The book had some flaws, but they were forgivable.  The plot drew me in and kept me hooked.  I was left with a few questions about the “parasites” from the swamp, but not to the point that I couldn’t enjoy the book.  Some of the characters were well developed and relateable.  I believe New Orleans was the stand out character here.  Rice wrote about her as a lover, beautiful yet deeply flawed, both addictive and repelling.

So, if you are looking for a deeply engaging novel with deep meaning, this might not be the one for you.  If you’re looking for a fun ride and a fast read, I would advise you to give The Heavens Rise a shot.

Fave Quotes

“Marissa told herself…to stop letting the voices of her own insecurities masquerade as insight.”

‘Nothing in life is under our control except how we treat people.”

“You do your best work when you’re not working your own agenda.”

“I have learned that magic withheld gives birth to nightmares, and so I have no choice but to stand back, open my heart and let the heavens rise.”

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley.com, Gallery Books & Christopher Rice for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

 

COMING NEXT:  She Walks In Darkness by Evangeline Walton