21. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Romance, Tracy

Dark Witch by Nora Roberts, read by Tracy, on 01/12/2014

With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.

Ireland. County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits. Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.

When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horsemen, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package. Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books

Asylum by Madeleine Roux, read by Courtney, on 12/06/2013

Ugh. I got suckered into reading this one for a few reasons: 1)it’s about an old asylum and things really don’t get much creepier than places like that, 2)it has pictures and those pictures looked pretty creepy and 3)in spite of mostly bad reviews, I found one positive review and decided to give the book a chance. The premise is pretty simple: Dan Crawford arrives on campus for one of those college-prep-for-high-school-kids summer programs. He’s pretty excited about it since he’s a bit of a nerd and looks forward to taking college level classes with other smart kids. The weird thing is, the college is renovating its dorms and has decided to house the high school kids in the abandoned asylum that the college bought since it was adjacent to their property (and, presumably, for some sort of research/historical purposes). So all the kids are staying in the old asylum, and the desire to go exploring in the closed-off parts of the building is too strong for Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan. During the course of their explorations, they discover a bunch of old photographs and documents from the old hospital. Then Dan starts having strange dreams and the occasional hallucination. Jordan gets inexplicably mad at Dan and Abby moves on to another group of friends. It continues like this for awhile, with none of the main characters talking to each other, until a townie turns up dead and all signs point to a former serial killer who was held at the hospital prior to its closing years ago.
There are a lot of problems with the premise and the characters that I simply couldn’t look past. First of all, what type of college/university decides to renovate ALL their dorms at the EXACT same time and thus sends a bunch of minors (for whom they are legally responsible) to live in a building that probably violates a ton of building safety codes (from the sound of it, anyway)? Seems a bit on the irresponsible side, right? Then there are the main characters. Dan is probably the most well-developed of the bunch, but even he reads like a stock character. There’s evidently some sort of mental health issue that he’s dealt with in the past, but the reader never really finds out what or how it connects to the rest of the story. His roommate, Felix, is a painfully stereotypical nerd, right down to his manner of speaking. Jordan is similarly stereotypical, except his stereotype is “flamboyant funny gay guy” who also may or may not have some sort of bi-polar thing going on (that’s not really developed much either). Abby is the love interest that’s really not all that interesting. Her stereotype? The artsy “manic pixie dream girl”. Yawn. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters. The photos that part of my reason for picking the book up in the first place were so-so. The vintage ones were cool, but there were quite a few more recent photos that were altered to fit the story, which was disappointing. I was really hoping for photos more along the lines of those seen in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children or Shadow of Blackbirds. Alas, it’s clearly what the author and publisher were going for, but fact that some were constructed exclusively for the book takes a lot of the excitement out of it. What kept me going was the pervasive sense of dread that the book did manage to accomplish in spite of all its shortcomings. It was genuinely creepy. There’s definitely going to be a readership for this book, but I have a sneaking suspicion that many will be just like me: hoping for more and being left empty-handed.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Kristy, Paranormal, Teen Books

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, read by Kristy, on 12/18/2013

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

26. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Mystery, Paranormal · Tags:

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Kira, on 12/24/2013

Jonathan Stroud has done it again, actually this title is better than the Bartimaeus series (imho).  The Lockwood Investigative Company of ghost investigators burn down a house in the process of eliminating a problem specter haunting a house.  That’s when things get really interesting, when a wealthy CEO hires them to clean out a mansion where other larger & more experienced agencies have failed.  Join Lucy, George, and Anthony as they attempt to stay alive and solve this mystery.

A wonderful read – good plot, and delicious atmosphere, transports you to another London.

 

 

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18. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Tracy

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, read by Tracy, on 12/08/2013

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest–to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.

Written with astonishing conviction and grace, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the witch trials of the 1690s and a modern woman’s story of mystery, intrigue, and revelation.

16. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal

Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur, read by Angie, on 12/14/2013

Sienna is devoted to her little brother Lucca. She plays with him and takes care of him and reads him stories. She does this because she loves her little brother and because she feels like she is the reason he doesn’t talk. There is nothing wrong with Lucca, he just chooses not to talk at all. He makes noises and acts like a normal boy in all other ways. The parents decide to move the family away from their Brooklyn neighborhood and buy a house on the Maine coast. It is a house Sienna has seen in her dreams and things get even stranger once they move in. Sienna starts having visions of the family that lived there during WWII. She finds a pen that allows her to write the little girl Sarah’s story while in a trance. Sienna believes that Sarah and Joshua’s story is connected to her and Lucca’s in some way. She must solve the mystery of what happened in the past in order to fix the present.

I liked Sienna’s story. For the most part she is a very realistic girl devoted to her brother, scared of making new friends, etc. I even thought her hobby of collecting lost things was quirky and fun. The ghost story/visions of the past however fell a little flat to me. It was a plot line with little reason for being other than to bulk up the story. Sienna’s connection never really made sense to me and I wish there would have been a little more reason for it being there. I also had problems with Lucca. He basically chose not to talk when he was a toddler. At three he has made the conscious decision not to speak to anyone. I am not sure a three-year-old could really make that decision or think that deeply. It would have made more sense if he was a bit older, but the fact that he was so young made it really hard to buy into. However, if you suspend your disbelief when reading this book you will find a charming story about a close family trying to make a fresh start. Even with all its problems I did enjoy the book.

11. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal · Tags:

Graveyard Child by M.L.N. Hanover., read by Kira, on 12/01/2013

Jayne Heller finds out a LOT about her past in book 5 of the series.  Like what happened on her 16th birthday, who was her real father, and was Eric a bad guy, or a victim, and where did the very powerful demon that shares her body come from.fallen-angel-black-dark-female-goth-gothic-scene-winged-78921graveyard childDemon_Hunter_  Creative world-building in another fast-paced enjoyable read.  Loved it!

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel, Paranormal

Unforgotten by Tohby Riddle, read by Courtney, on 11/19/2013

This lovely graphic novel depicts angels watching over the affairs on earth. Eventually, the strain becomes too much of one of them and the angel sinks to earth. Immobilized by the overwhelming struggle, the angel is mistaken as a statue. Eventually, a rag-tag group of beings start to rehabilitate the angel.
There’s minimal text; the story is mostly told through pictures. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. It’s mixed media and it’s beautiful. This is a very fast read, but the story and art will stick with readers long after the cover is closed.

03. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel, read by Courtney, on 11/13/2013

One hundred years ago, steamboats ruled the rivers. Captain Twain of the Steamship Lorelei is one of the best-known captains on the Hudson River. One day, he rescues a mermaid who has been injured by a harpoon. The captain hides her away in his quarters and tends to her wounds. As she recovers, the two begin get to know one another. Twain, who hopes to be a writer one day, also finds that his writing block has vanished. Meanwhile, the ship’s owner, the Frenchman Lafayette has been corresponding with a mysterious author about ways to rid oneself of a mermaid’s curse. The mysterious author prepares for a very public debut aboard the Steamship Lorelei. As the three characters’ lives converge, so too do elements of mythology and folklore, culminating in a series of events that none of the characters could have ever foreseen.
I went into this thinking that it had something to do with that other Twain of Midwestern fame, but such is not the case. The real Mark Twain is, however, referenced at least once by the characters themselves. Captain Twain is, in many ways, a parallel to the literary figure. I loved the artwork in this comic; it suited the story beautifully. It tends to have an almost-underwater/dreamlike quality to it. The story is rich and unexpected, with distinct magic-realism tendencies. In short, it’s pretty much everything I look for in a graphic novel.

25. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tracy

The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston, read by Tracy, on 11/08/2013

In her small Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana. She has never spoken, and her silence as well as the magic she can’t quite control make her a mystery. Concerned for her safety, her mother quickly arranges a marriage with Cai Bevan, the widower from the far hills who knows nothing of the rumours that swirl around her. After their wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving, but she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the rugged mountains that surround it, while slowly Cai himself begins to win her heart. It’s not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village. A dark force is at work there—a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana, even at the expense of those closest to her. Forced to defend her home, her love, and herself from all comers, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything.

22. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Steam-punk, Teen Books

Soulless: The Manga, vol. 1 by Gail Carriger, illustrated by Rem, read by Courtney, on 11/06/2013

I can’t help but think that this manga is really more for established fans than those new to the Soulless series. I haven’t read any of the series, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up the manga-style adaptations. I was not terribly impressed. In fact, I was kind of annoyed at the whole experience.
The story is lacking in detail and world-building, but that’s probably the result of it being an adaptation. The artwork is merely OK; it uses a lot of manga tropes, which, in an American comic, feels off somehow. I’m honestly getting very tired of popular series being turned into “manga”. Particularly annoying to me in this particular volume is the depiction of the female characters. The ridiculously large breasts and plunging necklines come across as entirely superfluous.
I wanted to like this series; I really did, but ultimately it just fell flat.

06. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, read by Courtney, on 10/01/2013

I’m not even sure how to classify this wonderful book. What I do know is that there are very few people to whom I would not recommend it.
Ransom Riggs has created a magical world within a world aided by the liberal use of vintage photographs which add an otherworldly quality to the narrative. The story opens with a grandfather telling his grandson tales of his youth in an orphanage off the coast of Wales. He had fled continental Europe during World War II and spent the rest of his youth hiding out at said orphanage. Most of the time, stories about orphanages wind up grim and cruel, but this is not the average orphanage. It is run by a lady named Miss Peregrine and is populated by children with extraordinary abilities, such as levitation, invisibility, extreme strength, etc. Jacob loves these stories and the photos that accompany them, but as he grows out of childhood, he begins to doubt the veracity of these tales. But then his grandfather is fatally wounded by a monster that only Jacob can see and murmurs cryptic warnings and instructions, Jacob wonders if there might be some truth to his grandfather’s stories after all. Haunted by nightmares, Jacob decides he must return to the site of his grandfather’s youth: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. He and his father pack up and head off to Wales in the hope of finding closure for their patriarch’s death. And then things get *really* interesting.
I read this book in just a couple of sittings and was completely enchanted. The appeal of this debut novel transcends age divisions and defies genres. The only reason I’m not giving it five stars is because I still haven’t worked out how I felt about the ending. Has it been so long that I’ve read an adult book that I’m not used to all the strings being tied up at the end? Or am I so used to teen books that I’m feeling like a sequel might be in the works?

06. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror, Paranormal

House of Secrets Omnibus by Steven T. Seagle, Teddy Kristiansen (Illustrations), read by Courtney, on 10/03/2013

Rain Harper is a teenaged runaway who has just arrived in Seattle. She needs a place to stay and finds an abandoned mansion that is miraculously unoccupied by other squatters. It’s only a matter of time before she finds out why: the house is not a normal house. It’s inhabited by a host of other-worldly spirits that form a jury who summon humans to account for their secrets. Rain finds herself in the position of “witness” to the proceedings. Rain, however, has more than a few secrets of her own. So do the friends she picks up along the way. When will the house finally demand to pass judgements on their secrets?
This omnibus collects the entire House of Secrets series, which means that it’s a massive tome and quite a bit to take in all at once. Rain is a fascinating, if unreliable, narrator, but the house is really what caught my interest. It has its own terrifying history and tends to show up in various locales at various points in time. Witty and dark, this is a great series.

01. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Noelle, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith, read by Noelle, on 10/17/2013

Are you predator or prey?

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Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her parents are dead, and her hybrid-werewolf first love is threatening to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. Then, as she and her uncle are about to unveil their hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef. Can Quincie transform their new hire into a culinary Dark Lord before opening night? Can he wow the crowd in his fake fangs, cheap cape, and red contact lenses — or is there more to this earnest face than meets the eye? As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms, and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who’s playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything? TANTALIZE marks Cynthia Leitich Smith’s delicious debut as a preeminent author of dark fantasy.

01. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Noelle, Paranormal, Teen Books

The Diviners by Libba Bray, read by Noelle, on 10/09/2013

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

01. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tammy, Teen Books

The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle 2) by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Tammy, on 10/29/2013

dream thievesSecond book in the Raven Cycle. Our story picks up right were Raven Boys left off. Adam is still dealing emotionally with his abusive past and the choices he made at Cabeswater. A mysterious Gray Man has appeared in town along with other treasure hunters searching for a mysterious artifact. Now Gansey’s search for Glendower has become a race not just to find Glendower but to protect Adam, Noah and most surprisingly, Ronan. Ronan discovers his family secrets and how special he really is. Can’t wait for book three!

31. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Kira, Literary Fiction, Paranormal · Tags:

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley, read by Kira, on 10/30/2013

The-Firebird-CroppedNicola’s Russian grandfather was persecuted for his paranormal abilities, thus she has kept her paranormal talent hidden.  By holding objects she is able to retrieve memories of people who have held the object.  However, she decides to track down the origins of a family heirloom said to have been a gift from the Russian Empress Catherine.  Nicola knows that the family tale is true, but will need to find proof for the object to have any value.  She enlists the help of Rob a man she previously dated, but ran away from when their psychic talents got them noticed.

On the negative side: Rob is way too perfect, always there, super talented.  Even worse though is the love-interest in the parallel tale firbirdof Anna and Edmund.  Anna is repeatedly humiliated by Edmund and finds herself falling for him. Yuck! Gross!  There are 2 surprises towards the ending of blueariPicFirebirdAnna’s tale.  You can see the first one from a mile away.  The other one surprised me.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere, the coziness of the settings – London, Scottland, Russia…

I also enjoyed the amount of authentic detail worked into the background of the book.  For example, in the book Slains Castle was being renovated into apartments – which when I looked online, is actually the case.  In the book Nicola and Rob visit a Russian chain restaurant named Stolle that serves pies (meat pies I think).  Turns out such a chain actually does exist in Russia.  Just neat!


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The Lovecraft Anthology is a graphic collection of Lovecraft’s tales, adapted and illustrated by a variety of authors and artists. Featured in this first volume are several classics, including Call of Cthulhu, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

Beyond the artwork, these adaptations also are quick verbal sketches of Lovecraft’s work. I enjoyed them, but often regretted the stories weren’t covered in more detail. Creating artwork is very time consuming, though, and being exposed to the styles of multiple artists was worth missing out on a few story details. As with any multiple-artist anthology, I had style preferences (D’Israeli!), but this will vary by reader. Recommended as an introduction to dark Lovecraftian worlds.

12. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal · Tags:

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston, read by Kira, on 10/11/2013

Bess starts off life in the 16th century, her happy peasant family life is disrupted when plague breaks out.  After her older brother, her sweet sister, and father die of the plague, Bess’ Mom makes a deal with the local and evil warlock Gideon, which brings Bess back from the door of death.  Then a witchhunter is called and accuses Bess of witchcraft, since she survived the plague, her mother confesses in order to spare her daughter and directs her daughter to study with Gideon.    But when the town comes for her and plan to burn her the next day, she speaks invocation by the light of her cell windows. wit cautrwitch daughterThe_Witchs_Daughter_Poland   300 years later she is still on the run from Gideon, who wants her to combine their powers.  She is able to settle down for brief periods before he tracks her down.

Paula Brackston’s books are so captivating.  I can’t wait for her next book in 2014, The Midnight Witch.  Make sure you have plenty of time to read, because her books are hard to put down.  This book was originally released as the Book of Shadows in 2009.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books

The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, read by Courtney, on 08/02/2013

When Irene Sauvelle’s father dies, she and her family find themselves moving to a small coastal village in Northern France where her mother, Simone, finds employment as a housekeeper for an eccentric toymaker named Lazarus. At first the small family is enchanted (if slightly caught off-guard) by the sheer volume and intricacy of Lazarus’s automatons. Village life treats them equally well. Irene quickly becomes friends with one of the house’s other employees, Hannah and then is introduced to (and quickly falls for) Hannah’s cousin, Ismael. The family appears to lead a charmed life until Hannah turns up dead in the forest near the estate. The house and its contents cease to be amusing as things take a turn for the menacing.
The narrative shifts from character to character, which means that the reader will have multiple perspectives with which to decipher exactly what sort of evil is at play here. The plot has echoes of other famous tales, most notably Wuthering Heights and Faust, though the book itself has a distinctly “Zafon” feel to it. The setting is characteristically atmospheric and the juxtaposition of the beautiful against the terrifying is also very much in keeping with Zafon’s other work. The plot is merely OK; it manages to be both a bit confusing and predictable at the same time. The end comes crashing to a close, which feels somewhat anti-climactic after the action leading up to it. It’s OK though; the intriguing setting and evocative language more than make up for any plot-based missteps.