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?


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!

firebird redtumbr Firbird

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.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Courtney, Fiction, Paranormal · Tags:

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, read by Courtney, on 08/13/2013

Kate remembers the last time she saw her parents and remembers her mother telling her to protect her younger siblings. Michael and Emma, the younger two, have no recollection of their parents; the only life they know is fending for themselves in orphanage after orphanage. Kate is positive that her parents are coming back, but even she has to admit is seems less and less likely. When an adoption opportunity goes sour, the kids are sent to the most remote orphanage they’ve ever been to. When they arrive, they realize it’s the strangest one they’ve ever been to as well. In fact, they’re the only kids in the orphanage. Not only is the orphanage strange, the town is too. The inhabitants are grim and there aren’t any children.
One day, the children stumble upon a book in the basement of the old orphanage and shortly thereafter discover that the book has magical properties. The book is, in essence, a portal through time. Thus begins and epic and decidedly non-linear adventure to save the world of magic.
This was an especially charming, if slightly confusing middle-grade adventure story. The three children, Kate, Michael, and Emma, all have very distinct personalities. Kate is the headstrong leader. Michael is the bookish one (who is also obsessed with dwarves) and Emma is one of the most adorably sassy young ladies I’ve ever come across. My main criticism for this book is that there are a lot of moments when characters get separated and, upon regrouping, demand to have events recounted. Not only does it get repetitive, it feels like a crutch for the author. Still, high adventure and lots of fun. My middle-school kids loved it.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick, read by Courtney, on 08/23/2013

Becky Randle has not lived the most exciting life. She lives in a single-wide trailer with her 400lb mother. She works as a cashier in a failing supermarket. She has exactly one friend in the tiny Missouri town they live in. Becky doesn’t really ask for much, though she dreams of more.
When her mother dies, Becky discovers a name and a phone number hidden in her mother’s things. The name is Tom Kelly, one of the most prestigious fashion designers in the world. Against her better judgement, Becky gets in touch and is whisked away to New York where she is told by Tom and his handlers that, if she wears three dresses designed by him, she will become the most beautiful woman in the world. Becky is highly dubious, believing herself to be set up for some sort of embarrassing reality show or something of that ilk. When she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees bad skin, limp hair and a body she’s less than happy with. How can she possibly become the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (hereafter “MBWitW”)?
The first dress is red and Becky quickly discovers that it does indeed make her the MBWitW, but only when she’s with other people. When she’s alone, she looks like an overdressed version of herself. She eventually begins to get used to the adulation and creates a persona to match, dubbing herself “Rebecca” and reserving “Becky” for her non-MBWitW-self. Only after she realizes that Tom Kelly’s talents are indeed exceptional, she is presented with the other half of the bargain: she has one year to meet someone, fall in love and get married. If not, she’ll go back to being Becky forever. If she can make it happen, she’ll continue to be the MBWitW for the rest of her life. Her rise to super-stardom (because extreme beauty evidently becomes famous on its own) puts her in a position to meet plenty of potential princes to enable her “happily ever after”. Imagine her surprise, however, when a very real prince takes an interest. Is a year long enough to fall in love and get married? Can Becky really fall in love when she’s living her life as Rebecca? Who is the prince really in love with: Becky or Rebecca?
It’s an interesting enough premise, but it kind of felt like a mess to me. I get the message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc., and that’s a good one to send to a teen audience. I just felt like everything was a bit of a stretch. Tom Kelly as a character is more than a bit perplexing. I’m not even entirely sure what he is, though he’s clearly modeled after Calvin Klein. Most of the characters have some sort of real-life counterpart, which points to satire, but doesn’t quite pull it off. While the twists in the book were surprising, I felt like they ultimately dragged it out even more. This really should have been a novella or a short story to maintain maximum effect, but at novel-length, it lagged in places for me. I had heard that this book was supposed to be really funny, but I wound up finding it a bit over-the-top, particularly when it came to Becky’s rabidly protective BFF. This one probably works for some folks, but I don’t think it was the book for me. Not bad, just not what I was hoping for.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Personal Demons by Nimue Brown, read by Courtney, on 08/24/2013

Enter the dark and eerie world of Hopeless, Maine. You may notice that there are an awful lot of orphans for such an isolated place. You may also notice a girl named Salamandra who refuses to stay put in the orphanage that she’s been placed in. While this is going on, you’re probably trying to squint through the enveloping fog to see if there really are monsters crawling through the shadows. Hopeless, Maine is the type of town where anything can happen and where the most monstrous of the monsters may not even look like monsters at all.
Beautiful, atmospheric artwork and a dark sense of humor make this a comic series to watch.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal, read by Courtney, on 09/03/2013

Welcome to the town of Never Better. It’s the home of young Jeremy Johnson Johnson, a teen with the unusual ability to hear ghosts. He is presently accompanied by a rather famous ghost: Jacob Grimm (of the Grimm Brothers). Jacob has been “haunting” (yes, I’m using the term very loosely) Jeremy for quite some time, protecting him from the Keeper of Occasions (an entity only Jacob seems familiar with). Jeremy, for his part, is quite content to be constantly accompanied by this ghost. Life has been rather lonely for him. His father became a shut-in after his mother ran off years ago. Jeremy has been doing his best to keep the tiny family afloat, which is rather difficult as their sole source of income is the family bookstore, The Two-Book Bookstore. The bookstore really does have only two books, volumes one and two of his grandfather’s autobiography. Needless to say, business is not good and foreclosure is imminent.
When redheaded, gregarious Ginger takes an interest in Jeremy, the two set off a series of events that will lead them into a deadly situation that only Jacob Grimm can help undo.
Narrated entirely by the ghost of Jacob Grimm, this book is one of the most original and intriguing fairy-tale-related stories I’ve come across. It takes a moment to get used to Jacob’s manner of speaking, which is appropriately didactic and peppered with German phrases, but the narration does wonders to set up the atmosphere of the book. The town of Never Better has a slightly menacing and dreamlike quality to it. For instance, there’s a Santa-like baker in town whose bakery makes a rare type of cake with superstition on the side. Whenever the green smoke rises from the chimney of the bakery, the town then knows that delicious Prince Cakes will be on the menu the next day. There’s also the matter of the town’s runaway problem. Young folks leave and never come back, yet the townspeople are largely unconcerned. All the mysteries eventually tie in together to create a truly unique and timeless world where it seems anything might happen, particularly if you have the ghost of one of the Grimm brothers on your side.

26. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Tammy

Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill, read by Tammy, on 09/24/2013

heart-shaped box   Retired rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for damaged young women and for the macabre. He has a list of ex-girlfriends that he found entertaining for awhile but then sooner or later tired of. He doesn’t even call them by name but by the state they are from. He also keeps a mysterious collection of objects in his home including sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose and Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard. So, he’s thrilled when his assistant tells him a ghost is for sale on an online auction site. He ends up winning the sale.

But then the black, heart-shaped box arrives in the mail. It not only contains the suit of a dead man but his vengeful ghost. The ghost is the stepfather of an ex-girlfriend who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne sent her home on the train. Let the vengeful haunting and soul searching begin!