Halloween Reads: Spooky Stories and Spine-Tingling Books

Happy Halloween!

I’ve written off October for most other reasons but I still stubbornly enjoy Halloween (even with it essentially being cancelled last year thanks to Hurricane Sandy). I will be handing out candy later tonight even though I won’t be dressing up or going to any parties. To keep in the spirit though I do have to spooky Halloween-appropriate reads to share with all of you, dear readers!

Companions of the Night coverFire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne JonesThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly BlackOnce a Witch coverConjured by Sarah Beth DurstThe Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni

  • Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde: The first vampire book I read and still arguably the best. Ethan is fascinating and repellant and Kerry is one of my favorite heroines.
  • Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones: Honestly, you should read this retelling of Tam Lin any time of year, but with the spooky, atmospheric setting and Polly’s eerie double memories it’s a most excellent read for this time of year.
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: This books is icky and gory and creepy but it’s also romantic and hopeful. Leave it to Holly Black to make a book about monsters into something kind of beautiful.
  • Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough: I talk about this book all the time too. But what’s Halloween without a story about a witch?
  • Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst: It was a touch call to put this one or Drink, Slay, Love on the list but with a heroine who knows nothing of her past and is being hunted by a serial killer, this one definitely is the scariest.
  • The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni: Verity Boone expects to find her father and her fiance when she returns to her birthplace. And she does find them. But she also finds two caged graves and a haunting secret.
  • Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff: A heat wave is on, a killer is on the loose, and only Hanna and the ghost of her best friend can stop the killer before it’s too late.
  • The Archived by Victoria Schwab: A library where the dead are stored like books? Enough said.
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: London. Ghosts. A Jack the Ripper copycat. And a girl who can see ghosts. The only problem? The ghosts can see her too.
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray: Evie is thrilled to be exiled to New York when her flapper antics go too far. But strange things are happening to city and Evie isn’t the only one heading East. Dark forces are coming too. Darker than anything Evie has ever seen before.
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix: Sabriel is her father’s daughter, learning his work as Abhorsen using their bells to send the dead back where they belong. But when her father disappears Sabriel is left alone to face a monstrous creature and find out the truth about the old kingdom.

Paper Valentine by Brenna YovanoffThe Archived by Victoria SchwabThe Name of the Star by Maureen JohnsonThe Diviners coversabriel

The Clockwork Scarab: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen GleasonMina Holmes is used to working alone. It’s hard enough to get anyone to take her deductive abilities seriously as a young woman in London in 1889. It’s almost impossible to get anyone to appreciate them–even if she is the daughter of Mycroft Holmes and the niece of Sherlock Holmes.

Evaline Stoker, on the other hand, is a veritable social butterfly by comparison. Much to her own chagrin Evaline finds herself spending far too much time at social gatherings when she could be using her preternatural strength and speed for their intended purposes–killing vampires.

This unlikely pair is brought together one foggy night in London with a summons to the British Museum. Soon both young women are recruited into the service of the Princess of Wales for a mission of the utmost secrecy.

Young women of quality are dying in London and it’s up to Stoker and Holmes to figure out why.

But with obstacles at every turn and odious young men underestimating their skills, both young women will have to stay sharp to solve this supernatural mystery before it’s too late in The Clockwork Scarab (2013) by Colleen Gleason.

Gleason creates an intriguing alternate London where Sherlock Holmes is real and the Stoker family is the latest in a long line of vampire hunters. In this London electricity is illegal and steampunk elements abound in this steam-powered city.

These backdrop elements, combined with a mystery based in Egyptology (the scarab on the cover is not just for show) promise a most excellent mystery novel with just a few fantastical elements to taste.

Then a time traveler shows up.

Then not just one but both heroines find themselves in painfully contrived love triangles.

And then one of the biggest mysteries of the story isn’t resolved at the end of the book. (It is clearly going to be a thread that develops in later installments, but still.)

The Clockwork Scarab has so much potential that, unfortunately, is never realized as the plot becomes mired in these extraneous plot points and devices.

Mina and Evaline are interesting heroines (though far too quick to gush over handsome young men–because all of the men in this book are handsome) though their first person narrations often sound surprisingly similar.

Short on violence and high on action, this is an ideal choice for younger readers looking for excitement without the gore. It would also be a great stepping stone for readers who want to move onto something else besides the Theodosia books or the Kane Chronicles. That said, readers looking for a purer steampunk read (or a better plotted mystery) would be better served elsewhere.

Possible Pairings: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger, The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers, The Agency by Y. S. Lee, The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, Sorcery and Cecelia by Caroline Stevemer and Patricia C. Wrede, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to read for Halloween

Top Ten Tuesdays img by Miss Print

Others are doing scary book covers but that can easily devolve into books I wouldn’t read because the covers are ugly so instead I’m doing some spooky books!

*While you’re here be sure to sign up for the Secret Box Swap I’m hosting with my friend Nicole.*

I decided to make this an official book list post which you can also see here on the blog on Halloween:

  1. Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde
  2. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  3. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
  4. Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
  5. Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
  6. The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni
  7. Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
  8. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  9. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
  10. The Diviners by Libba Bray
  11. Sabriel by Garth Nix

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Image made by me.)

*While you’re here be sure to sign up for the Secret Box Swap I’m hosting with my friend Nicole.*

The Giving Thanks Book Blogger Box Swap: Sign Ups Close This Week

Nicole the Book Bandit and I were talking the other day about a Box Swap she saw on youtube. One thing led to another. And we decided we wanted to host a book blogger box swap.

Basically it’s like a secret santa exchange except, because it’s in November, we’re calling it the Giving Thanks Book Blogger Box Swap.

So here’s what you need to know:

The swap is open to any US based book bloggers. What that means is you need to be a book blogger to sign up and you need to have a US mailing address from which to send and receive your box. The box is also meant to include fun non-book gifts (thus the long form to provide info) as well as (if you say you want one!) books.

Signs ups will run through 11:59pm EST on October 31, 2013.

Nicole and I will be making matches in the first week of November. You should receive your match by November 9, 2013 (ideally November 7 but the 9th at latest).

All Packages should be mailed by November 16, 2013–that is a firm deadline.

The spending limit for this box swap is $15.00

If you want to sign up, please fill out the form below. Give as much information as possible–your swap partner will be using the info to find cool stuff to send you! (Confidential information like your email and address will, of course, remain private and be treated with the utmost care).

If you have any question you can write to the swap email: GivingThanksBoxSwap AT yahoo DOT com

You can also find us on twitter @SecretBoxSwap

Sign Up Form:

Linktastic: 10/25 Edition

In which I have news

Not a lot of news, but some news.

I started a new job last week. It’s more in line with my skill set and my interests and (best of all) it is NOT a night shift position. I share an office with lovely people where I have a desk and my own phone line. I’m exceedingly pleased. And I am also extremely grateful for all of the people who were so supportive while I kept searching and interviewing until this point. It meant a lot and I’m so happy I don’t have to scramble for a while now.

As ever this blog will remain my own endeavor that I work on in my free time. It will reflect my opinions, no one elses (else’s?).

So obviously this is great but it has completely changed my blogging schedule and I managed to eat up my entire buffer of posts. I’ll still be doing at least one post every Wednesday but you may need to bear with me as I search for other things to share.

Across a Star-Swept Sea: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana PeterfreundTrouble comes to the twin islands of New Pacifica when violent revolution breaks out on the island of Galatea. The neighboring island of Albion can do little more than watch as revolutionaries rise up against the ruling class with the worst weapon imaginable. Centuries after war and Reduction nearly destroyed the world, the Galatean revolution is threatening to bring the last remnant of civilization back to the brink of collapse.

And no one seems able to intervene save for one bold Albion spy known only as the Wild Poppy.

No one can know that the Wild Poppy is really Persis Blake. With her vapid persona as a frivolous, stupid member of court no one could that Persis is the spy undermining the revolution at every turn. No one can suspect if Persis wants to continue her work.

The stakes become even higher when a Galatean medic named Justen Helo enters Persis’ orbit. As she and Justen engage in an extravagant flirtation as part of her cover, Persis has to work to keep her true identity a secret and her potential enemies close. With romance and confrontation on the horizon, Persis can lose much more than her heart if her secrets begin to unravel in Across a Star-Swept Sea (2013) by Diana Peterfreund.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is Peterfreund’s post-apocalyptic retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. It is also a companion novel to Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Though the novel references the same basic world building and certain characters, Across a Star-Swept Sea is essentially a stand alone novel that works on its own.

This time Peterfreund returns to the post-apocalyptic world after a world-ending war and Reduction in a very different setting with very different ideas. Across a Star-Swept Sea seamlessly expands the world introduced in For Darkness Shows the Stars while creating a new setting and plot that is entirely its own.

Given the revolutionary backdrop, Across a Star-Swept Sea is much more plot-driven with lots of action and adventure. The unique way New Pacifica has evolved post-Reduction also creates opportunities for conversations about the politics of the islands. On a personal level it also offers moments of introspection for Persis as she reconciles the personal costs of her double life with the benefits in lives saved.

Like its predecessor, Across a Star-Swept Sea moves beyond its source material to become more than a retelling. With a heroine who is as stylish as she is fierce, this novel is an anthem for stong women and a delightful read for anyone looking for a dramatic page-turner with just a bit of romance thrown in.

Possible Pairings: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Legend by Marie Lu, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

The Silver Linings Playbook: A (book and movie) Review

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew QuickPat believes in happy endings. Even in the slightly messed up movie of his own life. When he can finally leave the bad place, Pat is sure that Apart Time with his beautiful wife is about to end. The movie has gone on long enough. It’s time for his happy ending.

To prove that Pat deserves his happy ending, he is doing all of the right things. He is trying to be kind instead of right. He is working out to get in better shape. He is reading literature so he and his wife will have things to talk about. He is even taking his meds (mostly).

But while Pat is desperate for Apart Time to end, distractions keep getting in the way. First he meets Tiffany–who is crazy. Crazier that Pat by a lot. Who insists on being his friend. Then he somehow becomes a part of his family’s complex game day rituals to cheer on the Eagles every Sunday.

Then things get really weird. Kenny G–the man Pat fears above all others–keeps turning up at inopportune moments. He is somehow part of a dance recital. And the Eagles might not make it to the playoffs at all.

Pat believes in happy endings. He knows he deserves his happy ending. What Pat doesn’t know is what to do when the happy ending he hoped for is the exact opposite of the one he might get in The Silver Linings Playbook (2008) by Matthew Quick.

If Matthew Quick is a rockstar writer, this book is his gold record complete with a cover (in the form of a movie adaptation).

I saw the movie for my birthday earlier this year and I really loved it. After seeing One Day in theaters and watching a character get hit by a bus, I had been weary of “grown up” movies (and books for that matter) but after some research I determined there weren’t any freak accidents in this story so I was good to go. Already being a fan of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, I was ready to be impressed by the movie. And I was. Everything worked and everything came together to make a charming and engaging story.

Much later (because of the huge library hold queue) I was able to pick up a copy of the book that inspired the movie.

There are quite a few differences. The plot was tightened up and stretched for the movie to make it more cinematic (and plot-driven since we can’t just listen to Pat talk for two hours on-screen). The changes made sense and, above all, they worked for the new medium. The result was a book that was still gripping and incredibly well-written but a movie that was a bit more whimsical.

While the film touches the surface of Pat and Tiffany’s problems, the book shows that these characters are really broken. There are missing pieces, and parts that don’t fit, and they’re just trying to hold it all together one day at a time. That messiness isn’t as prevalent in the movie.

The main reason I enjoyed this book is its optimism. Pat’s a mess. Tiffany is a disaster. But they’re trying. They might even be learning. Along the way Pat has several pitfalls but he also makes friends and finally makes it to his own happy ending in a way that feels natural while still leaving room for the sense of wonder that Pat manages to find in even the smallest of silver linings.

Never Fade: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Never Fade by Alexandra BrackenRuby never chose to be an Orange. She never wanted to be able to control people’s minds or be a detainee in Thurmond. She didn’t want to lose Liam and Chubs and Zu. She didn’t want anything to do with the Children’s League.

But Ruby hasn’t been able to make her own choices for a very long time.

After escaping the Smoke and trying to save her friends as best she could, Ruby is now part of the Children’s League, More than that, she’s the Leader of her team. But all Ruby can  think is that they’re trusting a monster. Because isn’t that what someone with her ability must be–a monster?

Something is wrong in the League. Secrets and lies threaten to bring the entire organization down with deadly consequences for Ruby and the other children in the League. Worse, crucial information about the virus that has cost the country, and Ruby herself, so much has gone missing.

Desperate to gain control over her life and keep the people she cares about safe, Ruby embarks on a desperate mission to track down the missing information even if it will lead her back to Liam Stewart–the boy Ruby thought she’d never see again, the one who won’t remember her either way.

Ruby has bartered away her own freedom to protect her friends. As she tries again to keep everyone safe, she has to decide how much more she can lose before nothing of the real Ruby is left in Never Fade (2013) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

Never Fade is the sequel to Bracken’s novel The Darkest Minds. It is also the second book in this trilogy.

This book picks up a few months after the events of The Darkest Minds. It also relies very heavily on events from book one making this a series you should start at the beginning.

Bracken strikes a perfect balance between old and new characters here. Readers will recognize some familiar faces (even some surprising ones) from book one. At the same time newer characters that Ruby encounters at the League add a lot to the story with new personalities that jump off the page.

Never Fade opens with some intricate action sequences that are a serious departure from the tone and rhythm of book one. However after the action packed opening the story returns to pacing and structure more in line with what readers of The Darkest Minds would expect.

It’s impossible to say more about the plot without seriously spoiling both this book and the first. Suffice it to say that this one has just as many twists and surprises as the first along with some new locations. Despite the fast-paced plot, the focus remains on the characters as Bracken highlights the changes Ruby (and others) have been forced to make after the events of book one.

The characters are also central to this story and a huge part of why this series works. Without ever being overly romantic or twee, Never Fade  is a testament to the power of connections even as those bonds are tested and broken. It’s not an exaggeration to say this book will break your heart even as it puts the pieces back together.

Action and suspense will keep readers turning the pages anxiously but the bonds between Ruby and her friends and the surprising revelations at the ending are what makes Never Fade another sensational read from a great author.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, White Cat by Holly Black, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, False Memory by Dan Krokos, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

 

The Giving Thanks Book Blogger Box Swap: Sign Ups are Still Open!

Nicole the Book Bandit and I were talking the other day about a Box Swap she saw on youtube. One thing led to another. And we decided we wanted to host a book blogger box swap.

Basically it’s like a secret santa exchange except, because it’s in November, we’re calling it the Giving Thanks Book Blogger Box Swap.

So here’s what you need to know:

The swap is open to any US based book bloggers. What that means is you need to be a book blogger to sign up and you need to have a US mailing address from which to send and receive your box. The box is also meant to include fun non-book gifts (thus the long form to provide info) as well as (if you say you want one!) books.

Signs ups will run through 11:59pm EST on October 31, 2013.

Nicole and I will be making matches in the first week of November. You should receive your match by November 9, 2013 (ideally November 7 but the 9th at latest).

All Packages should be mailed by November 16, 2013–that is a firm deadline.

The spending limit for this box swap is $15.00

If you want to sign up, please fill out the form below. Give as much information as possible–your swap partner will be using the info to find cool stuff to send you! (Confidential information like your email and address will, of course, remain private and be treated with the utmost care).

If you have any question you can write to the swap email: GivingThanksBoxSwap AT yahoo DOT com

You can also find us on twitter @SecretBoxSwap

Sign Up Form: