Archives for February 2018
Spoiler Alert: This book is the sequel to “Anna Dressed in Blood”, the first in the series and this review gives away what happens at the end of that book. So if you plan on reading Anna Dressed in Blood (which I heartily recommend), you may not wish to proceed forward with this review.
Okay, so you’ve been warned.
The blurb is as follows:
It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.
His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live―not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.
Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.
Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.
Is Anna Really Gone?
It’s been four months since Anna sacrificed herself to save Cas and his friends, and Cas is trying to come to terms with losing Anna. But he’s having a terrible time of it, and he can’t seem to get her out of his mind. Moreover, he’s been seeing her and hearing her voice everywhere, both while he’s awake and in his dreams. It must be his imagination or hallucinations, he thinks. Anna is gone for good. Everyone tells him that Anna is gone for good. So it must be true.
Finally, however, Anna manages to appear to him in person and communicate with him, but only for a moment — and from what Cas can gather, Anna is in a terrible place, is in terrible trouble and is suffering horribly. She’s trapped. And only Cass can set her free.
This is perhaps the most dangerous situation that Cass has ever gotten involved with and from what he’s been told, moving forward with this venture will result in a terrible price (“there’s always a price”). Everyone tells him to let it go, to let Anna go, to walk away. . . but he can’t do it. This is Anna, after all — the only girl he’s ever loved.
But as he soon learns, he can’t rescue her alone. He needs the help of a creepy somewhat cultish esoteric Order who may not have Cas’s best interests at heart; in fact, some of the members would be well-served by (and are hoping for) his death.
The Main Event
Against the advice of his family and friends, he decides to forge ahead and undertake the dangerous journey along with a member of the Order (Jess, who was trained by the order to replace Cas) to rescue Anna from the horrible place in which she’s been trapped.
This is where the story really heats up as there is a desperate race for time, and Cas has no choice but to put his trust in the Order.
If he doesn’t manage to find and rescue Anna within the allotted amount of time, he dies. And if he does manage to rescue Anna and bring her back, there’s a very good chance that the Order will try to kill her. But he’s determined, so he goes deeper into the darkness then he’s ever gone before.
The first book (Anna Dressed in Blood) was a complete novel in an of itself, and the ending seemed well-wrapped up and final — so I was surprised to learn that The Girl of Nightmares was actually a continuation of that first book — an amazing sequel to a powerful first book which completely sucked me in.
I loved the new worlds that Blake created in this book, including the Suicide Forest and Hell itself. There were also plenty of surprises in the story, and we learn more about Cass’s father, Gideon’s history, the history of the Athame and the old Order which ties them all together.
Reading about Cass, Thomas and Carmel felt like I was reuniting with old, dear friends, a testament to the author’s character building ability. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about my favorite characters once again, and it was interesting to see how they matured from the first book.
Like the first book, The Girl of Nightmares is told from Cas’s first-person point of view, and he’s once again an excellent narrator. Like the other characters, I loved seeing how much Cas had changed and grown over the past several months.
The Girl of Nightmares was eerie, gripping and suspenseful, with vivid, believable characters and entertaining dialogue. It was scary and quite tense in places and kept me on the edge of my seat, dying to know what was going to happen next. The plot was fast-paced and exciting, with plenty of twists and turns to add mystery and surprise to the story.
It was a roller-coaster ride of a story; at times, light and full of humor that made me laugh out loud; other times, full-on terror that made me leery of turning to the next page. The pacing was perfect and at no point during the story did I feel bored or disinterested.
I felt that the story of Anna and Cas was nicely wrapped up at the end resulting in a satisfying though bittersweet conclusion. That being said, the story felt resolved and complete to me, though I suppose it’s possible there could be another book. If so, I’d definitely rush out to get it, I love this world that Ms. Blake has created that much. Kendare Blake is definitely on my insta-buy list.
This is another 5-star book for me. Recommended!
You can check out the Girl of Nightmares HERE.
Rather, it is simply the tale of how two people can be important to each other their whole lives, and then, one morning, quite without meaning to, one of them wakes to find that importance has been magnified into a sudden and intense desire to put his tongue in the other’s mouth. ~ Henry (“Monty”) Montague
I can’t begin to express how much I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. This is not just an LGBT romance – it’s a wild, funny, adventurous and often harrowing romp through 18th century Europe. This book absolutely wrecked me in the most delightful and unexpected ways, and I could gush on and on about how much I loved it.
The blurb is as follows:
A young bisexual British lord embarks on an unforgettable Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend/secret crush. An 18th-century romantic adventure for the modern age written by This Monstrous Thing author Mackenzi Lee—Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets the 1700s.
Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
Introducing Henry (aka “Monty”)
The story takes place in the 18th century (around 1720, I believe) and revolves around Henry Montague, who is known as “Monty” by those closest to him. Monty, the spoiled, reckless and egotistical son of Lord Earl Montague, has a reputation for being a flirtatious self-centered “rake” and a rogue, much to the chagrin of his domineering father. In addition to heavy drinking, gambling and being overly “generous with his affections”, Monty is also known for bringing both ladies and lads into his bedroom — quite scandalous behavior for the 18th century England, especially given that sodomy was still illegal and severely punished during this time-period.
During the opening chapters, we learn of his contentious relationship with his father, but we quickly learn that there is more than what we see at the surface, especially Monty cringes and draws back every time his father lifts his hand. It doesn’t take a lot of detective work to see there’s some abuse going on.
There’s also a boy that Monty is especially sweet on, a neighbor who has been by Monty’s side for years. The only thing, is that this boy doesn’t know how Monty feels, and perhaps fearing rejection, Monty has no plans on telling him. As such, a good part of the story revolves around Monty’s longing for . . .
The mild-mannered sweet Percy, Monty’s longtime best friend and the object of his affection, is an adorable character. It’s worth mentioning that Percy is biracial and because of this, encounters difficulties that the privileged Monty doesn’t always understand or cannot relate to.
The two of them, though not romantically involved initially, seem to have a special relationship, though Monty finds it more and more difficult merely being in Percy’s presence and finds himself falling even more desperately in love with him. This quote by Monty (thought to himself) sums it up:
Oh, by the way, could you perhaps not touch me the way you always have because each time it puts fresh splinters in my heart?
After a brief introduction to the characters, the novel begins to take off as Monty, Monty’s younger sister Felicity and Percy are about to embark on a Grand Tour of Europe. Monty considers this trip as the opportunity of “sewing his wild oats” and looks forward to a year of debauchery with Percy. His father has different ideas, however. He assigns a guide called a bear-leader to ensure that Monty doesn’t embarrass the Earl — and to make sure that Monty brings no lads to his bedroom.
So the Tour begins not quite as exciting as Monty had hoped, being under the watchful eye of the bear-leader, and consists mainly of museum exhibits and evenings at the opera. But this changes one night when he’s invited to a high-society party at Versailles where he quickly makes an enemy of the Duke of Bourbon. The evening ends with Monty running naked through the gardens of Versailles being pursued by the palace guards.
And Then Things Get REALLY Interesting
Rushing away the next morning to avoid the inevitable fallout of Monte’s ungentlemanly behavior of the evening before, their carriage is stopped by Highwayman, the 18th-century version of bandits. Henry, Monty, and Percy manage to escape but they have no idea whether their bear-leader survived the attack.
With no luggage and no money, the trio makes it to a lively fair in the next town, where they learn that it is actually King Louis’s men who are pursuing them because of an “innocent” object that Percy stole from the Duke of Bourbon’s office the evening before.
Pirates, Alchemists, and Zombies!
Once the three are on the run, the adventure really begins as their days are fraught with peril and treachery. They get captured by pirates, encounter murderous alchemists, get arrested, end up on a sinking island and..yes, even encounter a zombie-ish character. But to go into any more detail would dangerously head into spoiler territory.
But let’s just say that the novel suddenly transforms into a nail-biting, page-turning, heart-in-your-throat wild ride at this point and we learn that nothing is quite as it seems; especially in regards to our main three characters, as there are quite a few surprises in store for the reader.
But It’s Not All Fun and Games
Though the book is a humorous and quirky romp, the story does touch on some serious issues such as racism, homophobia, PTSD, sexuality, mental health, disabilities, abuse, misogyny, privilege and the reckless misuse of power. The author flawlessly weaves these themes into the story, however, without diminishing the overall humorous feel or levity of the novel.
To start with, the characters were amazing! Each character went through a major transformation by the end of the novel and there were no cardboard cutouts here; every character was well-developed, realistic and compelling. It was a treat watching them interact and observing the sometimes tense dynamics between them.
The narration, told from Monty’s point of view, was exquisite and the author really did an excellent job of portraying the time-period of the novel and Monty’s social position (also his more-than-occasional daftness). Insufferable as Monty was at times, he quickly wormed his way into my heart.
The relationship between Monty and Percy was also expertly done and tender, with their romance evolving slowly along with their personal transformation throughout the novel. Felicity’s character was amazing – a strong and intelligent woman with a scientific mind for medicine, who was born a couple of centuries before her time. In fact, I’d love to see an entire book from Felicity’s point of view.
All in all, the Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was a delightful beautifully-written witty story with excellent characters, perfect pacing, an ever-twisting and surprising storyline, lots of diversity and plenty of heart. This was a most exhilarating journey and one that I’m grateful I took. Recommended!
You can check out The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue HERE
I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, and I recently came across one entitled “The House Next Door: a Ghost Story” by Darcy Coates. The blurb is as follows:
I live next to a haunted house.
I began to suspect something was wrong with the gothic building when its family fled in the middle of the night, the children screaming, the mother crying. They never came back to pack up their furniture.
No family stays long. Animals avoid the place. Once, I thought I saw a woman’s silhouette pacing through the upstairs room… but that seems impossible; no one was living there at the time.
A new occupant, Anna, has just moved in. I paid her a visit to warn her about the building. I didn’t expect us to become friends, but we did. And now that Marwick House is waking up, she’s asked me to stay with her.
I never intended to become involved with the building or its vengeful, dead inhabitant. But now I have to save Anna… before it’s too late for the both of us.
Introducing Nosy Neighbor Jo
The story takes place from the point of view of Jo, a woman who lives next door to the Marwick House, a home many claim is haunted. Anything planted in the front yard of the house dies, and there’s often a strange flickering off and on of the lights in the middle of the night. Jo’s three cats won’t even go near the place.
And then there’s the time when Jo was awakened by gunshots, followed by the current occupants of the Marwick House screaming then fleeing in the middle of the night (they never even came back for their belongings). And then there are all of the other families who fled the house, many after only a couple of months.
But one day, Jo notices that someone is moving in next door, and she can’t help but wonder who the next victim…er…..tenant of the house is.
Ever the nosy neighbor, Anna bakes some goodies and goes over to the Marwick House to introduce herself. She learns that the new occupant of the Marwick House is a secretive single woman named Anna, a self-employed doll maker who got an “unbelievable deal” on the house.
A friendship slowly develops between the two and Jo learns that Anna has some secrets of her own — dangerous ones.
The Hauntings Begin
It’s not too long afterward that strange things begin happening in the house: peculiar noises, music coming from the piano room, voices, whispering and lights coming on by themselves. But strangely enough, Anna doesn’t seem particularly bothered by them.
Anna and Jo learn more about the ghost and the past happenings at Marwick House in an attempt to understand what’s behind all the strange goings-on. From then, the novel takes a turn from being a simple haunted house story to a psychological thriller, with not only a ghostly villain but a human one as well.
Jo realizes that not only is her neighbor’s safety in jeopardy but hers as well — and it will take all of her willpower to save them both.
I thought that the author’s writing was clear and evocative and managed to get in the heads and hearts of Jo, Anna, and the ghosts. A lot of attention was placed on the malevolent atmosphere of the house and its effect on people, rendering the story even more spine-chilling.
I was a bit surprised how frightening the House Next Door ended up being, with the entire neighborhood being affected by an extremely powerful and scary ghost. In fact, everyone goes out of their way to avoid going near Marwick house or even discussing it.
I liked how the bits and pieces of both Anna and the ghost’s past slowly came together and snapped together, like the pieces of a puzzle. The plot, characterizations, and attention to detail were well executed and believable, and the original (and creepy) twists of the story kept me turning the page. The sign of a good book is when I find myself thinking about the story days after having read it, which was the case with The House Next Door.
My only niggle with the book was I did find it dragged in places, but it picked up as we headed toward the climactic ending. All in all, an engaging read, especially if you’re a fan of ghost stories. Recommended!
You can check out The House Next Door HERE
I was browsing the Young Adult section at my local library the other day and a book by the name of Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan caught my eye. I knew nothing about this book, but the description on the back cover peaked my interest. The blurb is as follows:
A tale of two very different worlds, both shattered by the loss of loved ones. Tragic, comic and full of hope, thanks to a dog called Boy.
The kennel has been JC’s home ever since his new adoptive father locked him inside. For hours on end, JC sits and tells his dog Boy how he came to this country: his family; the orphanage and the Haitian earthquake that swept everything away.
When his adoptive mother Melanie rescues him, life starts to feel normal again. Until JC does something bad, something that upset his new father so much that he and Boy are banished to the kennel. But as his new father gets sicker, JC realizes they have to find a way out. And so begins a stunning story of a boy, a dog and their journey to freedom.
Living in the Kennel
The entire story takes place in a kennel where a teenage boy named JC has been locked in along with his dog (Boy) by his stepfather. The entire story revolves around JC’s storytelling as he recounts his life story to his dog, Boy. The author’s use of internal dialog was expertly done and really added a distinctive element to the story.
We learn bit by bit that JC is an immigrant boy from Haiti who has gone through one horrendous experience after another: abuse at orphanages, surviving an earthquake and living on the streets to name a few. We learn through JC’s dialog what a tough, resilient and brave kid he really is, and it’s these qualities that allowed him to overcome every difficulty he’s had to face.
Enter Melanie and The Stepfather
JC’s tells Boy about how he ended up in the United States with Melanie and her boyfriend or husband (I don’t believe their marital status is ever mentioned). We figure out pretty quickly that the “adoption” wasn’t an entirely legal one, meaning Melanie and her partner pretty much snuck the boy into the United State.
JC depicts Melanie in a positive light, and we can tell that he is quite fond of her. Not so much with the stepfather, however; though JC’s dialog, we get the impression that the stepfather resented the boy and made everyday life more difficult for him because of that resentment.
I did a bad thing
We eventually learn the reason how JC and Boy ended up in their current predicament. According to JC, he did a bad thing that upset his stepfather so much at the locked JC and Boy away in a Kennel (we do learn what the bad thing is – but I’m not telling!).
Melanie is away during this time so she’s unaware of what’s going on at home. JC’s stepfather visits the kennel with less and less frequency, and JC realizes that he has to somehow get him and Boy to freedom, as their life may very well depend on it.
I wasn’t sure at first whether this was the kind of story I wanted to read. It sounded heartbreaking and indeed, in places it was. But it was also so much more. Though the reader experiences a rollercoaster of emotions as we move through the story, it is also hopeful. No matter what horrors JC experiences, he never seems to get depressed or wallows in despair or self-pity.
It’s interesting to note that there was almost no dialog throughout the entire story — all of it was portrayed through JC’s thoughts and one-way discourse to Boy. In this way, the author did an amazing job of portraying JC’s excellent character voice.
The lack of two-way dialog didn’t mean that the book was difficult to read. On the contrary, the author’s clever use of white space (some pages only contained a couple of sentences) made the book not only readable but added extra intrigue and emotion that kept you turning the page.
Yes, as a reader you are shocked at the beginning by the horrifying conditions that the boy and his dog are living in, and you certainly can’t help but tear up many times throughout the book. It’s sad. It’ll tear your heart out in places. But Goodnight, Boy is also a beautiful, moving and hopeful story of an abused boy, his dog and their journey towards freedom. It’s a deep, engaging and original book that kept me interested all the way through, and I’m so glad I read it. Recommended!
Trigger warning: This book contains scenes of child and animal abuse and neglect.
You can check out Goodnight, Boy HERE