Monday, October 31, 2011

Manly Mondays Goes Horror

Off Season, by Jack Ketchum
From Goodreads:

A beautiful New York editor retreats to a lonely cabin on a hill in the quiet Maine beach town of Dead River—off season—awaiting her sister and friends. Nearby, a savage human family with a taste for flesh lurks in the darkening woods, watching, waiting for the moon to rise and night to fall.

Off Season was a grim foray into Horror before Horror really became horrific.  A book before it's time, with that quality unique to horror of the late 70's, early 80's.  Perfect Halloween reading.

Off Season, By Jack Ketchum
Reprinted by Leisure Books, June 2006
Buy Off Season on Amazon

Monstrumologist: Isle of Blood, by Rick Yancey
From Goodreads:

When Dr. Warthrop goes hunting the "Holy Grail of Monstrumology" with his eager new assistant, Arkwright, he leaves Will Henry in New York. Finally, Will can enjoy something that always seemed out of reach: a normal life with a real family. But part of Will can't let go of Dr. Warthrop, and when Arkwright returns claiming that the doctor is dead, Will is devastated--and not convinced.

Determined to discover the truth, Will travels to London, knowing that if he succeeds, he will be plunging into depths of horror worse than anything he has experienced so far. His journey will take him to Socotra, the Isle of Blood, where human beings are used to make nests and blood rains from the sky--and will put Will Henry's loyalty to the ultimate test.

The Isle of Blood may be somewhat slower than the first two books but the ultimate fear it invokes is longer lasting with greater impact.  The monster of this book is not the type of the first two, but one far more real and for that- terrifying.  I will be very sad when this series ends with the next book.

The Isle of Blood, by Rick Yancey (part three of the Monstrumologist series)
Published by Simon and Schuster, September 2011
Buy The Isle of Blood on Amazon

The Five, by Robert McCammon
From Goodreads:

The Five tells the story of an eponymous rock band struggling to survive on the margins of the music business. As they move through the American Southwest on what might be their final tour together, the band members come to the attention of a damaged Iraq war veteran, and their lives are changed forever.

The Five was a little disappointing.  After a nearly 20 year absence from contemporary fiction I was expecting something more epic.  This might very well be one of those books that seems better on the second reading or with lower expectations.
The Five, by Robert McCammon
Published by Subterranean Press, May 2011
Buy The Five on Amazon

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Monstrumologist, By Rick Yancey- Review

The first time I saw this book on the shelves, days after it was first released, I knew it would be right up the hubbies alley.  The cover and interior art was super cool and the subject matter was unusual, creepy and perfect.  I was right (aren't I always?!) and he ate it up, but the gory passages he kept reading off to me totally put me off reading the book forever, which, it turns out, was totally my loss.

From Goodreads:
These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for nearly ninety years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.

So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphan and assistant to a doctor with a most unusual specialty: monster hunting. In the short time he has lived with the doctor, Will has grown accustomed to his late night callers and dangerous business. But when one visitor comes with the body of a young girl and the monster that was feeding on her, Will's world is about to change forever. The doctor has discovered a baby Anthropophagi--a headless monster that feeds through the mouthfuls of teeth in its chest--and it signals a growing number of Anthropophagi. Now, Will and the doctor must face the horror threatening to overtake and consume our world before it is too late.

The list of Awards that Rick Yancey took home or was nominated for is probably a good indicator of the caliber of writing (he took home the 2010 Printz), but somehow it still blew me away.  Written in language you expect from a classic like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and filled with horror usually reserved for adult books, The Monstrumologist was one of the most unique YA books I've ever read.  Sure the protagonist is 12, but that would be the extent of it's pandering to a younger age group, and the story is so sophisticated I'm amazed he found a publisher willing to risk marketing to the YA audience. But these elements are what make it such a wicked YA story, finally someone is giving kids a serious horror novel to cal their own. 

What I especially appreciated about The Monstrumologist was the depth of the story.  This wasn't a cheap scare.  Will, and the doctor have a complex relationship involving not only themselves but their parents and their pasts, and as you uncover how they came to be together it's inevitable that you come to care about them but also to be as interested in them as the monsters.  And they weren't the only characters with secrets I was dying to unravel.  Between the hair raising build up, the intrigues an mystery about the various characters and the down right ghoulish horror this story really had it all.

The even better news is there are more of them! Yes, that's right, this is an ongoing series with two more published books out already, The Curse of the Wendigo and The Isle of Blood, and at least one more book to come!

The Monsturmologist, by Rick Yancey
Published by Simon and Schuster, paperback July 2010
Check out Rick's site
Buy The Monstrumologist on Amazon

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Link Salad

Is that Saturday air I smell?  It's full of news so it must be!

-First up, Myra McEntire has all sorts of news. Hourglass was optioned by 20th Century Fox this week, it doesn't guarantee it'll make it into movie format, but it's a big step towards it.  Also the cover for book the second, timepiece was leaked prematurely.  I'm not sure I like it quite as much as Hourglass but I love how they've kept the look.

-Speaking of movie news, The Scorpio Races has barely hit the shelves and it's been nabbed already by Warner Brothers.

-In less exciting news, Amazon's takeover of The Book Depository went through this week.  Sad news for book buyers and sellers as nobody likes to see the competition taken out of the book game.

-For those of you who have been dyeing to get there hands on the final part of the Strain trilogy (the Night Eternal, I've got an interview with Guilermo Del Toro for you with a little trailer for book the third.

-Cassie Clare has posted a steampunk short story.  Wherever does she find all the time for her books, teasers, short stories, twitter and touring??!

-In book related news, Poe's Cottage in the Bronx is nearing completion of it's reno's.  It looks spectacular from the photo's but is apparently still hurting for funding.  An amazing piece of history, I hope it comes into some funding soon, I'd love to visit on my next NYC trip.

-With Abarat finally in book stores, Shelf Awareness has done a small fav's list with Author Clive Barker.  Book that changed your life: The Bible.  Really Clive? Interesting.

-The Illustrator for Lisel and Po, Kei Acederahas posted a fun blog post on illustrating said book.  She shows some of the preliminary sketches which I rave about in my review of the story next week.

-Finally, in the spirit of the season, I bring you amazing literature inspired Jack O'Lanterns!

Now go forth and Saturday on!

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Spidey sense is tingling for Feline Fridays!!

He has an entourage.  
Spidey hunting shoes...
Turns out that all along all I had to do was offer a superhero costume to Dilly!

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I go IFOA-ing and Meet Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern and SimonToyne

So on tuesday night, though it was cold, rainy and generally miserable, I had the joy of attending a fantastic roundtable at the IFOA (International Festival of Authors).  Magic, Myth and Forces Beyond Reason was the topic and it was an amazing panel including: Lev Grossman (The Magicians), Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus) and Simon Toyne (Sanctus), and moderated by the darling Lesley Livingston.  It was funny, intriguing and just the right mix of relaxed and personal that makes all the IFOA events so enjoyable (not to mention they're wildly affordable).  Though I was there mostly for fun I did take a few notes and took home some special treats for the Spooktacular Giveaway (see below).  Here are some of the things I found particularly interesting:

Lev Grossman wanted his magic to be really difficult to do, no wiggling of the fingers and TA DAH!  He thought potions in Harry Potter was too much like Home Ec and didn't get what was so hard about that.  Also, have you noticed that Harry Potter seems to have never read a Novel in his life??! (Astoundingly, so true! Outside of his Quiditch books of course).
His proudest moment was when Alice socks Justin in the face.

Simon says Ruin was very vague at first but then he put Liv on a plane to get there and it felt like she was on a plane to Mordor. Lev- Is that a direct flight?, Simon- NO, not at all, I'm pretty sure it has a stop over in Dubai.
As the city developed for him he got so detailed about it he wanted people to Google it.  They tried to do a Wikipedia page for it but those Nerds are fast! It was gone in no time!

Erin revealed that Celia didn't even exist in the first draft. The Night Circus evolved from NaNoWriMo one year where she got so bored with her characters that she took them to the Circus and then abandoned them and got lost in the Circus.  So for a long time the Night Circus had no real plot it was just her love of the circus, and lots of vignettes.  She was very inspired by The Prestige and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell.

Lev talked a little bit about his TV announcement, in the contract he's a Creative Consultant but he doesn't know how involved he'll be.  He imagines there will be a lot of new material in the show, but he feels really good about it.

Simon mentioned he's working on a sequel, but that it moves away from Ruin.

Erin told me one of her cats inspired the Circus kittens.  She developed this fancy summersault to get doors open, because she couldn't figure out to just push it open.

All three authors were more than charming, and in the signings afterwards were super gracious and friendly.  Most exciting for me was how into my little creative challenge they got.  I wanted something special for my international Spooktacular winners, and came up with library cards for their books (since mailing a signed book too, say India, would bankrupt me), but I wasn't sure how the authors would feel about this non-traditional signing.
Well they got so creative I'm now loath to part with them!

So make sure to stop by the contest and throw your name into the hat to win one of these Fab library cards as well as the accompanying book.

PS- It's always fun to say hi to the lovely Lesley Livingston, a local so I'm lucky enough to run into more often than you normally would.  She was a great moderator, and she had some exciting news about a new book she's working on!  I can't wait until she reveals it.  Let's just say that her fans are going to be thrilled.  Check out her amusing photo from the evening.

Check out the Torontoist for a cute little article on the talk, he caught one of my fav moments, Lev's "Jesus Christ, this cannot be it." moment, which had me laughing for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel- Review

From Goodreads:
Aimee and Alan have secrets. Both teens have unusual pasts and abilities they prefer to keep hidden. But when they meet each other, in a cold Maine town, they can't stop their secrets from spilling out. Strange things have been happening lately, and they both feel that something-or someone- is haunting them. They're wrong. Despite their unusual history and powers, it's neither Aimee nor Alan who is truly haunted. It's Alan's cousin Courtney who, in a desperate plea to find her missing father, has invited a demon into her life-and into her body. Only together can Aimee and Alan exorcise the ghost. And they have to move quickly, before it devours not just Courtney but everything around her.

Alrighty, sounds spine tingling right?  This was a day one book, at the BEA, first thing in the morning I ran across it and thought- Exorcism of Emily Rose!! I'm In!!  So later that afternoon during the speed dating with YA and middle shool authors, when Carrie came to our table and talked about how her and Steven wrote this book in a month via email and had SO MUCH FUN, I was even more sold.

Now I tell you what an idiot I am.  Seriously.  Somehow I didn't realise that the Carrie Jones I met, and who's book I was excited about was the Carrie Jones who wrote Need.  Then I picked After Obsession off the shelf last week and started thumbing through it, and couldn't figure out what all the "Praise for Need and Captivate" was all about inside the cover (my ARC does not say Bestselling Author of Need, obviously).  Honestly, it took me a good ten minutes to put two and two together, apparently it had been a long day.

Since I was very luke warm about Need, when I read it last year, and could never be bothered to continue the series after hearing it held the status quo, I likely never would have read or picked up After Obsession if I hadn't been oddly confused or forgetful about who Carrie Jones was.  But it was in my hands, and I had lugged it home from NYC so I was going to give her one more chance.

Unfortunately, all the problems I had with Need, I had with After Obsession but more so.  Oh god, I really disliked it.  A lot.  As in it was torturous to finish, and this is a little book!  I almost couldn't make myself and there was much, much groaning out loud.  If you're a Carrie Jones fan, turn away now, I'm warning you.

Problem number one- Alan and Aimee have one of the most preposterous love affairs I've read in awhile.  They fall all over each other almost instantly, know nothing about each other before they're proclaiming love and take courting to all new levels of stupid by officially meeting each others parents over a meal while in the middle of being pursued by a demon! TWICE!!  I mean seriously, you meet a hot guy but a demons trying to kill you both, are you really going to plan a night where he comes by for dinner and meets the fam?  Then when you find a dead guy are you really going to head over to the hotties house to meet his mom a few hours later?

Problem number two- You can't take a caring single mom, who you're supposed to like, and then have her say hateful things about her son to his face and still like her, let alone buy she'd say it in the first place.  Alan is half native and there is a lot of talk about how his mom doesn't "like" the traditions he's tryed to adopt to understand that half of his culture.  She goes so far to say he's "playing at being native" when she finds him meditating, burning incense and listening to Ojibwa chanting.  Unless Carrie and Steven want to give me a reason why his mom would take issue with him embracing Native customs, IE: some sort of bad previous experience, it doesn't fit with the rest of her persona.

Problem number three- Exorcism should not be easy.  Come on people, with books and movies like the Exorcist and the Exorcism of Emily Rose you know the bar has been set pretty high for demons, exorcisms and scary.  So why try a fluffy version where its neatly wrapped up in a few chapters, there's no real damage outside of some furniture, and every one is A OK, 5 minutes later?  I wanted to read some seriously creepy words on the page to make up for all the sickening sweety lovey doveyness, and I was not rewarded.

There were two characters I loved, Gramps and Aimees brother Benji, they were sweet, funny and had a wonderful side story going about a Marilyn Monroe shaped Cheeto they were selling on ebay.  Though I thought it was unnecessary for there to be a "You know who Marilyn Monroe was right?" preface every time one of the teenagers talked about it.  Anywho, they missed their opportunity for a great and funny story when they decided that Gramps, Benji and the Cheeto should be a secondary side story.  I'm just saying.

After Obsession, By Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel
Published by Bloomsbury, September 2011
Buy After Obsession on Amazon

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Testify, by Valerie Sherrard- Review

Single white female for middle school/YA audiences, Testify follows Shana as she discovers her best friend Carrie is a master manipulator who's always two steps ahead of everyone.  Too bad Shana agreed to testify against Carrie's step dad, saying she witnessed him molesting Carrie when she didn't actually.

Although a good story, I didn't like Testify as much as Accomplice, the tone felt younger than I think it was actually meant for.  I couldn't put my finger on it exactly, since it was the same age group and style as Accomplice, but maybe it was because of the BFF girlfriend group.  Though it also might have been some of the stylistic choices.  I wasn't crazy about how often Sherrard referred to Shana's mom as the true crime buff.  Although pertinent I didn't feel I needed to be reminded  about it quite as much as I was.

If the ending hadn't been as sensational, I think Testify would have been an excellent book dealing with that weird BFF girl group dynamic that can get so ugly in school.  But then I suppose it wouldn't qualify as a thriller, just a coming of age story.

I didn't love Testify, it had it's moments but it wasn't as thought provoking as Accomplice, or as gripping as I would have liked for a thriller.  Still it wasn't a bad book, just not my favourite from this particular author.

Testify, by Valerie Sherrard
Published by, Dundurn Press, August 2011
My copy kindly provided by Dundurn Press
Buy Testify from Amazon

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spooktacular giveaway- The BIG ONE folks!

Well it is nearing the end of October, and I wanted it to go out with a BANG! So I've teamed up with Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer to present the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop.  The big news is it's one of the biggest hops yet!  You'll need the whole week just to enter them all!  So with out further ado here's what I have up for grabs!
Canada and US:
A signed copy of The Night Circus (by Erin Morgenstern)
 A signed copy of The Magicians (by Lev Grossman)
A signed copy of Sanctus (by Simon Toyne)

if you live outside of the USA or Canada then you'll get
A signed bookplate by one of the two above authors and the book shipped separately from The Book Depository.  Only because it would be horrifically expensive to send the book from Canada.

All the entrants will get a chance to win a copy of Wanda Ernstberger's ebook The Next Shakespeare

 The Next Shakespeare:
Who thought a poem would trigger World War Three?
Tristan Gunner—skateboard fanatic, junk food junkie, award-winning poet. But you’d think he just got detention instead of the school’s grand prize for poetry. And even though Chris won five Math and Science awards, the next Einstein is crying because he’s not the next Shakespeare. Astra wants them both to cut the drama, and caught between a mortified winner and a crybaby loser, she hopes Chris can get over his attitude before World War Three erupts in her kitchen.
Check out an excerpt.
There will be three winners, all you have to do is fill out the form.  But I will throw a bonus entry your way if you follow my blog, since I love me my followers!

Now get hopping to all these other sites to enter their giveaways!


A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Siobhan Dowd)- Review

Somehow I missed this book at the BEA, and it's my loss I have to tell you.  Thank God for Amy over at Amy Reads!  She corrected the situation by lending me her copy.  I have two words for you- Gut wrenching.  I was crying prolifically from page 162- 205.  But wow, it was worth it.

The monster showed up after midnight.  As they do.
But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting.  He's been expecting the one form his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming....
This monster, though, is something different.  Something ancient, something wild.  And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.

Siobhan Dowd had a beginning, a premise and the characters when she lost her struggle with cancer.  In his authors note, Patrick Ness says when he was asked to write the story he hesitated, because he didn't want to try and write her book in her voice, rather if he would do it, he had to do it his way.  "But the good thing about good ideas is that they grow other ideas", and thus A Monster Calls was born.

I suppose since it's the same subject matter I couldn't help being reminded of Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne.  Both deal with coming to terms with a terminally ill parent by a child, and the fanciful stories that lead them to acceptance.  Yet I wasn't the slightest bit affected by Noah Barleywater, and I was chocked up or crying throughout most of A Monster Calls.  A Monster Calls really hit all the buttons for me, and although I've never lost a parent, it felt genuine and truthful.

For a simple story, A Monster Calls is very richly written.  The characters are lush and evocative, right on down to Conor's bully Harry.  And even though there's often spartan dialogue, you still end up with a strong sense of each of the people surrounding Conor.  Its astounding the vast amount of feeling and story Patrick conveys in few words, that are often very simple.  But I suppose this is why so many of the quotes for this book use lyrical to describe it.
                 I'm sorry for telling everyone about you mum, read the first line.
                 I miss being your friend, read the second
                Are you okay? read the third.
                 I see you, read the fourth, with the I underlined about a hundred times.

This paragraph killed me!  But there is so much more that is equally wonderful.  Truly a beautiful story that you will be greatly missing out on if you don't read for yourself.  Oh, and did I mention the stunning illustrations?  Every bit as rich and layered as the story, textured, dark and a perfect fit.  I honestly couldn't picture the story without Jim Kay's artwork.

So what are you waiting for? Read A Monster Calls already.

A Monster Calls, By Patrick Ness/Siobhan Dowd
Published by Candlewick September 15, 2011
Buy A Monster Calls from Amazon
Check out Patrick Ness's website for news, events and more

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday link salad

Hello Tweeters, bloggers, readthoners and more! Happy Saturday too you.  May it be filled with yummy things like spicy hot chocolate and coffee cake, and of course oodles of news!

-This incredibly amusing Mad Lib YA diss article, by the Rejectionist was tweeted by Maureen Johnson earlier this week.  I think it pretty much covers the gambit, maybe it'll help quell all the naysayers for a bit? Nah, I didn't think so either.

-The Debutant Ball put up a great little article about the Myths and Realities of Publishing and being a Published Author.

-In the same vein, the YA Highway posted the True Confessions of a Multi-Published Author.

-Laini Taylor did a small photo blog for Bookish showing her average work day.  Right about now I wish I could reach through my monitor and steal her coffee.

-Across the Universe has a facebook page, and in a bout 600 more "Like"'s they're going to post a preview of the second book.  So head over and Like it already!

-Speaking of Facebook, it's ShatterDay over on the Shatter Me Facebook page.  You have 24hrs to read the first 24 chapters (quick question, how many chapters are there??!).  Get over there and get started!  Seriously, the only thing I ever remember about it from the BEA pitch was "steamy shower scene!", so keep your fingers crossed it's in the first 24 chapters!

-There's another City of Lost Souls teaser up on Cassie's Tumblr account, apparently the first October one got lots of complaints so she decided to add a bit more.

-EW has an exclusive audio clip for those of you dying for Stephen Kings latest to arrive next month.  11/22/63, is apparently so long that audio clip is over thirty minutes long and considered a "snippet"! hahahahahha

-In case you missed it, this morning was the start of the Dewey 24hr Readathon.  I have to work tomorrow so couldn't take part, but I'm cheering from the sidelines.  Head on over to Dewey's site and follow the fun.  While you're there you can start planning to join in for the spring Readathon in June!

-Rin Tin Tin, popped through my mailbox recently, and while I wait to dig in, I was excited to see Indigo has a lengthy interview with author Susan Orlean.  Now I really can't wait to read this!

-For all of you in the Toronto vicinity, don't forget the IFOA is officially now on!  Loads of amazing authors and talks, I'll be heading out Tuesday night for a talk with Lev Grossman and Erin Morgenstern moderated by Lesley Livingston, so hopefully I'll see you there!  Make sure to check out the schedule for all the events. 

-Alright, I know I've given you tonnes to leaf through, but I'd be horribly remiss if I skipped past the Brouhaha that was the National Book Award Finalist debacle with Lauren Myracle.  MUCH has been said (most of it not nice) and sadly Lauren got royally screwed in a very public way.  If you missed out or just wanted to flesh out what you know about it then check the following links out:
   *first out was the PW article about the Shine/Chime debacle
   *NYT article about the same
   *Libba Brays no nonsense reaction to the same
   *Then the interviews started to roll in, Flavorwire was first, then Vanity Fair got into the story too.
   *hash tag #ISupportShine when ballistic on Twitter
But most of all a great author got a lot of publicity that, although stemming from a rotten thing, was well deserved.  So make sure to support Shine by buying or borrowing a copy soon.

Now go forth and Saturday-on!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Feline Fridays goes Jurassic for Giving me the Creeps October!

Baxter is the nice t-rex, the vegetarian kind.
Thurman was into his ferocious face, he was definitely channeling his inner beastie.
Cheddar couldn't stop purring! He loved this one.
And even Deliah begrudgingly let me drape it over her while she shot me loath-full teenage angsty looks.
Happy Friday!

Giving me the Creeps Giveaway the THIRD!!

In which I'm very late in posting!! Ahhhhhh! Ever so sorry diehards!  But I'm throwing in a bonus book to make up for it!!

As before, nothing needed to enter, except filling in the form (so I know who you are, basics, you know), HOWEVER, if you decide to follow me or let friends know about the contest I will be appreciative with bonus entries!
Up for grabs is the paperback of Guillermo Del Toro's and Chuck Hogans THE FALL, book two in the Strain trilogy, in anticipation of next weeks release of book the final- The Night Eternal!!!
I loved both The Strain and The Fall, they were awesome creepy!
I'm also going to throw in an ARC copy of the newest ABARAT book Absolute Midnight.
Open Internationally! Contest will be open until Sunday at Midnight and then it will fold so the epic SPOOKTACULAR GIVEAWAY HOP can go up!!!  So make sure to come back for it as well!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff- Review

This book had ambiance in droves!  Grey, rainy and and filled with mystery, The Replacement was everything I'd hoped for over the past year while it mouldered away in the To-Be-Bought file I'm always carrying around in the back of my head.

From Goodreads:
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, but when a friends baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Brenna paints a wonderfully wicked world in the Replacement, it's almost Burton-esque in it's depressing greyness and understanding by all that you just don't talk about the strangeness.  The ambiance was so impressive it became the flavour of the book for me.  Against this backdrop she's lined up an impressive array of characters who were intriguing enough to make me want more of them in another book.  Mackie's friends include twins Danny and Drew- who can build or repair almost anything from their mom's vast hoarding collection, Roswell who's charming, kind,and never crabs about having his night ruined, or by the secrets Mackie obviously keeps, and Tate, the tough ass love interest he's known forever but only recently realized he's attracted to.  And don't forget his sister Emma, who loved him so much, from the time he was switched with her brother, that it's the only reason he's still alive.

Like in Cold Kiss, real life teen issues were mixed really nicely into this horror/tragedy story.  Mackie has spent his life struggling to fit into the crowd without drawing any attention to himself, hoping to live life but not draw the ire of the community.  But in the end it leaves him with a very remote half life, where he's constantly in fear of people suspecting him.  The way he longs to be normal, while trying to get by in a world that's slowly killing him makes him lovable despite his background.  Mix in the conundrum his friends and family are in because they love him despite what he is and represents, and you have the main reason I loved The Replacement. 

The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Razorbill, September 2011 (paperback)
Check out the fun interview betwen Brenna and Maggie Stiefvater
Buy The Replacement on Amazon
Check out Brenna's Blog, or her soon to be released second book The Space Between!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Draw the Dark, by Ilsa J. Bick

After finishing up Ashes I was at a loss, I wanted more.  You know how it is sometimes; it makes picking up the next book a bit harder.  However, I had Draw the Dark in my BEA pile and since it was Ilsa's book prior to Ashes it was the closest I was going to come, not more Ashes but more Ilsa Bick. 

From Goodreads:
"The things I draw: They tend to die."

There are things the people of Winter, Wisconsin, would rather forget. The year the Nazis came to town, for one. That fire, for another. But what they'd really like to forget is Christian Cage.

Seventeen-year-old Christian's parents disappeared when he was a little boy. Ever since, he's drawn obsessively: his mother's face...her eyes...and what he calls "the sideways place," where he says his parents are trapped. Christian figures if he can just see through his mother's eyes, maybe he can get there somehow and save them.

But Christian also draws other things. Ugly things. Evil things. Dark things. Things like other people's fears and nightmares. Their pasts. Their destiny.

There's one more thing the people of Winter would like to forget: murder.

But Winter won't be able to forget the truth, no matter how hard it tries. Not as long as Christian draws the dark...
Draw the Dark had a much slower beginning than Ashes and it took me awhile to get my head around the story.  For instance, somehow I missed that he was 17 and thought he was 12 until page 134, which was pretty confusing when I realised he was much older than I was picturing.    That being said, by about the midway point my interest was peaked and I was starting to have a hard time putting the book down. 

My one iffy point on the story was how everyone so easily accepted what Christian was able to do.  If it's not the whole town condemning him as evil, over some very loose reasons, then it's a doctor/psychologist who's immediately convinced he can draw people to death.   Though, just like Ashes, Bick makes a strong effort to explain the whole thing in scientific and medical ways, I just didn't feel she was as successful or that her characters would believe it as easily as they did.   Also I felt like a more thorough description of the death of his teacher was needed earlier on to both explain the towns loathing of him and to up the mystery/horror aspect sooner. 

The historical aspects of Draw the Dark were fascinating though.  Ilsa explores how Prisoners of War were brought to the States for labor after WWII, and the kinds of problems that created in communities where the PW's were German and the town had a large Jewish community.  She also talks a fair amount about the histories of Unions and a lot of the strife that caused both in towns and between religious groups.  I had no idea PW's were so common across the rural United States as labor forces and it opened up some really intriguing bits of history for me.

In the end I didn't love Draw the Dark as much as Ashes, it had some engrossing moments, a lot of intriguing history and some characters that grew on me but I felt like the story just didn't sell me on Christian's paranormal drawing skills.  Also I felt a bit confused by his relationship with Sarah (she blew really hot and cold for no apparent reason), and by his age which might have been a total lapse on my part early on but really screwed the story up for me.

Love the cover though!

Draw the Dark, by Ilsa J. Bick
Published by Carolrhoda Books, September 2010
Buy Draw the Dark on Amazon

Monday, October 17, 2011

Giving me the Creeps the Second has winners!

No better way to cheer up your case of the Mondays then to win a great new read, am I right?
So  Darlene (doesn't want her last name bandied about) and Evan O'Brian, I hope you're ready for some Double Dexter!

And to those of you, whose case of the Monday's I have yet to cure, make sure to return Thursday for Giving me the Creeps Contest the third (or you know, before then, because you like me for more than my giveaways).

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick- Review

I cannot rave enough about how many amazing finds have popped out of my BEA pile; books I knew nothing about, but sounded promising, and turned out to be awesome.  And several of them have been obscure enough I'm not sure I would have found them otherwise, or at least not any time soon.  Ashes was totally one of those finds, and although I really want to scream at the HUGE cliff hanger ending, I also desperately want you to read it and come back and gossip with me about it!

From the back of the book:
  An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions.  For those spare, it's a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human...
Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom- a young army veteran- and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse.
This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.

A totally different take on the zombie thing, Ilsa Bick goes for the full on scientific approach, which works on several levels.  First it's a believable way to create the apocalyptic environment of the story; I was totally buying what she was selling, every step of the way.  It also gave her characters a straightforward way to be able to explain what's happening, an army guy and a doctor can believably piece together the evidence to try and get some answers, but whats more, it was interesting.  Secondly it allowed her to do some really cool things with her main character Alex, and some elderly characters you meet later on, in relationship to health and disease. I won't give away details other than the fact that the first thing you learn about Alex (like on page three, I swear I'm not ruining anything) is she has a brain tumour killing her, and this adds a really nice bit of complexity to the story especially with the EMP theories.

Ashes, although very much about Alex and her experiences, is also an ensemble cast kind of story. There are many characters you come to care about, and it makes the story much more engrossing than it would be if you were only worried about Alex.  As she runs from one disaster to another gaining and loosing friends and acquaintances you not only worry about her but everyone else as well.  In the back of my head I was constantly wondering about the characters she'd lost.

The story also capitalizes on the creepy town factor, such a staple in horror.  Like the Forest of Hands and Teeth there's a lot of unresolved mystery about the town and it also seem to be wrapped around religion somehow.  Rule, the town in question, captured my attention even more than the first part of the story (where the disaster happens and Alex first starts to cope).  Once Alex gets there, things ramp up considerably in the mystery category and the complications with Chris were, again, something I can see happening under the circumstances- yet totally intriguing.

But back to what I was saying to begin with, the ending! I'm pretty sure that was one of the craziest cliff hangers I've ever read, and it may just kill me waiting for book two, Shadows, to come out next late summer or early fall (Monsters, book three is due 2013).  Seriously, I was so thrown by the ending, it was so startling and unexpected I just sat around slightly stunned for a good hour.  Even with Ilsa's other book Draw the Dark sitting on my coffee table, it was torture to move on to a different story.

A great book with lots of layers and interesting mysteries, Ashes is something you definitely don't want to miss out on.  Though I have to say I liked the cover I got better.

Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick
Published by EgmontUSA, September 2011
Buy Ashes from Amazon
Check out Ilsa's website

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dark Eden, by Patrick Carman- Review

From Goodreads:
Fifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares—with the help of the group facilitator, Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night's experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains. . . . What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden?

You would think a story about fear would be scary, right? But although there was a definite attempt to build up suspense I wasn't feeling it.  The story was moderately interesting, I was fairly intrigued to know what Wills fear was, but I wasn't gripped by Dark Eden in any kind of page turning way.  In part I think this is because none of the characters have much depth to them.  The story is from Wills perspective and since he doesn't know them and doesn't interact with them they never become more than stereotypes- the blond girl, the jock, the Asian kid etc.  Will reveals precious little about himself as well, until the end, so I found it hard to care very much about the characters.  And since caring about them was largely required so that I would worry about their fears and their cures it really killed the suspense.

I also really disliked the ending.  It's possible it will be different since my copy was a very advanced BEA ARC, but if not then they killed the one thing going for the story, the mystery.  Throughout you're kept wondering what Dark Eden is, who Rainsford really is and what exactly they're doing to "cure" the kids.  But when it came to the big reveal at the end, instead of a tight, concise TA DAH! moment, I got one surprise, then an ending, then another surprise, then the second ending and then some trailing thoughts on the surprises tacked on to the end ending.  It was very anti climatic and just a little bit boring.

This is my first experience with a multimedia book, and I'm not sure what to think.  For starters I don't have a way to download the apps so I can't check them out except via show and tell on the Dark Eden website.  Second of all, I don't get the point of the book versus chapter serials.  Obviously the chapter serials (which you download) must be a much more concise version of the story, since there are only 14, which makes me wonder what you loose if you "read" it that way (I think it's largely acted out).  Finally, what could the apps possibly add I wonder?

The book is a complete thing on its own.  At no point during the story was I alerted to bonus content or did I feel it was missing something.  Presumably the apps are just secondary build on the story, though maybe they're just visual and audio of some of the things you've already read in the book proper, but unless the story continues online or through the apps I don't get the point, unless of course you're just trying to give options to the non-reading kids.  Personally I think it would have been smarter to focus on the book and make it really gripping and mysterious then to spread the story thin over a book and then a web page and a bunch of apps.  But maybe your 12 year old will disagree with me!

Dark Eden, by Patrick Carman
Published by Katherine Tegen Books, November 1st 2011
Pre-order Dark Eden on Amazon
Check out the Dark Eden site for apps and extras

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Link Salad

Well another week, and another round of book news round up!  Grab a drink and lets get linking.
-Back at the BEA, I met Tahereh Mafi, the author of Shatter Me, and I have to say the thing that stuck with me the most from the chat she gave us was "steamy shower scene".  I know, there's no hope for me is there?  Anywho, it's releasing in november, but if you head over to facebook and "Like" it you can read the first chapter!  It likely won't be the steamy shower scene, but you have to have something to look forward to when you buy the book, right?!

-One of the big moments for me at the BEA was meeting Eoin Colfer, the author of Artemis Fowl.  I got ridiculously tongue tied though, so thank god for the hubby who managed to make look like a lot less of an idiot with his conversational save.  His adult book, Plugged, was a lot of fun (it released in September, my review is coming up in november).  Check out the Varsity interview where he talks about Artemis and Plugged:

-One of my all time fav novels is Good Omens, which was sent to me by a good friend for my birthday one summer.  Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have come together again, sadly not for a book, as Neil interviewed Terry about latest novel.

-Sugarscape has a great little film interview with Laini Taylor where she talks about a lot of the things she mentioned at the BEA as far as inspirations for Daughter of Smoke and Bone goes.

-In strange but very cool news, there is a new way for people to print their own copies of backlist books, in-store that was revealed at the Frankfurt book fair this year.  How great would it be to print off your own fresh book??!

-Because I'm a crazy cat lady (was there any doubt?) Quirk Press's new book Crafting with cat hair is both totally amusing to me, but also looks like too much fun not to pick up.

-Cherie Priest has announced another book in the Clockwork Century series! Tentatively called Fiddlehead it sounds like awesome good fun as per usual.

But wait! I have more!
-Cassandra Clare has put up a snippet of lost scene from Clockwork Angel on her Tumblr account.
-Plus did you know it was one of the members of the Decemberists who wrote Wildwood?  Or that his sister wrote the recently released Apothecary?  The NY times had an interesting article about it all recently.

Happy Linking!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Feline Fridays gets dressed up for Giving me the Creeps October!!

Once upon a time there were three little piggies. 
and they grumped and they groused,
they wiggled and the squirmed,
 and at some point they built houses out of pick up sticks and playing cards, or somesuch.
Then along came the big bad wolf...
And she huffed and she puffed, and she howlllllleddddd the house down. I WILL NOT BE A PIGGY!!! she growled.  I'm a mean old girl wolf, who appreciates books and seasonal floral bouquets!

Happy Feline Friday!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Giving me the Creeps October Giveaway the Second! Dexter style

Welcome back my darlings! 
Yes I do have more treats for you! 
In honor of all things scary and good, as well as newly releasing, this time I'm giving away the latest Dexter book!  Double Dexter by Jeff Lindsay comes out on tuesday October 18th, but you can win a copy here this weekend.
Just fill out the form to win, one copy will be Canadian only and one copy will be International (as long as the Book Depository ships to you).  But wait!  Have you somehow missed the first 5 books in the series?  Then come over here and check out my reviews for them plus a small bit from that time last year when I got to meet Jeff Lindsay himself!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Double Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay- Review

Oh Dexter! Let me count the ways I love you. First off, you are so slick and hopeless at the same time, I adore the messes you get into. Secondly, if you have to have side kicks to your story then who better than your potty mouth sister, difficult stepchildren and flighty but lovely wife?  Thirdly you are a funny, funny man, twisted, but funny.  Fourthly, your stance on criminals, now who can argue with that? Fifthly you're a club scout participant, who doesn't love a serial killer cub scout?  Reason the sixth- Double Dexter, my highly anticipated, yearly fall treat!

It's a killers dream life, great job, fantastic family and time for deadly visits on the side, what could be better?  That is until Dexter is caught in the act by some unknown observer.  Life quickly spirals into fits of worry and *gasp* emotion, while Dexter fusses over who his mystery follower could be and if he's safe.  Meanwhile life goes on as crimes continue as per usual in Miami, and Rita worries about the size of their house and if they should up size.  But Dexter's shadow is wittier than expected, and between Rita, work and the kids it seems like Daddy Dexter has both gotten a little soft, and might have finally met his match.

This might have been my favorite Dexter book yet.  I love what a tailspin family life has Dexter in.  If he's not trying to work out all of Rita's cryptic subtext and nonsensical conversations, he's mooning over Lily Anne or trying to tame angsty tween Astor.  Meanwhile Brian is also still popping by for Friday family dinners and Debs is quite confusingly depending on her partner for a change.  Clearly Dexter is no match to simple, every day family life.

And funny! Yea Gods I was chortling the whole way through this latest Dexter Dramody.  The Cub scout Wilderness Weekend had me in tears and the hubby was quite sick of my case of the giggles by bedtime.  But so help me, the Cub scout leaders tirade on the deadly creatures of the great outdoors coupled with Dexter and Cody's death by mosquito is enough to make me die laughing all over again just thinking about it.

Insert the race to the finish, competition between Dexter and his shadow and this book was 100% a page turning, laugh out loud winner.  As a pure bonus of joy the story trundles down to Key West and staggers smack into the middle of Hemingway Days, which was all the more enjoyable knowing that author Jeff Lindsay's wife is Hemingway's niece.  Oh and did I mention there's a shark too? No? Well I suppose you'll just have to read Double Dexter for yourself then.

Double Dexter, Jeff Lindsay
Published by Doubleday, October 18th 2011
My copy kindly provided by the publisher
Pre-order today for delivery next week, why wait any longer for a guaranteed great read?
Make sure to stop by this week from Thursday-Sunday for a chance to win a copy!