Book Review: Seven Sorcerers by Caro King

6265292Title: Seven Sorcerers
Author: Caro King
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 3rd 2011
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Rating: 4,5 stars
Review copy provided by S&S Galley Grab.

Nin Redstone wakes up one Wednesday to discover that her little brother, Toby, has vanished and no one — not her mother, not her grandparents — can remember him. Only Nin can, and she’s going to get him back.
But when Bogeyman Skerridge (who always gets his child) comes for Nin too, she realizes that finding Toby is going to be a lot harder then she thought. Toby is trapped in the House of Strood, which is located in another land called The Drift, and Skerridge can’t — or won’t — help her find him.
Left with no choice, Nin heads into The Drift with her new friend Jonas. The Drift is filled with the fabulous and the terrible, but a plague is slowly killing all the magical things. The Seven Sorcerers who ruled there might have been able to prevent it, but in the end, even they have succumbed.
Can Nin find Toby before he falls victim to a terrible fate in the House of Strood and before the plague makes it impossible for them to get home? Can she and Jonas avoid the tombfolk, mud men, and various creatures who want to stop them? And what is the secret of the Seven Sorcerers?

Seven Sorcerers by Caro King is one of the most humorous, entertaining and spellbinding middle grade novels I’ve ever read. With highly entertaining characters, epic villains that could make Voldemort shiver in fear, reliable and unreliable sidekicks, and a strange and miraculous world called The Drift, Seven Sorcerers offers everything you could ever wish for in fantasy. I was both amazed and impressed while reading this, and I would recommend it to everyone, fantasy fans or not.

Ninevah Redstone is your ordinary teenage girl who has just begun to realize that boys and girls are two totally different species, and who has convinced herself that things like bogeymen and monsters in the closet don’t exist. Then one afternoon, her younger brother Toby is acting very strange. And the next morning, Toby has mysteriously disappeared. Like that’s not bad enough, her parents don’t seem to remember that Toby even existed at all, all his belongings have vanished apart from a lonely little teddybear he used to drag along and that convinces Nin that Toby wasn’t just some figlet of her imagination. Determined to rescue her brother, she builds a trap for the same creature that made him disappear and that is now after her. That creature is none other than Bogeyman Skerridge, practically the leader of the Bogeymen, and the only one who never lost a child before. Skerridge has a reputation to uphold and thus, when Nin escapes him, he goes after her, even if it’s the middle of the day and that breaks more Bogeymen rules than he has broken in a lifetime.

Aided by Jonas, who is a Bogeyman-escapee as well, Nin travels to The Drift, an alternate university existing next to our own, where she finds out that her brother Toby is kept in a place called The House of Strood. Strood himself is quite the cruel fellow, with a liking towards young children. All Bogeymen, and some other vicious nightly creatures, work for this evil individual. Before she very well realizes it, Nin is on her way to cross half of The Drift to retreive her brother from the evil Mr. Strood, to discover what is true and what isn’t about the legend of the Seven Sorcerers, to fight Hellhounds and Bonemen, to create an actual creature from mud and to put Bogeymen Skerridge on the path to redemption. It’s the adventure of a lifetime.

Nin Redstone is one of the most interesting, entertaining and loveable characters I’ve ever come across in middle grade fantasy. She has an amazing sense of humor, a witty and sparkly personality and an intelligent brain to match. She is a worthy opponent, even for bogeymen as old and experienced as Skerridge. Jonas makes an excellent sidekick, and an experienced guide through the world of The Drift. The only part that bugged me a bit was that Nin didn’t seem to display a lot of emotions at the loss of her brother in the beginning of the novel. Sure, she vows to save him and bring him back home, and she’s in shock from his disappearence, but even when she’s ripped away from her parents and they don’t remember who she is, we see no honest display of emotions from her. I mean, if my Mom suddenly forgot I even existed, or my young brother mysteriously disappeared, the first thing I would probably do is burst out in tears. And even later on in this book, while Nin is crossing The Drift in order to retreive Toby, she doesn’t show a whole lot of emotion either when something goes wrong. This makes her seem a bit shallow, emotionless, cold and distant. On the other hand, it might be more appropriate for a middle grade novel not to focus on the loss for all too long, and instead focus more on the adventures ahead.

Talking about the adventures, Seven Sorcerers really offers a lot of originality in that department. The evil villains Nin and Jonas face along the way to the house of Mr. Strood are all equally original, well-thought-through, funny and entertaining. We meet things like Bogeymen, Bonemen, Hellhounds, enchanted forests, a dark and evil unnamed thing, creatures made from mud and fallen giants. The creatures are innovating and refreshing, and there was a smile on my face every time we were introduced to yet another bad guy or yet another potential friend. From vampires to sorcerers, The Drift has it all. The world-building, as you may have guessed, is nothing short but impressive, and it kept me wanting for more. Especially The House of Strood is amazing, with all its hallways, attic rooms, secret passageways and hidden mysteries. The creative mind of Caro King does not fail to amaze me.

Seven Sorcerers is the first book in a series, followed by Shadow Spell, which will hopefully be released soon. I cannot wait to travel back to The Drift, and to read more about the entertaining creatures hidden there. Seven Sorcerers truly is a very lovely, entertaining and enjoyable book for middle graders, young adults and adults alike (it makes you reminisce all those wonderful moments you had while discovering the world of Harry Potter, or the magical world of Alice in Wonderland, and all those childhood monsters you were so afraid of). I would recommend it to everyone.

Character Interview: Lord Arkus From "My Sparkling Misfortune"

The Book

10384734Title: My Sparkling Misfortune
Author: Laura Lond
Genre: Humor, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Epic Fantasy
Read my review!
Goodreads | Smashwords

Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle readily admits that he is a villain and sees no reason why it should stop him from being the protagonist of this book. After all, Prince Kellemar, an aspiring hero, has defeated him in a rather questionable way. Bent on revenge, Arkus attempts to capture a powerful evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but a last-minute mistake leaves him with a sparkling instead a goody-goody spirit that helps heroes, watches over little children, and messes up villains plans. Bound to Lord Arkus for five years of service and sworn to act in his best interests, the sparkling is not easy to get rid of, and of course his understanding of best interests is quite different from what Lord Arkus has in mind.

The Interview

Hey everyone! Today I’m having an interview with Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle, a professional villain and the author of the book “My Sparkling Misfortune”.

1) Why hello, Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle. I hear that you’re the villain everyone fears around here. Could you tell me why you chose for a career as a professional villain?

A: Greetings, Ms. Majanka. Well, I am not usually open to sharing personal things like that, in fact I guard my early history, but I suppose there’s no harm if your readers know — after all, it’s unlikely that they make their way into my realm and start talking. So I will tell you some of it. I had chosen this fine profession when, as a very young man, I had lost a close friend, and on top of that found myself accused of things I had not done. I figured it was not worth it to try to prove them all wrong — and I enjoyed their fear of me. So I had embraced this path proceeded to earn my reputation of a villain.

2) What does a day in the life of a supervillain look like?

A: It depends on whether I am actively involved into some evil scheme or not. If I am, my day would be filled with various preparations, spying around, training my men, or actual fighting. If not, then I allow myself to relax a bit. Not too much though, I still have to take care of the castle and the rest of my domain, making sure things run smoothly. Goblins can be quite troublesome, you know, they tend to make mischief when they think I’m not watching too closely.

3) I also heard that there’s something going on with you, a monster-like creature and white towers. Can you tell us what’s up with that?

A: He is not “monster-like,” he is a real monster, with fangs, claws and all. You can see him on the cover of my book (I *still* can’t believe they had made me pose standing right next to him for the cover!).

Well, anyway. That beast had been charged to kill me by one of my enemies. That’s a downside of being a villain, I suppose: you have a long list of enemies, some of them powerful enough to arrange something like this. The only thing that will stop this monster is the white towers you’ve mentioned — towers of good as they are also called. He can’t come near them. So if I want to be safe, I need to make sure I am always close to one of them.

4) Now, this is what makes me very, very curious. Why would an evil mastermind like yourself, decide to write a book about his misfortunes?

A: I thought it was about time a villain had his say. Have you noticed how villains are usually portrayed in books? More like props to move the story along rather than real characters. They are rarely heard or given a chance, they are often misrepresented and underestimated. The latter is fine with me, because when I turn out to be smarter than someone thought, I win. But the overall situation is, well, rather offensive. I thought a book like mine might help to set the record straight.

5) The sparkling Jarvi isn’t exactly the ideal sidekick for a villain like yourself. Can you describe to us what your first thoughts were when you figured out that Jarvi was actually a sparkling?

A: Oh, I wanted to scream! I actually did… Would you just imagine: I travel a long way, risk my life to capture an evil spirit, succeed at last — only to find out I’ve grabbed the wrong one! A sparkling, of all things, a spirit that normally helps heroes! Argh. That was beyond frustrating.

6) What is your opinion about the whole everyone-seems-to-want-to-be-a-hero thing that’s going on in the Kingdom, with Prince Kellemar and others like him going to great lengths to reach hero status?

A: It’s got to be some kind of a virus, with princes being most vulnerable to it. Kellemar has suffered from this affliction as long as I’ve known him. It is rather widespread, too: I traveled hundreds of miles away, to Ulkaria, and found that Philip, the prince of the land, also had the same ridiculous wish. Hopefully, I had helped him to get over it.

As to my opinion, I find it both amusing and annoying. The annoying part comes from the fact that many of these hero wannabes would like to achieve their status at my expense. I don’t mind fighting off a knight or two, but when they start coming one after another, it gets old pretty fast.
7) Would you ever want to be a hero?

A: Goodness, no! Why would I?

8 ) What is the greatest thing about being a well-known and feared villain? Would you recommend it to anyone?

A: It’s fun in many ways, you get to set your own rules, but I have to warn that it’s a lonely profession, and you have to always watch your back.

9) And now, Lord Arkus, one of the questions I’m most curious about….Have you ever been in love? And don’t kill me for asking, please…

A: [Coughs] Me? In love?! What a strange notion… Certainly not, not until… Well, no.

10) Are you thinking about a sequel to your novel “My Sparkling Misfortune”? If so, can you tell us something about us?

A: Yes, I am actually working on the sequel right now. It will be titled “My Royal Pain Quest.” You might have noticed that the way the story had ended in the first book was not all that satisfactory; at least I found it hard to accept. So I started looking for ways to remedy the situation… which led me to yet another annoying adventure. Well, perhaps not all of it was annoying as I got to meet some rather interesting folk, including one special lady, but still. The title fits the book very well.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Lord Arkus….I better get out of here now!

A: You should be able to leave just fine, Shork has locked up the goblins. Just don’t drink from Black River as you go, you will talk funny for days if you do.

Book Review: Rook by J.C. Andrijeski

10276001Title: Rook (Allie’s War, Book One)
Author: J.C. Andrijeski
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: White Sun Press
Date of Publication: January 9th 2011
Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by the author.

“You are the Bridge…”

Twenty-eight-year-old San Francisco native, Allie Taylor, knew she had issues…but she at least thought she was human. In her version of modern day Earth, a second race of human-like beings called seers were discovered in Asia in the early 1900s. Since then, they have fought in two world wars and live alongside humans as second-class citizens.

So when Allie meets her first, real, flesh-and-blood seer, she’s not exactly thrilled when he tells her that she’s a seer like him. Not only that, but according to him, all the other seers believe she’s going to end the world.

Worse, no matter what she does, everything that happens after that only seems to prove him right.

Allie Taylor has spent her entire life thinking she was human, but she’s about to find out that she’s not. In a world where Seers, human-like creatures with amazing abilities and the power to communicate with each other on a different level called The Barrier, are sold as slaves and forced to work for humans or are part of one of the few Seer Clans still existing, that’s terrible news to deal with. And like that isn’t worse enough, she also learns that she’s The Bridge, and according to what all other seers believe, she’s going to destroy the world. Allie realizes that her life, and the life of her new love interest Revik, might be in danger as she is now the number one target of the Rooks – a rogue seer group refusing to blend in with the seers working for humans – and of the human authorities, who want nothing more than to get their hands on one of the most powerful seers currently alive.

Rook, the first novel in the Allie’s War series, is quite the adventure to read. At first, the new world J.C. Andrijeski creates seems very unfamiliar, and it takes some getting used to, but once you get past that, you know that you’re in one of the most memorable, astonishing and original books currently out there. The world we are introduced to in this novel, is very much alike our own, but with the addition of a new race of creatures called seers, who were discovered in Asia in the early 1900s. Although the seers are far more powerful than humans, since they can communicate on a different thought-level called The Barrier, and some of them possess even more impressive qualities – like telekinesis or the ability to influence other people’s thoughts – they are treated like second-rate citizens. Some of them are sold as sex-slaves to expensive whorehouses, while others work for wealthy families who can afford their own seer, and thus gain even more power for themselves. The ones who are not bound by the rules of human society, are organised in the few remaining clans. But there is also a significant group of seers who are not pleased with the current world order, and who have gone rogue, calling themselves Rooks and operating in a pyramid-like structure on The Barrier.

As you may have noticed from my short introduction, Rook is nothing like other science-fiction/alternative universe novels out there. The world J.C. Andrijeski creates is original, entertaining and quite complicated – it took me a while to actually grasp the entire concept of it. The complexity of this world might scare potential readers, but once everything clicks into place, the amount of world-building done in this novel and the originality of the concepts introduced are really amazing and impressive, and it should not scare you away from reading this novel.

Allie is an interesting character, with a lot of depth and personality. In the beginning of this novel, she is still convinced of her own humanity, although there were some events during her childhood that occasionally made her question that. But when she is being stalked by Revik, a fellow seer, and he tells her of her own seer-heritage, everything seemingly clicks into place – but that doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t scare Allile tremendously. She is forced to leave her entire life behind, and to run away from Terrian, a seer who wants to make her become part of the Rook organisation. J.C. Andrijeski describes Allie’s growth as a character, from a person in the dark about her own history, heritage to a person trying to find out what this seer-thing actually means to The Bridge, the person capable of destroying the world. The evolution in her personality happens slowly and gradually, and is remarkably well written to say the least. I liked Allie’s personality. She is determined, strong, intelligent and willing to acknowledge her own failures and flaws, and to deal with them. I could easily relate to her and found that I really enjoyed reading her thoughts and opinions.

The other main characters, Revik – the good guy, the love interest – and Terrian – the bad guy – are equally as interesting and entertaining, although they both have very distinct personalities. It’s obvious from the start that the two of them have some history together, and I thought their interactions with each other were some of the most interesting scenes in this novel. Terrian makes an excellent bad guy as he is practically the representation of all the things we deem evil in this world. The fact that he has multiple bodies he can operate, makes him a very interesting opponent as well. I also liked Revik’s personality, with his moods switching quickly between happy, relaxed and cheerful and angry, confused and sad. Whereas Allie is more of a balanced person, I thought Revik’s moody personality made an excellent addition to that. I also liked the two of them together, as an item, since it somehow seemed very fitting.

But more even than the impressive world-building and the interesting, well-thought-through characters, I thorougly enjoyed the storyline. Starting off right in the middle of the action, only to bounce back to explain a couple of things and then right away get into the action again. The storyline is very original, as in the entire concept of the novel, and it’s filled with more backstabbing betrayal, twist and turns than I even thought possible. By the end, Allie hardly knows who to trust anymore besides herself – if she can even trust herself, being The Bridge and destroying the world and all – and she even questions the loyalty of the people she loves most: Revik, her own brother and her closest friend. While the world around them seems to be crashing down, the characters are forced to find strength and courage within themselves to do the impossible. The contrast between Allie’s relatively safe, human environment we meet her in at first, and the dire circumstances she finds herself in by the end of Rook is enormous. The storyline never gets predictable, and always mantains the fast pace and level of intensity we see from the start, and even when it slows down for a minute to explain something about Allie’s world, or to create some romance between characters, it never loses that intensity.

Another strong point of this novel was that Allie, although she is The Bridge and supposedly the destroyer of the world, doesn’t seem like an overpowered character at all. A lot of authors fall into the trap that they want their main character to be a part of a prophecy, or to have some amazing purpose in this life, and end up making them overpowered compared to the other characters, which makes them unbelievable, people can no longer relate to them and they become boring. Luckily for us readers, J.C. Andrijeski does not fall for that trap, which makes Rook an even more impressive book to read.

If I had to say one bad thing about Rook, then it would be its complexity. That’s the only reason why I rated this book a 4 and not a 5, and also the reason why I think the other novels in the series might be even better than this one – less explaining to do, more action and adventures. As I already stated, the world the author creates is very complex, multi-layered, and it takes a lot of explaining before the reader actually gets used to it, or grasps the concept. That might scare off potential readers, but I personally believe that the action-packed adventure and the entertaining characters this novel provides, more than make up for that. And after all, everyone knows that if you want an original storyline with an original setting, that it’s obvious there will be some explenation needed. It’s a sacrifice we have to make for originality, and it’s one I gladly make.

Rook is an excellent science-fiction/fantasy novel with an amazing storyline, strong characters and the most impressive display of world-building I have seen in a while. If you’re tired of reading fantasy novels with the same old concept over and over again, then you will definately find Rook innovating, remarkable and highly entertaining. And even if you’re happy with the way most contemporary fantasy novels work nowadays, then I think you’ll still find Rook to be a very entertaining novel in the genre, and one of the most well-written ones. Don’t hesitate to read this book: it will definately NOT dissapoint you.

Rook is the first book in the Allie’s War series, the second book being Shield, and the third Sword. I cannot wait to read the second part of this series, and to read more about Allie’s adventures.

In My Mailbox (10) / Mailbox Monday (18)

mailbox

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here). This month it is hosted by I’m Booking It.

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

In My Mailbox

Title: The Opera Ghost Lives
Author: Ann M. Kraft
Genre: The Phantom of The Opera, Drama, Horror
Review copy provided by the author.

The Opera Ghost is dead or is he? A promised gesture of love that is never kept turns to heartbreak. A plan to recapture Christine is never realized. Betrayal and lies push Erik to make plans to start a new life beyond the walls of his lake house. His plans are expedited when he is forced to leave unexpectedly.
On his way to freedom he encounters an unexpected angel of mercy that helps him escape the certain death that awaits him if he is discovered. His angel has been sent from an unlikely friend that he hasn’t heard from in years.
His protector has been given the responsibility of keeping his friend’s promise; a promise to protect him and to show him the “arrangements” that will give him the opportunity to change and keep him safe. However, his angel of mercy is skeptical that change is possible.

Title: The Red Diamond of Nadirijna
Author: Ann M. Kraft
Genre: The Phantom of The Opera, Drama, Horror
Review copy provided by the author.

It has been seven years since Erik, the former Opera Ghost, has roamed the cellars of the Paris Opera House. Although he has worked hard to transform his life from a once tormented soul who preyed on others to a trustworthy man of society, he is soon to find out that no matter how much he has changed some of the decisions that he made in his past are about to unleash their consequences; bringing danger to his friends and family and causing Erik to struggle with the person he once was and who he strives to be.

Title: Camelot Lost
Author: Jessica Bonito
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Arthurian Legend, Romance
Review copy provided by the author.

Arthur Pendragon’s ascension to High King of Britain lays a doting world at his feet, but when the death of his sister, Morgaine, sends him into a downward spiral of destruction, his sons, Mordred and Amr, emerge from the shadows to assume control of his mind and, eventually, his throne. Camelot Lost delves deeper into the legend of Camelot than ever before, pitting father against son, husband against wife, and brother against sister. The raw qualities of love, war, and the passionate deceptions that inspire them are thoroughly explored through the relationships of the chosen, and for the first time ever, the story of Arthur’s lesser-known son, Amr Pendragon, is finally revealed. Spellbinding in its sensuality and vehemence, Camelot Lost passionately explores a timeless tale and introduces a vivid array of characters and conflicts that are sure to captivate readers and challenge all preconceived notions of the Arthurian legend.

Title: Ultraviolet
Author: R.J. Anderson
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Review copy provided by Lerner Publishing Group.

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.
Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori — the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

Title: Spellbound
Author: Cara Lynn Shultz
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Review copy provided by HarlequinTEEN.

What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death?
Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.
But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams. Visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else…

Title: Frost Moon
Author: Anthony Francis
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Review copy provided by Bell Bridge Books.

In an alternate Atlanta where magic is practiced openly, where witches sip coffee at local cafes, shapeshifters party at urban clubs, vampires rule the southern night like gangsters, and mysterious creatures command dark caverns beneath the city, Dakota Frost’s talents are coveted by all. She’s the best magical tattooist in the southeast, a Skindancer, able to bring her amazing tats to life. When a serial killer begins stalking Atlanta’s tattooed elite, the police and the Feds seek Dakota’s help. Can she find the killer on the dark fringe of the city’s Edgeworld? Among its powerful outcasts and tortured loners, what kind of enemies and allies will she attract? Will they see her as an invader, as a seducer, as an unexpected champion … or as delicious prey?

Title: Huber Hill and the Dead Man’s Treasure
Author: B.K. Bostick
Genre: Middle Grade, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy
Review copy provided by Bonneville Books.

When his grandfather dies, Huber Hill is devastated—until he opens Grandpa Nick’s mysterious box.
An old gold coin and directions to a hidden Spanish treasure send him and his friends off on an mind-blowing adventure, but he’s not the only one on the hunt.
Filled with dangerous animals and cryptic puzzles, this book will have you on the edge of your seat until the last page.

Title: Cinder and Ella
Author: Melissa Lemon
Genre: Fantasy, Retold Fairytale, Young Adult
Review copy provided by Bonneville Books.

After their father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself—the most dangerous place in all the kingdom for both her and Cinder.

Cinder and Ella is a Cinderella story like no other and one you’ll never forget.

Book Review: These Hellish Happenings by Jennifer Rainey

9694732Title: These Hellish Happenings
Author: Jennifer Rainey
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Dark Humor, Vampires, Demons, Adult
Rating: 4,5 stars
Goodreads | Author Website
Review copy provided by the author.

In 1707, hapless vampire Jack Bentley made a pact with the Devil in order to escape a vampire hunt. Dealing with Satan seemed better than your standard angry mob at the time. But three centuries later, Satan is ready to collect His dues, whether the vampire likes it or not. He’s taking Jack down to Hell, and He’s even got a job picked out for him down below: an eternal position at the Registration Office of the Damned. Jack attempts to adjust to life on the Administrative Level of Hell where fire and brimstone have been replaced by board meetings and the occasional broken copier. But the whiny complaints of the recently-deceased are the least of his problems. Try adding to the equation a dead ex-lover, a dangerous attraction to his high-ranking demon companion, Alexander Ridner, and the sticky and distorted anti-vampire politics of a Hell that is surprisingly like our own world…

In These Hellish Happenings, we follow vampire slash music collector Jack Bentley, as he is reminded of a bargain he striked with the Devil himself about three centuries ago. Although three centuries is a long time, even for a practically-immortal vampire, the Devil never forgets anything. Jack is brought down to hell, where he begins his new job as registrar at The Registration Office of The Damned. There, he is forced to write down the names of the recently-deceased, and tell them where to go next. Although his new job proves to be extremely boring, there are some quircks about it. For instance, Jack gets to live with a demon called Alexander, who is basically Satan’s second-in-command. Without counting Belzebub in, that is. He gets to meet new friends, learns that life in the pit isn’t all that different from life on earth as here too his species is discriminated against, and he might just start the revolution that will change Hell forever. Mix all of that with some dark humor, and you’ve basically got what These Hellish Happenings is all about.

Jack Bentley makes an interesting protagonist. Whether or not he’s evil, isn’t even debated throughout the novel, as basically everyone who ends up in hell has stepped over some line once or twice in their lifes. He is an interesting character, with a two-sided personality (we think: vampires bad, but what we see from Jack he turns out to be a rather okay fellow in that department, since he drinks bottled blood at a bar, for instance), with an undeniable and highly enjoyable sense of humor, and a mind that’s not too stubborn or stupid to demand change. When he’s thrown into Hell – as a matter of speech – the place below is on the verge of a revolution, with two parties battling each other. The one party wants to make demons rule in hell, and demote all other species to low-level jobs, like for instance, Cerberus shit-cleaning duty. The other party battles for equality between the species, and they soon see in Jack a possible leading man for their ideals and opinions. This brings Jack in a rollercoaster of events, all of them equally original and hilarious.

Who could have imagined any of the things Jennifer Rainey brings in this novel? Hell divided in offices, and every demon, vampire or poor soul sent to the bottomless pit, with a job of their own. A hellish environment with politicians – like it’s not enough that they make life a living hell already -, parties, struggles, elections, possible promotions, and an 8 till 6 working schedule. It’s safe to conclude that Jennifer Rainey’s take on hell, her world-building in particular, is both very original and very impressive. Jennifer Rainey basically gives us our view of modern-day society, our politics, our human rights actions and our work ethics, and presents them to us agaisnt the facade of Hell. There are brave political statements touched in this novel, which make it all the more interesting.

And not only does the author provide us with an authentic, original view on Hell and the Underworld, she also has an entirely new take on vampires, as they are usually portrayed in literature, and on demons. Jack Bentley is anything but an ordinary familiar-looking vampire, and Alexander, his demon roommate, is anything but the demons we are used to. Humorous, original, with an impressive storyline and fantastic characters. These Hellish Happenings is an excellent read, not only for its originality and marvellous characterization, but for its impressive writing style and enjoyable humour as well. If you like fantasy, and even if you don’t, you should just try this book. It’s a rare jewel in the fantasy genre.

These Hellish Happenings is the first book in a series, and I cannot wait to read the sequel.

Book Review: My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond

10384734Title: My Sparkling Misfortune
Author: Laura Lond
Genre: Humor, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Epic Fantasy
Rating: 4,5 stars
Goodreads | Smashwords
Review copy provided by the author.

Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle readily admits that he is a villain and sees no reason why it should stop him from being the protagonist of this book. After all, Prince Kellemar, an aspiring hero, has defeated him in a rather questionable way. Bent on revenge, Arkus attempts to capture a powerful evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but a last-minute mistake leaves him with a sparkling instead a goody-goody spirit that helps heroes, watches over little children, and messes up villains plans. Bound to Lord Arkus for five years of service and sworn to act in his best interests, the sparkling is not easy to get rid of, and of course his understanding of best interests is quite different from what Lord Arkus has in mind.

My Sparkling Misfortune is the hilarious fantasy tale of the evil Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle. Being a villain, and pretty good at that, Lord Arkus is well on his way to becoming the most notorious villain in the entire kingdom. However, when a deal with Prince Kellemar – the supposedly good guy of the story and hero-in-the-making – goes horribly wrong for poor Arkus, involving a raging animal and the destroying of several protective white towers, Arkus is forced to leave the kingdom, and hopefully find a way to protect himself from the monster that’s trying to eat him alive, and meanwhile re-establish his position as criminal mastermind. In an effort to solve his problems, he incidentelly catches a sparkling, a creature often seen accompaning heroes. While Arkus certainly is no hero, the sparkling called Jarvi feels like giving the ol’ lord a shot anyway. That’s when Lord Arkus goes through an adventure that might not only change his life, but his entire reputation as well.

The award for most hilarious villain ever definately goes to Lord Arkus. Whereas he is a nasty fellow who enjoys torturing messengers, doublecrossing princes and backstabbing other villains – but only after they have backstabbed him first, he does have manners – there is quite a noble side to him as well. He is hilarious in the way he describes both himself and his opponents, how he analyzes his own actions and those of others. He is a brilliant character who at times made me laugh out loud. A lot of books try to be funny, but it feels forced and unnatural; that’s definately not the case with My Sparkling Misfortune: this book simply is hilarious, even without trying.

Although aimed at middle graders, the adventure of Lord Arkus and his sparkling Jarvi, may appeal to fantasy fans of all ages. While telling a humorous tale, the story offers some valuable lessons as well. One of them being that a villain must not always remain a villain, and that not all heroes are as good and decent as they might appear. Prince Kellemar is the prime example of this. Although being a prince, and aiming to become a true hero one day, he doublecrosses Lord Arkus in their agreement at the beginning of the book, and continues to do things throughout the novel that made me very skeptic about his worthyness for the hero status. On the other hand, the fact that the sparkling Jarvi sees something in Lord Arkus that nobody else sees, and decides to give him the chance to actually do the right thing for once, also holds a very valuable lesson, namely that sometimes you just need to believe in people to make them do the right thing.

The story is action-packed, fast-paced and highly amusing. The dragons, castles, magical creatures, all make the story come to life, and actually read like a classic fairytale. Lord Arkus and his misfortunes could be standing right next to Cinderella and Robin Hood on the bookshelf. If I had to give a complaint about My Sparkling Misfortune (and the reason why I gave 4,5 rather than 5 stars) is that it’s too short. It seems like the sequel-virus has gotten hold of Laura Lond as well. She leaves an open ending, and hints at dark events in Lord Arkus’ past on several occasions, leaving the path open for a follow-up. I would have liked it more had she made this book slightly larger, and added all the additional facts, and a proper ending to this one. My Sparkling Misfortune is strong enough as a stand-alone novel, and although I would enjoy reading more about Lord Arkus’ misfortunes, I do also like it when a book is nicely tied up.

Although Lord Arkus is by far the most witty, sarcastic and intriguing character in this novel, Jarvi/Tullip is quite the enjoyable fellow as well. He is entertaining, good-natured and kind-hearted, and totally the opposite of the Arkus we meet at the beginning of the novel. That they even get along at al, is amazing. Another nice bonus is that the book is filled with wonderful illustrations of the characters and their adventures. The art looks really good, and it adds a nice touch.

I would advise everyone who loves a good laugh, from middle graders to adults, to read this book. It’s a quick read, and it will make you laugh aloud and forget all about the world around you. Lord Arkus is an admirable character, for a villain, with an amazing writing voice and a hilarious personality. The story itself is anything but predictable, the writing style is amusing, and the premise (a story from the villain’s point of view) is very original. What are you waiting for? Go read My Sparkling Misfortune!

Book Review: The Poisoned House by Michael Ford

7795293Title: The Poisoned House
Author: Michael Ford
Genre: Gothic Horror, Victorian, Ghosts, Haunting, Young Adult
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Publishing Date: August 1st 2011
Pages: 328
Rating: 3,5 stars
Review copy provided by the pubilsher through Netgalley.

The year is 1856, and orphan Abigail Tamper lives below stairs in Greave Hall, a crumbling manor house in London. Lord Greave is plagued by madness, and with his son Samuel away fighting in the Crimea, the running of Greave Hall is left to Mrs Cotton, the tyrannical housekeeper. The only solace for the beleaguered staff is to frighten Mrs Cotton by pretending the house is haunted.
So when a real ghost makes an appearance – that of her beloved mother – no one is more surprised than Abi. But the spirit has a revelation that threatens to destroy Abi’s already fragile existence: she was murdered, and by someone under their very own roof. With Samuel returned to England badly wounded, it’s up to Abi to nurse him back to health, while trying to discover the identity of the killer in their midst. As the chilling truth dawns, Abi’s world is turned upside down.

The Poisoned House is your typical gothic horror story with the haunted house, the archetypical gothic villains, the Lord of the house on the verge of madness and our own tagic heroine. Combine all these elements with Michael Ford’s excellent writing, and the result is an enjoyable, entertaining and sometimes even downright scary read, excellent for during a thunder storm or late at night bedtime-reading.

Abigail Tamper, or Abi as we get to call her, is the youngest servant working in Greave Hall, an impressing but cold and empty house. The tyrannical housekeeper, Mrs. Cotton, is always out to get her and punish her, mostly for crimes she hardly even committed. Every little mistake she makes is punished severely. In her despair, Abigail even tries to run away – which eventually costs her dearly, as she is returned to the manor. With the Lord of the house gradually falling into madness, the servants afraid of the abusive housekeeper, there is only one more thing needed to turn this novel into a true Victorian ghost story. A ghost.

We meet the ghost in the form of Abigail’s mother, who passed away just about a year ago. While at first, Abi feels both terrified and rejoiced over having her mother’s ghost around to watch over her, she soon realises there must be a reason why her mother is back. That’s when Abi realises that she might be in danger. And she might not be the only one.

Although the story is predictable (I could predict the ending by page 30 or so), it is very enjoyable, and it does offer a few nice surprises along the way. I did like Abi as a character. She is a typical young adult in the Victorian era: not all that confident with herself, willing to settle for the role she has in the world, and a reluctant hero. Like a lot of people in that era, she immediately jumps to the conclusion of ghosts when weird things start to happen, which is downright awesome and saves us a lot of time we would otherwise spend reading about the protagonists’s debates whether or not their house is haunted, like we find all too often in nowadays ghost literature. She is a relatable charachter, well-portrayed through-out this novel, and I felt very sympathetic towards her, especially when I got to know her a little better.

The character of Mrs. Cotton offers an excellent portrayal of the archetypical Victorian villain. She is cruel, mean, and deadly afraid of the ghosts that have come to haunt Greave Hall. She is cold, self-righteous and a pleasure to read about. The fact that she might not be the only villain in this story, only adds to the suspense. Talking about suspense, The Poisoned House really got this spot-on. From the first page I read I was wondering why a young girl like Abi would want to escape from the only safe home she has, and as I turned page after page, more and more mysteries began to unfold in front of me and I felt the undeniable urge to continue reading. Putting this book away is simply not an option.

If you’re a fan of gothic novels like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, you will be delighted to read The Poisoned House, as it really follows in line with all the classics in the genre. It has all the elements to make an interesting and scary ghost story, and it does so in a most unique fashion. Aimed at young adults, it isn’t as frightening as it could have been, but it does make for a nice way to pass the time during a rainy afternoon or late at night. The mystery grows thicker with every page and for some, the revelation at the end, might be quite shocking. If you’re familiar with gothic novels, you might have it all figured out by then though, which isn’t always that pleasant (and which is the reason why I didn’t rate this book higher). On another note, the historical setting is anything but accurate, which often annoyed me. The characters don’t even speak the way they did in Victorian England…This might be because the novel was aimed at young adults and even younger children, but that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying for the somewhat older people under us who’d like to read things that are at least somewhat accurate.

The plot is, as I already said, decent, but it’s also predictable and not-all-that-surprising, especially when you’ve read gothic horror before. The ending is rushed, and I feel like they’re quite some loose ties the author should have wrapped up. It’s like he builds up the tension slowly, and keeps us all excited for more, and then ends it all in a page or ten. It isn’t all that believable and convincing either, which bothered me as well.

All in all, The Poisoned House is an entertaining read with interesting characters, some nice plot twists, and your typical Victorian haunted house setting. The atmosphere is gothic, creepy and tense. The suspense builds gradually, and keeps you turning page after page after page. The novel is aimed at teens, and that really shows. But all in all, if you’re a fan of the genre, or just love a nice ghost story, you shouldn’t leave this one out.

Book Review: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

6691426Title: Angelology
Author: Danielle Trussoni
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural
Rating: 3,5 stars
Goodreads
Review copy purchased from the local bookstore by yours truly.

A thrilling epic about an ancient clash reignited in our time- between a hidden society and heaven’s darkest creatures

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.
Genesis 6:5

Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.

For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.

Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.

After reading a request from a young art historian called Verlaine to look into the archives of Saint Rosa’s convent, based on correnspondence between a former mother superior and the philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller, Sister Evangeline, a young nun working in the library of the convent, discovers a connection between both women. And it has nothing to do with philanthropy, or art for that matter. Aided by the historian Verlaine, who appears to be love-struck over the young nun, Evangeline is forced to find out more, not only about Abigail Rockefeller and what exactly she and her former mother superior were trying to hide in the convent, but also about her own history, family and who she really is. This search leads them into conflict with the Nephilim, children of angels who are currently still roaming this earth. Nasty, vile and capable of anything, the Nephilim are a worthy opponent not to be messed with. But together, and with the help of angelologists like Evangeline’s grandmother Gabrielle, they must find a way to reclaim an archefact of great power. Something the Nephilim want whatever it takes, but something they must never get, for the consequences will be terrible.

It appears to me that Angelology isn’t all that new, exciting and innovating as it tries to be. Danielle Trussoni is simply the latest author trying to grab a slice from the Dan Brown pie. Dan Brown features demons, secret societies, symbols and century-old mysteries. Danielle Trussoni features half-angels, secret angelologist societies, symbols, and century-old mysteries. See the connection? That’s not to say that the book isn’t impressive, it just has this old ‘been there, did that’ vibe, but now with Nephilim rather than demons.

The research Danielle Trussoni did before writing this book, cannot be described anything other than impressive. The minor details touched – from cars to layouts of convents to locations in France and New York – is amazing. The mythology, the study of Angels through the centuries, the bible readings, are all very interesting facts, and she certainly possesses a great knowledge base to start with. Her writing style is amazing as well. She describes certain things in the utmost detail, and it’s debatable whether that is just sheer brilliance or slows the story down. The lyrical prose, the impressive descriptions and the attention for detail really adds a lot of quality and depth to this novel, especially the part that’s written in France in 1939 – that part is simply brilliant. I had a lot of trouble with the last 100 or so pages of the book though, which I thought were less in quality compared to the previous parts of the book.

I hate to say this, but about some things mentioned in Angelology, it appears that Mrs. Trussoni is simply ignorant. She accuses the Nephilim of basically starting World War II – or atleast convincing the Nazis enough to commit such horrible crimes – and puts them in the middle of Nazi parties in the year 1939. She then goes as far as blaming all evil things that happen in this world on the Nephilim. Her novel is all in blacks and whites: Nephilim bad, humans good, and that just makes it unbelievable. The world isn’t black and white. You can’t blame every evil act on Nephilim and paint them off as the bad guys. Humans do enough evil on their own, without outside-help. I also disliked the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any good Nephilim on this world. They’re all bad, wicked, vile and self-centered. Although, in all honesty, I have to admit that Percival Grigori, the main Nephilim character we see, did appear to be capable of some good, at least in the years 1939. I would have preferred if there were some good and some bad Nephilim. It would seem a lot more realistic. Nothing is ever truly bad, and nothing is ever truly good. There are different shades of good and bad, and unfortunately Mrs. Trussoni fails to acknowledge that.

At first, I was quite skeptical about how large the religious factor would be in Angelology, and I have to say that I’m both surprised and relieved that it only takes up a minor part. You don’t have to be utterly religious to enjoy this novel. There are some bible passages mentioned, but that’s it, and basically it can appeal to everyone, from every religion.

The plot is fast-paced and skillfully unfolded as the story continues. The characters range from being believable, interesting, intellectual and clever – read: Gabrielle Lévi-Franche and Celestine – to somewhat-boring, ‘why the hell did they end up in this novel?’ and rather useless – read: Verlaine. I did enjoy reading the stories of the bad guys, and figuring out that Percival Grigori has a genuine reason for trying to get the artefact the angelologists recovered from the mountains in Bulgary in the 1930s, and that it’s not just about powers. The part about the decay of the Nephilim was a brilliant touch, and adding Evangeline’s personal history to this novel was a nice sidestory as well. I enjoyed the part about Gabrielle and Celestine the most, because it seemed the most well-written, tense and suspenseful part of the novel.

The ending left me feeling rather dissapointed, because it all seems to happen in a blur. Also, when Evangeline’s true heritage is revealed, I felt like hitting myself on the head. A novel of this calibre should not need a sequel, and by making Evangeline as she is, Trussoni has clearly left the path open for a sequel. I don’t know why people want to take an interesting idea, make a wonderful, impressive and fascinating novel about it, and then milk it out for a sequel and maybe even a third novel. What happened to stand-alone novels, that are impressive enough on their own? It seems like everyone has forgotten that the old classics we still remember and enjoy are stand-alone novels. Nowadays, everyone wants a trilogy. It’s getting old-skool people.

Angelology is definately an entertaining read. Fans of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Labyrinth by Kate Mosse will be delighted to venture into the adventures described in Angelology. The knowledge depicted in this book is impressive, the writing style demands for more and the characters are charming, distinct and well thought-through. The perfect kind of book to entertain you on a rainy sunday afternoon.

In My Mailbox (9) / Mailbox Monday (17)

mailbox

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here). This month it is hosted by I’m Booking It.

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

In My Mailbox

Title: The Truth about Love, Dating and Just Being Friends
Author: Chad Eastham
Genre: Non-Fiction, Dating Guide
Review copy provided by Booksneeze.

Chad Eastham, with his typical wit and wisdom for teens, brings much sought after advice on girls’ favorite topics including dating, love, friendship, and other important stuff.
Chad shines some much-needed light on these major issues for teens. Rather than let their feelings navigate them blindly through their tumultuous adolescence, Chad offers clarity, some surprising revelations, and answers to some of their biggest questions: How do I know who to date? When should I start dating? How should I start dating? Is this really love? And, Why do guys I like just want to be friends?
Packed with humor that adds to the sound advice, this book will help teens make better decisions, have healthier relationships, and be more prepared for their futures.
Just a few things girls will learn include: Five things you need to know about love; Eight dumb dating things even smart people do; Ten reasons why teens are unhappy; and Ten things happy teens do.
Any teen can live a happier, healthier life: they just need to hear The Truth.

Title: The Poisoned House
Author: Michael Ford
Genre: Young Adult, Ghosts, Gothic Horror, Supernatural
Review copy provided by publisher through Netgalley.

The year is 1856, and orphan Abigail Tamper lives below stairs in Greave Hall, a crumbling manor house in London. Lord Greave is plagued by madness, and with his son Samuel away fighting in the Crimea, the running of Greave Hall is left to Mrs Cotton, the tyrannical housekeeper. The only solace for the beleaguered staff is to frighten Mrs Cotton by pretending the house is haunted.
So when a real ghost makes an appearance – that of her beloved mother – no one is more surprised than Abi. But the spirit has a revelation that threatens to destroy Abi’s already fragile existence: she was murdered, and by someone under their very own roof. With Samuel returned to England badly wounded, it’s up to Abi to nurse him back to health, while trying to discover the identity of the killer in their midst. As the chilling truth dawns, Abi’s world is turned upside down.

Title: Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1)
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: Adult, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy
Review copy was a present from the Easter Bunny.

Robin Hobb, author of the Farseer trilogy, has returned to that world for a new series. Ship of Magic is a sea tale, reminiscent of Moby Dick and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series in its details of shipboard life. It is also a fantasy adventure with sea serpents, pirates, and all sorts of magic. The liveships have distinct personalities and partner with specific people, somewhat like Anne McCaffrey’s Brain ships and their Brawns, though these are trading ships and have full crews.
Hobb has peopled the book with many wonderfully developed characters. Most of the primary ones are members of the Vestritts, an Old Trader family which owns the liveship Vivacia. Their stories are intercut with those of Kennit, the ambitious pirate Brashen, the disinherited scion of another family who served on the Vestritt’s ship, and Paragon, an old liveship abandoned and believed mad. The sentient sea serpents have their own story hinted at, as well.

Title: Photographs and Phantoms
Author: Cindy Spencer Pape
Genre: Ghosts, Haunting, Horror, Supernatural
Review copy provided by Carina Press.

Brighton, 1855
As a member of the Order of the Round Table, Kendall Lake is overqualified to be investigating strange phenomena at a seaside photography studio. But since the photographer is related to the Order’s most powerful sorcerer, Kendall reluctantly boards a dirigible to Brighton.
Amy Deland is haunted by a shadow that appears in some of her recent portraits. In each case, the subject died within days of the sitting. Does she have her grandmother’s gift of foresight, or has she somehow caused the deaths?
As Kendall and Amy search for answers, their investigation draws them together in a most improper way—but it seems the evil presence in the studio is determined to keep them apart…

Title: The Girl In The Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles #1)
Author: Kady Cross
Genre: Historical Fiction, Steampunk
Review copy provided by HarlequinTEEN.

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the “thing” inside her.
When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….
Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.
Griffin’s investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.
But The Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on—even if it seems no one believes her.

Title: The Vampire Narcise (Regency Draculia #3)
Author: Colleen Gleason
Genre: Vampires, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Review copy provided by MIRA Books.

Regency England stands defiant against Napoleon.
But battles among men mean little to those who live forever – especially when the Dracule are waging their own war.
Skilled in the seduction of men, both mortal and immortal, Narcise Moldavi is the greatest weapon in her twisted brother’s war among the Dracule. Until she falls for Giordan Cale.
Her first searing encounter with Giordan brands them with a passionate love. But Giordan’s vow to help Narcise escape her brother’s rule is followed by a betrayal more agonizing than sunlight.
Wounded but determined, Narcise ensnares vampire hunter Chas Woodmore in her quest for revenge and to reclaim her life. He wants her, worships her, will kill for her. And the Dracule never forget a wrong – nor do they forgive.

Title: The Art of Forgetting
Author: Camille Noe Pagan
Genre: Drama
Review copy provided through Netgalley.

A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted. Can the relationship survive when the memories are gone?
Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine. Taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy magazine; keeping the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits of being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic, absolutely alpha Julia Ferrar.
And then Julia gets hit by a cab. She survives with minor obvious injuries, but brain damage steals her memory and alters her personality, possibly forever. Suddenly, Marissa is thrown into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory- dredging up issues Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life ten years ago- Marissa’s own equilibrium is shaken.
With the help of a dozen girls, she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program. There, Marissa uncovers her inner confidence and finds the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.
The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and myths that hold us back, and the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.

Title: The Near Witch
Author: Victoria Swab
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Fairytale, Young Adult
Review copy provided by Hyperion.

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.
These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.
But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.