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Monday, January 27, 2020

Review: Blood Countess by Lana Popović



Title: Blood Countess
Author: Lana Popović
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: January 28th 2020
Source: Netgalley/Amulet Books


Book Description:



A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula


In 17th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Bathory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too.





Review:


★★★★

I absolutely adored this book. I am 100% the target audience that this book was aiming for. I don't know what exactly that says about me, but, here we are. I went through a phase in junior high and high school where I was consumed by the history of Elizabeth Bathory. I did a big end of year paper on her, read countless books (both fiction and non-fiction), and soaked it all up.

The fact that this historical legend has been turned into not only a young adult book, but one that has a romance (sort of) and an LGBT one on top of that, makes my heart happy.

But, don't get me wrong. This isn't a happy story. Bathory is believed to be one of the most prolific serial killers in history. And it shows in this book too. There are scenes of punishment and torture in this book that are pretty brutal. If you're sensitive to that sort of thing, this is NOT going to be a fun time for you.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Elizabeth and Anna, and watching it shift and evolve from something flirty, to something passionate, to something twisted and poisoned and toxic. I was as captivated by Elizabeth as Anna was. She is elegant and regal and has such a seemingly lovely life, filled with feasting and beautiful dresses and music and parties. It's a life Anna- nor myself, obviously- has never known before and I too found myself wrapped up in the luxury, despite the red flags and ominous clues to suggest that Elizabeth is not the good person that she may seem, no matter how beautiful she is.

The actual writing of the book is well done. The settings were vivid, the characters were well developed and different in tone and voice. The dialogue was well paced and flowed well.

I can't quite put my finger on why I enjoyed this book so much. It held my attention, and I think I read it in two sittings total. It was captivating, albeit in a terrible, monstrous way.

The only reason this is at a 4.5 stars instead of a five is the ending. It felt rushed and a little too perfect. It didn't match the flow of the rest of the book, in my opinion. It was a bit disappointing that it wasn't as satisfying as I hoped it would be. It felt very neatly tied up like there was a page limit, and I wish it would have went on a little longer.

I don't know who to recommend it for. There's violence, there's lesbianism, there's murder, there's alchemy. If that sound like your idea of a good read, than you might be in luck with this one.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my 100% honest review. Thanks, Amulet Books!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Review: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade



Title: The Ghost and the Goth
Series: The Ghost and the Goth #1
Author: Stacey Kade
Format: Paperback, 281 pages
Pub. Date: May 10th 2011
Source: Little Library


Book Description:



Alona Dare–Senior in high school, co-captain of the cheerleading squad, Homecoming Queen three years in a row, voted most likely to marry a movie star…and newly dead.

I’m the girl you hated in high school. Is it my fault I was born with it all-good looks, silky blond hair, a hot bod, and a keen sense of what everyone else should not be wearing? But my life isn’t perfect, especially since I died. Run over by a bus of band geeks—is there anything more humiliating? As it turns out, yes—watching your boyfriend and friends move on with life, only days after your funeral. And you wouldn’t believe what they’re saying about me now that they think I can’t hear them. To top it off, I’m starting to disappear, flickering in and out of existence. I don’t know where I go when I’m gone, but it’s not good. Where is that freaking white light already?

Will Killian–Senior in high school, outcast, dubbed “Will Kill” by the popular crowd for the unearthly aura around him, voted most likely to rob a bank…and a ghost-talker.

I can see, hear, and touch the dead. Unfortunately, they can also see, hear and touch me. Yeah, because surviving high school isn’t hard enough already. I’ve done my best to hide my “gift.” After all, my dad, who shared my ability, killed himself because of it when I was fifteen. But lately, pretending to be normal has gotten a lot harder. A new ghost—an anonymous, seething cloud of negative energy with the capacity to throw me around—is pursuing me with a vengeance. My mom, who knows nothing about what I can do, is worrying about the increase in odd incidents, my shrink is tossing around terms like “temporary confinement for psychiatric evaluation,” and my principal, who thinks I’m a disruption and a faker, is searching for every way possible to get rid of me. How many weeks until graduation?





Review:


★★

Well, I more or less got what I expected based off of the cover and the back blurb. This book is a fast read that's pretty predictable and not all that deep, so there's not too much to think about, nor is it something I'm particularly going to remember a week from now.

Alona Dare (yes, that is her name) is the wooooorst. She's shallow. Like, insanely shallow, and judgmental. Girls who kiss a guy must be whores and sluts. Every straight guy wants her, and she doesn't think every lesbian in the school wants her, she knows it. She calls Will a goth (uh, not even remotely?), a psychopath (cool insult bruh), and more than anything else, a freak. Wanna know what her supporting evidence is for him being a freak? He wears a hoodie. With the hood up, inside. Are you not clutching your pearls yet? Well get this. He also wears headphones. A teenager with headphones! Burn the freak! It's also super gross that she's friends with a guy that in her own word grooms young girls to sleep with him before he leaves them. Popular or not, it's super skeezy.

Now, I understand I'm supposed to not like her. This book is, at its core, a reverse "It's a Wonderful Life" where Alona gets to see how much better off everyone is when her rude, shallow ass is dead. Then she changes for the better for a better afterlife. Or she's supposed to. I didn't think she really changed that much. She might be nicer to Will but she's still insulting and rude, even as she's helping people. I expected a better arc for her and I was left disappointed.

Will Killian (yes, his name is Will Kill) is the most likable character in this book and is its saving grace. He's empathetic and a little brooding and mysterious. He has a whole web of secrets and masks to wear and it was admittedly interesting to see where his arc goes. His ability to hear and see ghosts, dealing with his father's suicide and the hospitalization of a friend, a doctor who might not have his mental health in mind after all, tangled with the weird and new feelings he has for the very dead cheerleader. There's a lot to unpack there and I think Kade did a pretty good job with this character. I get why Alona got attached to him.

As much as I have issues with this book, I actually liked the romance element. I liked that Alona and Will learned from each other. Alona gave Will some confidence and helped him get out of some trouble. Alona learned to be a little bit nicer and that her bullying actions did in fact have consequences. I liked seeing them warm up to one another and despite my overall "ugh" feeling of this book, I was rooting for them.

And then there's Joonie. Joonie is Will's one Goth friend. She is written as so unbelievably over the top as a "Goth" that it seems to be the only descriptors given to her. She doesn't really have personality, only traits that seem to be copied and pasted from a Wiki article about "Gothic Subculture". All I could picture in my head was Henrietta from South Park, which made all of her scenes hilarious for reasons I guarantee the author did not intend.

Like a lot of other contemporary set books, this one has a lot of pop culture references that really date this book. She makes references to Johnny Knoxville's (seven Razzie award nominated) version of The Dukes of Hazzard. She watches Joonie go to a MySpace page. There's just a LOT of oughts imagery here that I guess now works as a past setting, but since I was a teen in those years brings back definitely un-contemporary flashbacks of nostalgia.

I have to admit, the author does have my attention. I'd read the second book in this series if it came into my possession, though I won't be seeking it out. I'm just intrigued enough with where the Will/Alona romance is going. But, I don't really recommend this book. If you're into cheerleaders getting hit by a bus or fluffy books that don't take any brain power to get through, maybe you'll like it more than I did.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review:
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black



Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Format: Hardcover, 328 pages
Pub. Date: February 5th 2015
Source: Xpresso Reads


Book Description:



Tell the truth. Or face the consequences.

Near the little town of Fairfold, in the darkest part of the forest, lies a glass casket. Inside the casket lies a sleeping faerie prince that none can rouse. He's the most fascinating thing Hazel and her brother Ben have ever seen. They dream of waking him - but what happens when dreams come true? In the darkest part of the forest, you must be careful what you wish for...





Review:


★★★

My girlfriend picked this book for me to read. I warned her that I have never read a fairy book that I loved. I was hopeful that this would be the one that broke my streak... But unfortunately, it follows the same pattern. That's not to say this book was bad. It wasn't. But when I closed the book, having finished it, the only thought I had was, "huh." And then I reshelved it and picked up something else to read almost immediately. It's maybe worth nothing (since I know she's a bestseller and lots of folks love her) I had never read a Holly Black book prior to this one.

Conceptually, I absolutely adored this book. The idea of the horned boy in the coffin in the forest is captivating. I love the idea of a contemporary town where weird things happen and everyone in town knows that "ah yes, must be the forest folk." I loved the idea of a strong female character, a knight no less! I appreciated that so much of the book focused on the sibling pair of Hazel and Ben, and I appreciated the LGBT representation of Ben falling in love with Severin.

I also love the cover, though I know that has nothing to do with the story. And, I'll admit, after doing some Googling this book has some absolutely gorgeous fan art that I love.

So much of the writing was well done. Descriptive, flowery, detailed. Things that I look for in a fantasy novel.

But.... I was so bored through so much of it. And it hurts me to say that, because I wanted to love this book. Hazel was pretty unlikable to me. She was forever kissing people for no real plot. I felt like the kid in Princess Bride. She was very tell and not show. She didn't do anything that angered me and I don't think she's the worst. I just didn't find her particularly interesting- and that's saying something when she's living a double life as an Elfen knight!

It felt sort of fragmented. Not hard to follow, but more patched together in an odd way. It's mostly Hazel's perspective, but every once in a while another character gets a chapter, but with no regularity or pattern. They mention how their parents are artists, and how they weren't super great at being parents. But then there's a mention that they were downright neglectful, and there's no real expansion or closure about it. Thing just sort of get mentioned now and then when convenient.

The bad guy comes off almost as a cartoon villain. The sort of bad guy who announces his betrayals and master plans and then is shocked (insert Pikachu face) when the plan is thwarted. Don't worry though, Mystery Inc gets to the baddie before too much damage is done. Then there's the name.... The monster that is sad is named Sorrow. The name of one of the bad guy's assistants is Grim.

There was so much potential in this book, and there were plenty things about it that I liked... Ultimately, it just wasn't for me. If you're a fan of Holly Black's, of fairy related stories, or strong female leads. This may be a book that you enjoy more than I did- it seems that plenty of other people absolutely adored it. I hope that's the case for you too.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Review: Rhett & Link's Book of Mythicality by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal



Title: Rhett & Link's Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery
Authors: Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
Format: Hardcover, 272 pages
Pub. Date: October 12th 2017
Source: Half Price Books


Book Description:



“Internetainers” Rhett & Link met in first grade when their teacher made them miss recess for writing profanity on their desks, and they have been best friends ever since. Today, their daily YouTube talk show, Good Mythical Morning, is the most-watched daily talk show on the Internet, and nearly 12 million subscribers tune in to see the guys broadcast brainy trivia, wild experiments, and hilarious banter (not to mention the occasional cereal bath). Now the award-winning comedians are finally bringing their “Mythical” world to the printed page in their first book.

A hilarious blend of autobiography, trivia, and advice, Rhett & Link's Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery will offer twenty ways to add “Mythicality” to your life, including:

Eat Something That Scares You
Make a Bold Hair Choice
Invent Something Ridiculous
Say “I Love You” Like It's Never Been Said
Speak at Your Own Funeral

The goal of these offbeat prompts? To learn new things, laugh more often, and earn a few grown-up merit badges along the way. Heartfelt and completely original, this book will be the perfect gift for anyone looking for a fresh dose of humor and fun.





Review:


★★★★

This is by far the best YouTuber book that I've read. I always try and give them chances and I'm usually left disappointed with the result. I was so happy that with Rhett and Link, this wasn't the case. The Book of Mythicality is an odd book, but in a good way. It's their YouTube show, Good Mythical Morning , in a nutshell. It's a mix of history of Rhett and Link's relationship over the course of the 30+ year friendship they've forged, advice, just for fun sections, and a lot of photos and personal notes. It's a very wide mix, but it all gels together well to be pretty on brand for them.

For me, the photos were the coolest part. That's not to say the advice and writings aren't good- they are! But when you watch the same two dudes every weekday morning, day after day, for years you get attached to them. Seeing personal artifacts and pictures opens up the door of who they are and what made them, well, them. It was cool to see how much they've changed and what they've been through.

It's written with a lot of humor, but more importantly, a lot of heart. It's clear from the tone of the writing in this book that Rhett and Link really wanted to share this book with the world. It reads like something they are really happy about and proud of- I think this is something that sets it apart among other YouTuber books too. A lot of them have felt forced or uninvolved, like they're simply fulfilling the obligation of their publishing contract.This book feels so genuine and sincere, that it's impossible not to smile and take the advice to heart, even if it is something silly like "eat something that scares you" (something they know all too well, if you're familiar with their program).

If you are a mythical beast, then I think you'll like this book. If you've never watched Good Mythical Morning.... I honestly have no idea if you'll like it or not, haha. It's a quick read that's easy to stop/start/read little bursts of now and then.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Mini Review:
Alice in the Country of Hearts by QuinRose



Title: Alice in the Country of Hearts, Vol. 1
Series: Alice in the Country of Hearts #1-2
Author: QuinRose
Illustrator: Soumei Hoshino
Format: Paperback, 367 pages
Pub. Date: June 26th 2012
Source: Half Price Books


Book Description:



Tell the truth. Or face the consequences.

Kidnapped by a handsome man with rabbit ears, Alice Liddell finds herself abandoned in an odd place called Wonderland and thrust into a "game," the rules of which she has yet to learn. Alice, ever the plucky tomboy, sets off to explore and get the lay of this strange land, intent on finding her rude kidnapper and giving him a piece of her mind (and her fist). But little does she know that she's wandered right into the middle of a dangerous power struggle involving just about all of Wonderland's attractive, weapon-happy denizens. And the only way for Alice to return home is to get acquainted with the lot of them?! How in the world will she manage that and still manage to stay alive?!





Review:


★★★★

I love Alice in Wonderland, in all of its forms. If there's a retelling, a story inspired by Alice, or anything of that sort, I'm going to read it. In this case, it was the manga inspired version.

It was a really cute, fast read. The characters are all very charming. I really liked the twists on the characters we all know and love.

The illustrations were very pretty and complimented the writing well. One of my normal issues with manga/graphic novels is that I tend to find that you don't get a whole lot of story. That wasn't the case for Alice in the Country of Hearts. I thought it had a good, well paced plot that was mirrored by these illustrations.

Alice was likable and spirited, and held her own despite being in such a confusing place. There's a lot more romance in this version than the original, and an interesting twist of what those in Wonderland's heart is really made of and what makes them tick.

I look forward to reading the other episodes of this series and seeing where else it goes from here.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick



Title: Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike
Series: Pretty Deadly #1-5
Author: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Illustrator: Emma Ríos
Format: Paperback, 120 pages
Pub. Date: May 13th 2014
Source: Goodreads First Reads


Book Description:



TKelly Sue DeConnick (Avengers Assemble, Captain Marvel) and Emma Rios (Dr. Strange, Osborn) present the collected opening arc of their surprise-hit series that marries the magical realism of Sandman with the western brutality of Preacher. Death's daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her origin story is a tale of retribution as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

"It's a perfect match for the gorgeous, dizzying artwork in a sumptuous palette-overlaid panels add intricate choreography to fight scenes, and detailed, whirling splash pages beg for long-lingering looks. Couple that, along with a handful of Eisner nominations, with a multicultural cast of tough-as-nails women who all fight for their own honor, and this is a series to watch out for." - Booklist

"It's ambitious and challenging (two qualities that are not often valued, but that probably should be), under a façade of violence and sacrifice. Rio's art is lush and detailed, and is more than capable of keeping up with the far-reaching story." - PW





Review:


★★

What an odd series of graphic novels to review.

I didn't really care for this series. It felt all over the place and disjointed. It was hard to follow, even if conceptually it's a cool idea. There's a lot of things that are never really explained (like the narrators) that we're just meant to accept without thinking too much about.

The artwork, however, is beautiful. It's haunting and dark and eerie, and does way more than the writing does with progressing the story. Some of the panels are cool enough to be prints in their own right, in my opinion.

I don't know how many of these books there are (note: a quick look on Goodreads tells me that in fact there are ten volumes), but I have absolutely no interest in reading any more of these. While the feminist-gothic-spaghetti western type plot seems like a good idea in theory, it falls short on every level, and doesn't really get to the nitty gritty of any of these categories. It's just sort of.... Artsy and different solely for the purpose of being artsy and different. The characters aren't given much depth, so it's hard to feel attached to them, no matter how cool their artwork is.

I'm not really sure who I recommend these books to. If you like westerns with a slight gothic flourish or dark-inspired graphic novels, this might be for you.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stacking the Shelves [113]



Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. If a book catches your eye, *click* the picture to go to the Goodreads page of that book.

It's been awhile but here we go!

Freebies

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Eversea by Natasha Boyd

It was another quiet week here for me. What about you?