Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Here are some super belated Halloweeny videos for your enjoyment. :)

* The Yeah Yeah Yeah's Heads Will Roll

This is a great video and an awesome song. It's obviously an homage to Michael Jackson and Thriller while having a slightly different tone and making their own unique song and video. The tone is darkly comic and the video has an gruesome, sparkly ending. I love the confetti slaughter scene. The song is catchy to the point of being infectious. Karen O has a gorgeous voice and really holds her own beside the acrobatic, Michael Jackson-esque werewolf.

* Science Fiction/ Double Feature from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, sung by Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer singing Science Fiction/ Double Feature with Moby, Stephin Merritt, and Neil Gaiman. This was right before I saw her in concert with Neil Gaiman on Halloween, which I will post about when I am not swimming through school papers. Anyway, Gaiman is very stoic on the toy piano and Palmer is just as charismatic and effervescent as ever. Plus they are a super cute couple. ;)

* Schubert's Der Erlkönig (The Erlking)

Franz Schubert set Johann Wolfgang von Göethe's poem to music in this Lied, or artsong, for solo voice and piano. The story is based on a Danish legend of a deadly and seductive fairy that preys on children. The poem starts with a father clutching his son and frantically riding by horse back to his farm. The boy is sick and in his feverish delusion, he sees the Erlking trying to entice him with riches and his daughters. These entreaties start nicely until he is frustrated and willing to take him by force. The father only sees wisps of fog or shuddering leaves and tries to calm the boy. The boy's terror reaches its peak and the boy shreiks. When they get home, the boy has tragically died in his father's arms. Here are the original German and the English translation of the text.

The music follows and enhances the story in interesting ways. The horse can be heard in the constant, frantic piano bass part. The characters all have their own ranges and tones although the Lied is to be sung by only one person. The boy's entreaties to his father are always high and frightened and get progressively higher as the song progresses. His father's part is low and reasoning. The Erlking's part starts high and soft when he tries to ply the boy with things, but turns lower and more hostile. I love this song and had the wonderful opportunity to analyse it in a music theory class. Even the keys and modulations have significance to the plot.

This animated short by Ben Zelkowicz is a wonderful adaptation of the tale in which sand and glass are used in a very innovative way to illustrate the song.

Any Halloween songs you guys like? Please share!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Spooky Movies for Halloween

Horror is one of my favorite genres and Halloween (even one week after) is the best occasion to enjoy it. Here are my top picks for the best holiday.

1) Halloween

Of course! This is the quintessential Halloween movie and the very first slasher film that provided the formula for all others to follow. Michael Myers is absolutely frightening. He doesn't speak a word throughout the film and you have no idea what his face looks like as an adult. It preys on our fears of strangers and the unknown. With a single minded, slow and steady nature (and a spray painted William Shatner mask), he pursues the chaste Laurie Strode and her more promiscuous, substance abusing friends on Halloween night. The soundtrack by the director John Carpenter is genius in its simplicity and its ability to create suspense and inspire fear. Even though it was made in the 70's and has spawned a great many sequels and remakes, Halloween is still a very scary movie and one of my favorites.

2) Trick 'r Treat

Trick 'r Treat is my second favorite Halloween themed film. It features five interweaving storylines that take strange and surprising turns, making this a unique horror film that breaks a lot of the typical conventions. It was never released in mainstream theaters and was only shown at conventions and film festivals before going straight to DVD, which is so disappointing. I think a lot of people would like it. It stars some familiar faces like Anna Paquin and Brian Cox. This is the only other horror film that is quintessentially Halloween. I can see myself watching it religiously every year along with Halloween and The Nightmare Before Christmas. One storyline deals with a virginal college student being preyed upon with unexpected results. Another features a high school principal who poisons candy to punish those not in the holiday spirit. Two of the storylines deal with Sam, the eternal trick or treater that appears to be a child in a costume, but is actually the spirit of Halloween. He may look cuddly and cute, but he is swift and brutal with his punishment of those that don't celebrate enthusiastically. The film is laced with creepiness, blood, and black humor. Right now, it's super cheap on Amazon, I recommend buying if you're interested!

3) The Descent

The Descent is the story of a group of women who go caving in a tourist for their reunion after a tragedy occurred. They realize that it's not the cave they thought and they have been led there as a horrible surprise by one of the group. As they get more hostile with each other and struggle to find a way out, these frightening, blind underground dwellers appear, ready to kill and eat them. This film is absolutely frightening. I watched it at home with my sister with all the lights out and very jumpy through the whole thing. The first half doesn't have anything super natural at all, but it feels claustrophobic. The women are trapped in the underground caves and that alone is scary without adding in creepy creatures. When they do come on the scene, the situation escalates. Although an aspect of the film is the gore and interesting kills, the driving force throughout is the characters, their past, and their relationships. I recommend watching the UK ending and pretending the US ending doesn't exist. And don't watch the sequel even if it's streaming on Netflix; it's horrible.

4) Night of the Living Dead

In Night of the Living Dead, the dead rise. No one truly knows why, but people are just focused on trying to survive. A group of random people barricade themselves in a house to escape the zombie horde. The living dead isn't their only problem, but also the people in the house with them. This is the very first zombie film as we know them today.In Night of the Living Dead, the dead rise. No one truly knows why, but people are just focused on trying to survive. A group of random people barricade themselves in a house to escape the zombie horde. The living dead isn't their only problem, but also the people in the house with them. This is the very first zombie film as we know them today. Lots of rules and conventions are created and it inspired so many people to make zombies their own and use them as symbols for the things we fear: science, consumerism, disease, social constructs, etc. This film is in the public domain, so you should be able to find it pretty much anywhere and purchase it very cheaply.

Honorable mention: Poltergeist - A very scary ghost movie that gave me nightmares throughout my childhood. If you were disappointed by the Paranormal Activity films, I highly recommend that you see what a real poltergeist can do.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mailbox Goodies

My Mailbox Goodies for the last 2 weeks! Just a note: I was super busy during Halloween, so I will still be putting up Halloween posts within the next few days. Evil school work. Anyway, the goodies!

* Harbor ARC by John Ajvide Lindqvist from Librarything

* Shatter Me ARC by Tahereh Mafi from Amazon Vine

* The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan from Amazon Vine

* The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor from Book Soup at her signing last week

* Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist from Amazon UK

* 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami from Amazon

* The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegan from Amazon Vine

* I Am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley from Amazon Vine

Any awesome reads in your mailbox?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood

Theseus Cassio Lowood AKA Cas kills the dead. This may seem redundant, but it's true. He destroys harmful ghosts and has done so ever since his father died a gruesome death doing the same task. Now, Cas travels the world, following rumors and killing ghosts, with his mother, online occult supplier and herbal witch, and her temperamental cat cat, only useful for recognizing spirits. After moving to Thunder Bay, Canada, Cas meets an altogether different kind of ghost: Anna Korlov, more commonly known as Anna Dressed in Blood. Her murder from 1958 was never solved and anyone foolish enough to venture into her house dies a horrible, painful death. Her once pristine white dress she wore to a school dance is now dripping and stained with blood. Her power is unparalleled by any other ghost he's encountered, save for one: his father's murderer. If Cas can defeat her, he will be ready to take down his father's murderer, but she easily defeats. However, she spares his life, something he has never seen a ghost do. Can he eventually defeat her and somehow destroy her source of power?

Anna Dressed in Blood is a wonderfully spooky read that really grabbed me from the first pages. This is partly because of the striking, blood tinged cover and deep red ink the story is printed in. The concept is original and takes the ghost story some place new. I'm not normally too big of a fan of ghost stories because after a while they start to all sound the same. Kendare Blake puts a new spin on things with ghost slayers, magic, voodoo, witches, and seriously malicious ghosts. There is a small community of ghost slayers, unknown to most people. Cass inherited an athame or ceremonial knife from his father and makes killing ghosts and avenging his father's death his personal quest. He moves across the world chasing leads on killer ghosts and dispatches them one by one, never staying in one place for very long. At first, his reluctance to get close to people and his willingness to use the people around him makes him seems callous and shallow. As the book goes on, his behavior is shown to actually protect himself and keep emotional attachments from distracting him. I loved his narrative because of his wit and the growth he shows throughout the novel. Although he is a compelling character, the one that really kept be reading was Anna.

Anna Korlov is a strong, fearsome, badass ghost. She is only the second that Cass hasn't been able to defeat, the first being his father's murderer. She's not a little poltergeist that simply moves things around like most pitiful ghosts; she can literally tear people apart with very little effort. She has killed anyone who has entered her house for over 50 years and she can suddenly choose not to kill one person. Rage seems to fill her every time she encounters someone. Her eyes turn black, black veins snake across her skin, and blood soaks and drips of her dress. I loved that a young girl in a white dress is usually the picture of innocence and goodness, but here, the image is horribly corrupted and frankly terrifying. Her house seems to be an extension of her that she could manipulate at will, revealing the scores of those that have died there in their putrescence. She's obviously no ordinary ghost. I needed to know what had happened to her, how she died, and how she got to be so powerful. Her very essence is a mystery. Is she completely evil? Is there a vulnerable young dead girl in there somewhere?

Anna Dressed in Blood features compelling characters, unique story lines, and new conventions for the ghost story. The plot always moved and maintained a level of suspense that kept me reading and then wanting even more after I finished the novel. Kendare Blake doesn't shy away from blood or gore at all, which puts closer to older teen or adult horror. This is highly recommended and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, Girl of Nightmares.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Raylene Pendle, accomplished thief and vampire, has a pretty complicated life. Her collection of strays has grown to include orphan siblings Domino and Pepper and blind vampire Ian Stott living in her apartment plus drag queen and ex-Navy SEAL Adrian deJesus, even though he lives elsewhere. Supporting so many people plus the huge move when she was forced from her previous building proves to be expensive. When Horace Bishop contacts her with a very lucrative job, she accepts despite the weirdness factor. The items of great value are actually penis bones, or bacula, of fantastical creatures, such as werewolves and unicorns and they are worth millions. She knows the job is more complicated than it seems, but is still surprised when someone steals them first and then destroys the house with lightning. To further complicate matters, the leader of Ian's House is killed, leaving him in charge. He can't risk returning because of his disability, but can't ignore his responsibilities to his family. Raylene resolves to solve his problem by finding out what really happened to his father and takes Adrian with her to pose as her ghoul. Can she wrestle the bacula from a powerful, crazy woman AND save Ian from certain death also known as vampire politics?

Hellbent is the second installment of Cherie Priest's Cheshire Red series and proves to be just as good as the first one. Raylene is a unique protagonist. Her narrative is colored by her humor and her interesting view of the world. Underneath her veneer of being a perfect, hard as nails thief, she's actually quite human. Her collection of strays betrays her loneliness and need for other people. She really cares about her makeshift family and, although they sometimes drive her crazy, she will do anything in her power to keep them safe. One of the cutest scenes in the book was when Raylene found a kitten at a murder scene and couldn't just leave it there where it would probably die. I found the scene endearing and cute. She is painfully OCD at times, obsessively overpreparing for every conceivable situation and loading up on extra equipment just in case. Although she goes overboard, her OCD is one of the reasons why she's still alive. Her vampiric powers aren't unrealistic or godlike. They just make her tougher and faster than a human with weak psychic powers. More of her regenerative powers and psychic connection to those who drink her blood are explored.

The other characters are just as engaging. What's not to like about a drag queen who was also a Navy SEAL? Hellbent gives Raylene and her friends added depth and more background. Raylene's past involvement with a House is discovered as well as Ian's vampire family and more details about Adrian. Their three story lines come together in unexpected ways that kept me guessing. The plot is very twisty and it would go in completely different directions than I predicted, which is refreshing. The story is funny, fast paced, suspenseful, and fun. Romance is only hinted and doesn't overpower or interrupt the action as it does in fantasy so often. I hope Raylene eventually has a relationship with someone, but the issues at hand are a little bit more important.

Hellbent is a really fun paranormal read that combines mystery, humor, action, and fantasy. I can't wait for the next book in the Chesire Red series!

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Chat: Creepy Covers

Misty at The Book Rat shared some of her creepy covers, so I decided to share some of mine. If you'd like to share yours, please link it to Misty's page.

1) Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

I love this creepy cover from the sepia tone to the girl's hidden eyes and exposed heart. The story is science fiction, but the surrealist cover makes it seem much darker. The book was reprinted recently and I think the new cover is equally creepy and a little more beautiful. She looks like a dejected, broken doll and provides a stark contrast to the nature around her. The eye in the crows mouth is especially disturbing.

2) Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry

This cover is really what drew me into the series. The scream depicted seems so powerful, yet so futile. I can practically hear it. The pop of lipstick color in an otherwise monochromatic cover is genius. I hope the interior lives up to the awesome cover.

3) the ARC cover of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

This cover is so much better than the finished copy's and even has a little more to do with the actual story than the other one. When my sister practically shoved the book into my hand, the cover really intrigued me. The half zombified face actually looks weirdly beautiful and hints more about the horrors inside.

4) The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

The cover depicts a gut human reaction: to cover our eyes when we see something that scares us, but also the sick fascination we have to keep watching through our fingers. It's a powerful cover and portrays what anyone would feel during a zombie apocalypse.

What about you guys? Any favorite creepy covers?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winner of Ashes!

The winner of the ARC of Ashes is........


Keep an eye out for the results of the 2 other giveaways. :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Mara Dyer woke up in the hospital with no memory of why she would be there. She was in a terrible accident with her boyfriend and her two best friends and she was the only survivor. What's also strange is that despite the severity of the accident, she only had a few scrapes and bruises. After she had physically recovered, she still suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and experienced hallucinations of her dead friends. To escape her memories, she and her family moved from her home in Rhode Island to start fresh in Miami, Florida. At her new private school, she met Jamie, the quirky rebellious guy, and Noah, the gorgeous guy with a bad reputation who is drawn to her. She still had problems deciphering what is real and what isn't and when people start to die around her, she doesn't know why. Is it coincidence or something more nefarious at work?

My summary doesn't really do the story justice, but I don't want to give too much away. I was really surprised by The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. The cover, although very beautiful, looks like a scene right out of a flowery romantic drama, so that's about what I expected: romance with very little substance or conflict. but the story is much darker and much more interesting. I liked that it dealt with the effects of trauma: memory loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, hallucinations, and regaining memory in bits and pieces. It doesn't seem to be explored a lot in young adult fiction and it's nice to see it as the reality that counteracts the fantastic aspects of the novel. Mara's hallucinations would occur in random places and create this crazy, surreal tableau that she just had to ride out until it was over. For instance, on the first day of school, she walks into the class and sees the building tumbling down around her while her fellow classmates continue with class obliviously. Elements such as this made the story unique.

Most of the characters are engaging and dynamic. Mara is a bit mentally unstable, but her wit, intelligence, and artistic talent are all intact. I felt her artistic ability was underutilized and much more could have been done with it besides sketching her boyfriend. Her point of view proves to be engaging because of her doubt about if what she sees is real or hallucination and her strength to overcome her traumatic past. I also loved her sense of humor which tended to be more vulgar and dark than usual. I really related to it and found her to be refreshingly realistic. Her conversations with Jamie and Noah are particularly funny and are usually laced with fun references. Noah is tolerable as teen love interests go. His character seemed kind of confused between being the promiscuous playboy, the protective/possessive boyfriend, and the earnest, likable guy. I only liked him some of the time and the romance between him and Mara overpowered the dark, supernatural plot during the middle and it didn't return until the end.

Despite the romance interrupting the story, I really liked The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. The mystery, subjectivity of reality, and the supernatural elements kept me reading and it only took me a couple of days to finish this rather lengthy book. The ending completely surprised me and left me craving the sequel.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Chat: Scary Reads

This is in response to Misty's post on The Book Rat. Please join in the conversation! This weeks subject is Scary Reads. I'm a huge fan of horror, ever since I was little. I still read and watch a lot of horror, but much of it doesn't scare me in the least. Here are some that still managed to chill me:

1) The Devouring by Simon Holt

Based on the cover, I expected this to be a typical teen paranormal kind of romancey type of book. I knew it was something different when a horror movie magazine I like reviewed it and gave it a very high rating. I was extremely pleased to read the most nightmarish and terrifying situations that were tailored to the characters' personal fears. The Vours are the creatures that created them possess people and take control of the person's body, leaving them trapped in their worst nightmare. Reggie called the Vours, thinking they were fiction, but rapidly found out they were real. Her younger brother was possessed by the Vours and turned from his sweet self into a murderous, abusive thing that no longer even resembles her brother. I was thoroughly creeped out and it felt like a weird reaction to a teen book, but I hope more teen books push the envelope in this way. The second book in the series wasn't as good as The Devouring, but I have high hopes for the third book, Fearscape.

2) House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

It's hard to describe what House of Leaves is about: The Navidson Record is a book that irrevocably changes people after they read it and Johnny Truant experiences this as a reads the book with the reader. The Navidson Record and Johnny Truant's story are told at the same time, which is odd. It's a great piece of metafiction that also manages to be very creepy. The house from the Navidson Record is just a little bit bigger on the inside than the outside. First it's by a very small amount, but then they find an impossible closet that leads to a hallways that leads into the depths of the house where it seems endless with spiral staircases and interminable corridors. This is where the Navidson family explores, gets lost, and starts to break down mentally. The thing that is does best is play with time with stretching or contracting the space that the words take up and using bizarre typography, colors, and languages at times.. I've only read this book once, but it's always stayed with me because of it's complexity and unique mode of story telling. House of Leaves just got under my skin in weird ways and it's hard to explain. I'll eventually write a full review whenever I reread it.

3) American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho is the story of Patrick Bateman, who works on Wall Street and lives in luxury. The most trivial things like business cards are the most important thing in his life. He starts to nonchalantly kill prostitutes, friends, homeless people, even a random child. What's horrific about this novel isn't the detailed accounts of torture and murder (although there are no shortage of those and it's no picnic to read through them), but in the society portrayed. Whether his acts of violence are real or imagined (and this is a definite question by the end of the book), he needs them because of the vast void in his vapid, shallow life that is considered to be the best the 80's society has to offer. This is a polarizing text and many people won't like it because they can't get past the violence, but I think it's a very effective, controversial social commentary.

* posted without pictures for now because Blogger is acting stupid. will try to add them tomorrow.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sweet Venom

Grace moves to San Francisco and is eager to start over at her new school. Her life is full of new possibilities, but it’s also a bit scary. It gets a whole lot scarier when she sees mythical creatures that shouldn’t exist and other people don’t even notice. She thinks she might be going crazy until she meets Gretchen, her twin. Gretchen has been fighting mythical creatures and returning them to their realm for four years, ever since she ran away from her abusive parents and learned about her destiny as a descendant of Medusa from her new guardian, . Balancing her monster-slaying and school is hard, but she’s managed to do a pretty good so far. That is until there are more monsters than there are supposed to be and it ceases to be something she can handle. When Grace shows up, she’s torn, but eventually decides to train her to fight. The monsters seem to want to capture or kill them (which is new) and they discover that whoever brings them in dead or alive gets a free pass to live on Earth forever. They also discover there is a third descendent who is completely unaware. Can they make it to her before the monsters do? Together can they somehow banish the creatures permanently?

Sweet Venom is an interesting new take on Greek mythology. The Medusa we know of is a hideous, evil Gorgon that turns people into stone with her gaze. In actuality, Medusa is a guardian of our world against mythical creatures and she was murdered by Perseus because of Athena’s hatred and possible jealousy. Her name even means guardian or protectress, so this alternative mythology has some basis in reality. Medusa has immortal sisters, named Euryale and Stheno, who I haven't heard much about in my mythological education. Through my research, I found out that Medusa and her sisters were turned into monstrous beings by Athena because Medusa was raped by Poseidon in Athena's temple. Athena, outraged by the desecration, bizarrely decided to blame Medusa. In reality, it was probably more because Athena was jealous of Medusa's beauty. This villainous side of Athena is really interesting, but unfortunately isn't explored in this part of the series (which feeds into some of my annoyance with this book). I hope to see more in the next books in the series.

The three descendants of Medusa, Grace, Gretchen, and Greer, are all engaging characters that are completely different from one another. Grace is my favorite because she is a technology enthusiast. She works to make the vital information easier to access and practically impossible to lose by digitizing the dossiers on the different monsters. Grace brings a more analytical and intellectual side to their job. Through her research and general nosiness, she discovers the prophecy about her and her sisters and more details about their immortal ancestors. Gretchen , on the other hand, is more enthusiastic about fighting with her preternatural strength. She's a little more mature and jaded than the other girls because of her past: escaping from abusive parents, living on the streets, and then living without much supervision with her mentor and guardian while nightly fighting mythological baddies. Her sense of realism grounds her sisters and shows them the reality of being a descendant of Medusa that often isn't as easy as they might think. Greer comes in really late in the book. Her life is completely different from her sisters', full of parties, designer clothes, and expensive shoes. The revelation is a rude awakening for her not only because of the undignified fighting ahead, but also because she didn't know she was adopted. She is my least favorite, but she showed potential to become less annoying and vapid by the end.

My biggest problem with Sweet Venom is that there is no real ending. The story line isn't resolved in any way. Most books in series have a few loose ends to make a sequel plausible, but this one just feels incomplete. Other than that, Sweet Venom is a really enjoyable read and one of the most unique mythology based teen books I've read. I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Liesl and Po

Liesl has been kept in the attic of her house ever since her father grew progressively sick and then died. Her stepmother Augusta hates her and keeps her there, feeding her meager meals and rarely allowing her to leave. Liesl draws to pass the time and does little else. Three days after her father's death, she receives two unexpected visitors: a ghost named Po, who is neither a boy nor a girl, and his ghostly pet Bundle, who is neither a dog nor a cat. Po agrees to try to find her father on the other side in exchange for a drawing and discovers that her father wants to go home and only Liesl is left to undertake the journey. Liesl and Po's journey will inevitably intertwine with Will's. He's an apprentice to a cruel alchemist and accidentally mixes up Liesl's father's ashes with the greatest magic ever created. Po and Liesl take this magic and embark on a wonderful and strange journey, with both friends and enemies following them, to take Liesl's father to his proper resting place.

Lauren Oliver opens the book with an explanation of the circumstances that led her to write the book: her best friend died and she wrote the book as way of coping with it. I can definitely see that reflected in the story and I feel that anyone who has lost a loved one can relate to it, not just children. Liesl's situation locked in the attic of her own house is simply miserable and she goes through every robotically without any real excitement. Sunlight has also disappeared, leaving the world cold and gray. The lovely charcoal drawings illustrate this feeling wonderfully. This is a physical representation of Lauren Oliver's own feelings in the months after her friend's death. Liesl and Po's journey to lay her father to rest is symbolic of anyone's personal journey in accepting a death in their lives and saying goodbye to that person. I love that the setting and time period of the book is unspecified, so the reader can imagine it as wherever and whenever they like. Liesl and Po deals with death in a way that doesn't talk down to children and acknowledges that children can (and have to) deal with death in their own lives.

Although the tale is fairly dark, Lauren Oliver tempers it with humor, levity, magic, and unique characters. Liesl, Will, and Po's unlikely friendship is delightful and they have their own very different personalities and states of being. They were all alone in the world and found solace in each other in the grayscale world they live in. Liesl is surprisingly creative and brave for a girl who unquestioningly stayed in the attic for so long. Po is an enigmatic being that seems to become more and more human as he stays in the living world. Will is an abused child and has insecurities as a result, but remains a good, loyal friend to Liesl. The other characters, namely the adults in the story besides Liesl's father, are flat characters that are simply villainous. This aspect gives the story a fairy or folk tale feel that doesn't take away from the story.

I enjoyed Liesl and Po very much and found Lauren Oliver's prose engaging and lyrical. Those who enjoyed Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book or Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events books would enjoy it as well.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dearly, Departed

In the year 2195, catastrophic events and society rebuilding itself has resulted in New Victoria being height of civilization and technology. Nora Dearly is just out of mourning. Her father died a year ago and she lives with her cold, uncaring aunt, who views the mourning as a social inconvenience and ruined Nora by putting them in great debt over the year her father has been dead. When Nora returns home from school for winter break, her ordered life is disrupted by crazed, flesh-eating zombies trying to kidnap her from her home. She ends up being kidnapped by an opposing faction of more sane, rational zombies who worked with her father. Captain Abraham Griswold AKA Bram, zombie soldier, takes an interest in Nora. At first, she is repulsed and rejects the zombies, no matter how civilized and nice they are. As they get to know each other, Nora and Bram feel an undeniable attraction resulting in an odd, yet sweet romance between the living and the dead. This pales in comparison to the zombie plague running through New Victoria. Can Nora, Bram, and the zombie troops save the city or will it be overrun with zombies?

Dearly, Departed is an unexpected, genre bending adventure. The world is an impressive mixture of dystopia, steampunk, and advanced technology. The world has basically fallen apart and reduced to individual tribes without any sort of centralized government. A certain conservative tribe decided that the Victorian era was far enough in the past that no one had any emotional ties to it and liked the idea of the virtuous, moral society that they decided to adopt it as their own. The resulting situation is Victorian era fashion, sensibilities, and social constructs coupled with futuristic technology. New Victoria isn't the only tribe out there. The Punks are an opposing faction that abhors New Victoria and things they are making the same mistakes that led to the original destruction of society: a hierarchical model and a reliance on technology. The Punks promote basic technology that man is in control of: nothing digital and nothing that creates a false reality. I really like that the main society does have a backlash movement against it, but these two deign to cooperate when their very lives are at stake.

In accordance with the New Victorian society, women are oppressed and can only succeed in limited fields if they navigate through the shark-infested waters of society by upholding ridiculous social constructs and customs. The two main female characters, Nora and Pamela, both have interests and attitudes outside of the realm of what is acceptable for their gender. I enjoyed seeing them just as frustrated as me when they were shunned or disapproved of for frivolous reasons and I relished with them when they overthrew the niceties of society when the situation became so dire that what people would think was the last thing on their minds.

The zombies are a little different than the zombies you may be used to seeing, but no less awesome. A prion is the culprit and it's transmitted through bodily fluids, which of course includes biting. There are two types of zombies that result from infection: the mindless, ravenous zombies and coherent, sentient zombies. The sentient ones are just regular people who have the minor misfortune of being dead and the inconvenience of decomposing. The zombie soldiers are easily patched up when injured and take injections to further preserve them, but they will all eventually succumb to being a ravenous zombie when the prion destroys their brains. I like the new mode of infection and the logical reasons for two types of zombies.

Dearly, Departed is a wonderful read that would appeal to a wide variety of readers. It has romance, adventure, zombies, action, science, and war. The only thing I didn't like about the novel was that the world building took a while and a lot was told to us rather than shown. Since the world has already been established, I predict that the second book will be even better as I eagerly await it.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Dearly, Departed will be released on 10/18. Check it out here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Frightful Fall Read-a-thon: Wrap-up

I had so much fun with the Frightful Fall Read-a-thon. The mini-challenges were super fun and I got a lot of much needed reading done. Here are my final stats:

* Marquis of O: 30 pages

* Dearly, Departed: 471 pages

* The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer: 452 pages

* Cold Kiss: 292 pages

* Hellbent: 122 pages

* total books finished: 3

* total pages read: 1,367

Reviews of these books should be going up within the next week or so. :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Frightful Fall Read-a-thon Mini-Challenge: Urban Girl Reader

More mini-challenges! This one comes from Urban Girl Reader and she asks for a fake summary of the next book in the series of a horror novel. Since I haven't started it yet (and I would be way to tempted to post spoilers about the books I've read), I will choose the sequel to Hellbent by Cherie Priest:

Raylene, cat burglar vampire, is hired by an unknown source to steal the Necronomicon that inspired H.P. Lovecraft to write all of his horror stories. It started off as a normal smash and grab situation, but quickly descended into running for her life territory after the owner of said book sicced an unspeakable and tentaclely horror after her. Barely escaping with her life and the book (yay!), Raylene keeps the book at her house overnight to recuperate from her adventure, only to have a crazy group of cultist steal the book and firebomb her house. Will she be able to get the Necronomicon back unscathed? What will the cultists invoke with this powerful book? Can Raylene just get this job done and so she can relax?

* The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer: 374 pages Finished!
* Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey: 130 pages

Total pages for today: 504
Total books finished: 2
Total pages read: 1,083

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Frightful Fall Read-a-thon Mini-Challenge: My Book Retreat

Another mini-challenge! This one is from My Book Retreat and the task is to identify a character and what book their in, choose a costume for them with a rationale for why, and provide a picture of the costume.

The character I chose is the dashing Captain Abraham Griswold AKA Bram from Lia Habel's Dearly, Departed. The best costume for him would be a zombie. He is a zombie, so he would just splash some fake blood on his mouth, wear some ragged clothes, and shuffle around a little more than normal. It provides Bram a way to blend in with living people without attracting unwanted attention, namely screams, stares, and people running away. Plus it would give Nora Dearly and his zombie friends some amusement. Here is what he would look like in his zombie costume:

* photo from ~uncherished at deviantArt


My progress for the last 2 days:

* Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel: 276 pages Finished!
* The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin: 78 pages

Total for whole read-a-thon: 579 pages

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Frightful Fall Read-a-thon Mini-Challenge: Knitting and Sundries

Yay mini-challenges! This one challenges me to create a creepy sentence out of book titles, so here's mine:

We feed the living dead forever in the house of leaves. (of course it had to have zombies in it!)


Now for my progress so far!

* Dearly Departed by Lia Habel: 195 pages
* The Marquise von O (novella) by Henrich Kleist: 30 pages

total pages: 225

Monday, October 3, 2011

Frightful Fall Read-a-thon 2011

I love read-a-thons, especially when I've let books pile up more than usual with due dates loomy creepily close. This one is hosted by Castle Macabre. The only requirement for this event is that at least 1 book read is horror related, which is no problem for me. Here is what I intend to read over the next week:

* Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

* The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

* Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

* Hellbent by Cherie Priest

We'll see if I get through those and worry about the rest later. The event runs from October 2 to October 6, which gives me lots of time to participate and I don't feel pressured. It's going to be fun, so sign up here if you're interested.