October 2016 Wrap Up

After reading 9 books this month, most of them rating around 4 stars, I would say October is one of my favorite reading months this year. Most of these were library books that I was really sad I had to return. I don’t regret reading any of those books, but I feel bad for ignoring many of the books I own at home that I have not read yet. I plan on remedying that by the end of the year.

In order, I read in October:

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (library book)

4 stars

A collection of scary short stories with some of the prettiest artwork I have seen in a graphic novel, Through the Woods was just the book I needed to get me in the Halloween spirit. Each individual story varied in creepiness and the color scheme changed to fit the atmosphere. Some of them freaked me out just a little bit, but nothing truly gruesome or terrifying. My favorite was The Lady’s Hands are Cold.

 

Half Wild by Sally Green

4 stars

I read the first book in the Half Bad trilogy, Half Bad, by Sally Green last summer. I finally got around to picking up the second book, Half Wild, this month. I remembered why I enjoyed these books so much. Once I picked it up, it was hard to put it down. The story moved fast, but the writing made it so I wanted to keep reading. This book also expanded on the world of Black and White witches in this series, as well as the fascinating, complex magical system.

Also, I wanted to mention, there is an element of LGTBQ in the story. Nathan, the protagonist, is possibly bisexual. He is infatuated with Annalise, the girl he fell in love with in Half Bad, but denies his growing attraction to his friend Gabriel, who makes no secret of his feelings for Nathan.

Half Wild is likely my favorite book in the Half Bad trilogy and I plan on picking up Half Lost soon.

 

And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich (library book)

4.5 stars

And the Trees Crept In follows Silla, a teenaged girl who flees with her little sister in the middle of the night to her aunt Catherine’s manor. At first, the girls are well taken care of and happy. Then, everything starts to fall apart after Catherine warns her nieces to stay away from the woods surrounding the manor or the Creeper Man will take them. Silla is terrified of the woods and her little sister, Nori, starts talking to an invisible man in the shadows. And it gets a lot weirder from there.

Dawn Kurtagich is number one on my list of new favorite authors I discovered this year. Her writing is unique and she writes horror well. The stories she writes mix fantasy with the psychological: you often wonder if what is happening to the protagonist is real or if the character is really having a nervous breakdown.

 

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

3 stars

I posted a whole review of This is Where it Ends earlier this month, if you want to know my full thoughts and opinions on it. Overall, I liked it but I had some problems with it, such as portrayal of certain characters.

 

As I Descended by Robin Talley (library book)

4 stars

Another book I did a review of this month. A lesbian young adult retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it lived up to the hype for me. I was impressed with the writing, the pacing, and the character development. Plus, I was delightfully scared—don’t read this book after midnight.

 

Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

4 stars

I’ll be honest: not my favorite book in the Vampire Academy series. Don’t get me wrong. It was still a good book, but obviously more of a filler until we get to the climax of the series. There was a little too much Rose/Dimitri and Rose/Adrian relationship drama for my liking. I did enjoy the world-building of Blood Promise though, primarily the introduction of the Alchemists and Rose learning more about the Spirit element, as well as the magic behind her bond with Lissa.

 

The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics (library book)

4.5 stars

I have a full review of The Women in the Walls if you want to know all my in-depth thoughts on the book. In short, I enjoyed it very much. Like Dawn Kurtagich, Amy Lukavics has joined the list of my new favorite authors this year. The writing was fast-paced and scary, and the protagonist was troubled but had a surprising amount of spunk. The story had its disturbing moments, only nothing gross until the last 30 or so pages. And the ending was not what I expected.

 

What the Dead Want by Norah Olson (library book)

2 stars

This is the book that broke this month’s record of high ratings. The writing made me want to keep reading and the pacing matched the length of the novel, except I still had quite a few problems with it. What the Dead Want is the last full book review I posted this month, if you want to know more.

 

A World Without You by Beth Revis (library book)

5 stars

The best book I read this month by far. Nearly 400 pages and I flew through it. Beth Revis did a good job at mixing psychosis with fantasy. There were moments I thought maybe Bo really was time-travelling and everyone else simply thought he was crazy—a common theme in young adult fantasy novels anyway. The writing was also very good. I got into Bo’s head and was able to understand what he was going through. He blamed himself for Sofia’s death. He could not face the reality of what actually happened to his girlfriend. I also liked the chapters narrated by his sister Phoebe, who gives the reader an insight to Bo that no one else can. I was originally going to give A World Without You 4.75 stars. Then, the last few chapters bumped it up to 5.

What did everyone read in October?

Advertisements

Scary Reads TBR

I’m a lover of horror and fantasy, not just around Halloween. Like any other bookworm, I have an ever-growing TBR pile, but I’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 scary books I want to read.

Of course, these are all subject to change….

 

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf

A friend from college recommended this to me on a previous blog post and, luckily, I found it in my local library.

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is a historical fiction and gothic horror novel about a psychopath in medical school during the Enlightenment period in England. Tristan, the protagonist, is a bright young man haunted by his urge to inflict pain on others, which contradicts his desire to heal pain. To find the source of his bizarre obsession, he turns to budding science and reason to uncover the answers hidden within his childhood.

In my mind, horror and historical fiction, specifically Gothic horror, go well together. It makes the story seem 10 times creepier in an era without cellphones and electricity, whereas the modern times have more options of an escape route.

 

Garden of Blood and Dust by K.K. Perez

As of now, there is virtually nothing about this book posted on Goodreads, aside from it being published by Simon Pulse in 2017. But it does not say when in 2017 nor does it even have cover art. All the summary said was that it is a young adult fantasy retelling of Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess of Hungary: the most horrific female serial killer in history. With similarities to the movie Maleficent and the television show American Horror Story.

This book speaks to my soul.

 

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

This is another book that supposedly promises to make you crap your pants. My understanding of it is that it is a story within a story…within a story. The format is also said to be interesting and adds to the overall creepiness of the book.

If and when I do pick up House of Leaves, I think this is a book I want to go into blind. Psychological horrors and thrillers, in my opinion, have a better affect if the reader goes in with little or no information about the story prior to reading it.

 

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

A teenaged girl moves into a new house that was formerly an insane asylum for young women that were labeled insane but were only too smart and feisty to be controlled.

Delia, the protagonist, gets trapped inside her new house and learns that the former residents still reside on the property. To free herself from the house’s confines, she must unravel the secrets of the former girls of “Hysteria Hall.” In case you could not tell by now, I’m a sucker for the haunted house trope. I’ve read a few novels that have this. It can be done in so many different ways and different settings. Some are good and some are bad. I’m hoping The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall will be one of the better ones.

 

Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano

Diary of a Haunting is supposedly a similar format to Dawn Kurtagich’s The Dead House. A diary written by a teenaged girl named Paige documenting the horrifying events that occur when her family rents a mansion in rural Idaho that was formerly the location of a cult that performed ritual experiments.

Again, haunted house trope, but this one has cults and demonic rituals. While I personally think the “found footage” horror movies are sometimes overdone, for a book it could work, if told in something like a diary.

 

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

I read The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics in October (and I posted a review, in case you are interested) and now I want to read everything she has out. Daughters unto Devils is her first novel.

This novel is a historical fiction and the protagonist is a pregnant 16-year-old that wants to forget the boy who made her that way and everything else her family left behind in their mountain cabin. But the owners of their new home in the prairie left behind a big, bloody mess. Rumors say the land is cursed and previous residents have gone mad…and our protagonist might be next.

 

The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow

The theme continues: teenaged girl, haunted house, family secrets, and the mother dies. Winnie Flynn’s mom committed suicide and then her aunt Maggie, a TV producer, takes her to a haunted mansion in New Jersey where Maggie’s show is filming their next segment. Only this is the first time Winnie has ever met Aunt Maggie and her mother always refused to go to New Jersey.

Winnie learns that her family is somehow connected to the Devil. And, judging by the shadow on the cover standing behind the girl who is supposedly Winnie, the Devil could be a female figure. Now that is definitely going to be interesting.

 

Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

In the description on Goodreads, the summary opens like this: “Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.”

Sign me up!

Blood and Salt follows Ash, a teenaged girl that travels to Kansas to find her mother, who has returned to the spiritualist commune she fled years ago. She starts receiving “ancestral memories” and how the events of the past could endanger those in the present. And when she falls in love with a dark, mysterious boy, she only puts herself at greater risk.

 

A Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

One of the two books on this list I actually own, A Madness so Discreet is another historical fiction and horror young adult novel. This time, it is Grace Mae, a teenaged girl who is locked up in an insane asylum after becoming pregnant by a rape.

When a doctor who specializes in criminal psychology takes notice of her sharp intellect, he removes her from her nasty Boston asylum to a better facility in Ohio. The doctor enlists Grace’s help in catching a serial killer targeting young women, likely an American version of Jack the Ripper. Only to catch this killer, Grace will have to become as mad as he is.

I’ve owned this book since last Christmas. Why have I not read it yet? I honestly could not tell you.

 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The other book on this TBR list that I have owned since January 2015 is a vampire novel by the infamous Holly Black, an author whose books I have never read. Reading the summary, the best way I can describe it is a young adult version of the movie Daybreakers.

In this world, vampires exist and are separated from humans in these cities called Coldtowns. The main character, Tana, wakes up on the morning after what was supposedly an uneventful party surrounded by corpses and a boy chained to a bed. Along with another boy, the three travel to the nearest Coldtown, for fear the vampire virus is already inside them. Of course, in young adult fantasy novels, nothing is ever so simple.

I meant to read this book when I bought it. But there are so many pretty books calling my name. How can I possibly choose?

 

If you have read any of these books or find one particularly interesting and want to see a review of it in the future, which should I move higher on my TBR pile?

Review of What the Dead Want by Norah Olson (Spoiler Free)

When I first started reading What the Dead Want by Norah Olson, it was right after I finished The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics. In theory, both have similar plotlines: a haunted house, family secrets on the mother’s side, disturbing historical events happening on the property, and a troubled teenaged protagonist trying to figure it all out.

I thought I would enjoy What the Dead Want as much as I did The Women in the Walls, especially since there were connections to the Civil War. Except that did not happen.

The novel follows sixteen-year-old Gretchen, who goes to visit her great-aunt Esther, to claim her inheritance of a pre-Civil War era mansion in upstate New York. Still haunted by her mother’s disappearance six years prior, she goes to visit Esther in hopes of finding out what happened to her mother. Only the house is a shadow of its former glorious self. Plus, the ghosts of the people murdered in a church fire in the 1860s—one of them being Gretchen’s ancestor Fiedelia, whose journal entries and letters we read throughout the novel—continue to haunt the land, extracting vengeance on the townspeople.

The book starts off on a good foot. The writing was actually quite good. It made me want to keep reading. If I were basing the book entirely on the writing style, I would give it a 3.5 stars. I also thought the pacing was decent. The whole story took place over a matter of two days. It worked well, considering the length of the novel, until the very end. That was when it started to get jumbled.

Despite one small instance in the beginning, I was not scared or surprised by much in this book. I did not find the horror to be particularly terrifying. On the flip side, I also watch American Horror Story. To someone who is a scaredy-cat, this book might be disturbing. But the ghost element confused me. Their motives were clear, but how the living characters went about handling the situation made no sense to me. There was also an element of possession, but not the kind you would expect, nor one that I thought made much sense either.

Lastly, the characters were boring. I have read shorter books than What the Dead Want that have more character development than this. The story was plot-driven, which is totally fine, but you can still have characters that are more than one-dimensional. None of the characters were necessarily bad, except I felt disconnected from them all, including Gretchen. There is also an implied “insta-love” between Gretchen and Hawk, a boy that worked for Esther who she doesn’t meet until 50 pages in the novel.

What the Dead Want had a lot of ups and downs for me in terms of rating. I did enjoy Fiedelia’s diary entries, her letters, the connections to the Civil War, and the photographs that appeared between different chapters. In my opinion, this book could have done much better if told from dual point of view between Gretchen and Fiedelia. Overall, I give What the Dead Want by Norah Olson 2 stars.

Review of The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics (Spoiler Free)

Amy Lukavics has joined Dawn Kurtagich, Victoria Schwab, and Jessie Burton on the list of new favorite authors discovered this year. The Women in the Walls is the first book I have read by her, but I really enjoyed it. And her previous book, Daughters unto Devils, has made it higher on my list of books to check out of the library.

The Women in the Walls centers on seventeen-year-old Lucy Acosta, who lives an old mansion with her emotionally distant father, her aunt Penelope, and Penelope’s daughter, Margaret. Lucy’s mother died when she was a little girl and her aunt is the only mother figure she’s ever known. Then, at the beginning of the novel, Penelope suddenly disappears in the woods surrounding the Acosta home and is presumed dead. After Penelope’s disappearance, Margaret starts acting strange herself, leaving Lucy alone to deal with disturbing family secrets.

The book is short, roughly 280 pages, but the pacing is quite good. I never felt as though the situations were too rushed or too slow. The writing was very good, too. It set up a creepy atmosphere and pulled you right into the story. There were some passages I read over again, because it was just so scary it was thrilling.

Lucy, the protagonist, is the driving force of the novel and my favorite aspect of it. She has issues, serious ones—trigger warnings for self-harm—but she has a surprising amount of self-control. She knows she has a problem and wants to do something about it, but she also knows she can’t rely on those around her to fix her problems for her, especially her weak-minded father. She’s smart enough to know that something is definitely wrong inside the house and wants to get out, despite everyone else wanting to stay. Lucy showed a bout of spunk I appreciated at one point in the novel, when she told off two rude guests at a dinner party. Not something you would expect from a girl who grew up in a secluded house with a wealthy but dysfunctional family.

The Women in the Walls is classified as a horror and fantasy young adult novel, although I would categorize it under the former more than the latter. There are several disturbing instances, usually revolving around Margaret or Penelope, which take place throughout the story. It does not get truly gory until the last 30 or so pages. Plus, the ending was unexpected, at least for me.

Overall, I give The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics 4.5 stars. If you are interested in young adult horror novels and if you like authors such as Kendare Blake or Dawn Kurtagich, pick this book up.

 

Recommendations for Scaredy-Cat Readers

For a person like me, who is a lover of Tim Burton cartoons, October equals Halloween. However, to others, it means pumpkin spice lattes. So, I know not many of you will be reaching for the horror stories this month. But thankfully, authors are very accommodating with their materials.

The recommendations I have for you are historical fiction and contemporaries. Historical fictions tend to be larger with extensive writing, the kind that make you want to curl up inside under a blanket with hot chocolate. Contemporaries, whether lighthearted or more serious in content, have plotlines people can relate to and are often based in real-life situations. These are the novels that I have found in my own reading experience which tend to have less frightening or gory situations.

 

Historical Fiction

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

A book with the most beautiful writing I have ever read, The Swan Thieves tells the story of Dr. Andrew Marlowe, a psychiatrist that is lured into a mystery dating back to the French Impression era by his new patient, a troubled artist that tried to destroy the very thing he values most.

The book is huge—561 pages—but the story is totally worth it. The chapters go back and forth between Andrew and Beatrice, a beautiful young French woman that is an aspiring artist in the 1800s. Andrew also stumbles upon letters written by Beatrice to a mysterious lover that could be connected to the painting his patient tried to destroy.

Most people likely know Elizabeth Kostova as the author of The Historian. I personally have not read that book, but I think it’s about vampires (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). There are no vampires in The Swan Thieves, though. Just art history and heartbreak.

 

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist is an adult historical fiction that is a chunker but has lovely writing and flawed, realistic characters. It is set in Amsterdam, circa 1686, where eighteen-year-old Petronella “Nella” Oortman lives with her husband, successful merchant Johannes Brandt and his sister, Marin, who is not nice to her sister-in-law at all. Johannes is good to Nella, but does not give her enough attention a new groom should pay his bride. Until he gives her a present: a dollhouse that is an exact model of their home.

Nella hires an unnamed miniaturist to make dolls for her dollhouse. However, the miniaturist’s figurines are too life-like and strange things start happening within the Brandt home, as if the miniaturist predicted these things would occur. And, I should probably add, The Miniaturist is strictly a historical mystery and suspense novel. There is romance, except not the kind you would think.

 

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

What is better than a book about books?

Originally translated from Spanish, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron follows Daniel Sempre, the motherless son of a bookstore owner who becomes fascinated with the enigmatic author Julian Carax.

It begins with the discovery of Carax’s final novel, The Shadow of the Wind, in a mysterious rare bookstore called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel becomes fascinated with the book and his harmless inquiry into the author’s mysterious life sends his own into a tailspin in post-WWII Barcelona. With beautiful writing, a tragic love story, and flesh-and-blood characters against the backdrop of a country recovering from war, readers will find it very difficult not to be enthralled with this book.

 

Contemporary

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl is a cute, fluffy, and funny young adult contemporary novel that any college student can identify with. I was a senior in college when I read it, but I could still relate to main character Cath’s freshman anxiety about making friends, getting along with her roommate, and finding a table in the dining hall.

Fangirl is all about coming out of your shell and starting a new chapter of your life. The only scary thing that happens in this book is Cath’s nervousness about eating lunch with her roommate and her roommate’s friends. Anyone who is about to start college should read Fangirl. Even if you adjusted to college better than some others, there are still instances in this book where I think most people can see something of Cath in themselves or a friend. Plus, the majority of this book takes place in the fall semester of Cath’s freshman year, so it’s good to read in October.

 

The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot

I’ve read Meg Cabot since I was 13 years old. She’s known better for her Princess Diaries books, but she’s also written others in the young adult and adult genres.

            The Boy Next Door is the first in her Boy trilogy, a women’s fiction series of companion novels told in email format. I read all three books and The Boy Next Door is my favorite. The plot is a little outrageous but totally hilarious. John and Mel, the protagonists, have a sweet, slightly awkward romance (you will know why if you have read the book). Plus, individually, they are two people you can’t help but like. Because of the format, I flew through this book and I laughed out loud at certain parts.

 

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

The Secrets of Midwives is one of my most recent reads on this list. I read it back in June after I found it browsing my library. I had heard of it; it is classified as women’s fiction, which is something I don’t read much of, aside from Meg Cabot or Jojo Moyes. But this book really encouraged me to explore more within the genre.

The Secrets of Midwives follows three generations of women in one family, all of them midwives. Neva is a midwife pregnant with her first child but refuses to reveal the identity of her baby’s father. Grace, Neva’s mother, is a hippie midwife trying to figure out why her daughter won’t tell them who the father is while dealing with some personal and professional issues of her own. Floss, Grace’s mother and Neva’s grandmother, is a retired midwife that is supportive of her granddaughter but Neva’s situation brings back memories of a past Floss hoped to bury when she left England many years ago.

All three of the women’s plotlines connect throughout the novel and they all wrap up nicely. The writing was good, too, and the characters are realistic. Although, of the three women, I personally enjoyed Floss’s chapters the most, primarily because they take place when she’s a young midwife in 1950s England.

 

If you have any recommendations for readers that don’t like horror, leave your suggestion in the comments!

Review of As I Descended by Robin Talley (Spoiler Free)

I first heard of As I Descended by Robin Talley through BookTube. Several of the people I watch regularly were raving about it: a young adult lesbian retelling of Macbeth.

Yeah, that sounds pretty awesome.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I was browsing the YA section of my library and saw it there. I tried to keep my expectations low, out of fear of being let down. Needless to say, I was not.

As I Descended follows two main characters, Maria and Lily, at Acheron Academy, a Southern boarding school. With the exception of Maria’s best friend Brandon and Brandon’s boyfriend Mateo, no one at Acheron knows the girls are in a relationship.

At Acheron, there is the Cawdor Kingsley Prize, a scholarship that guarantees one graduating senior a full ride to college. Maria is desperate to win, so she can go to Stanford with Lily. But everyone knows that beautiful, popular trainwreck Delilah Dufrey is a shoo-in. Only Maria and Lily will do anything to prevent that from happening.

As I Descended is not a direct retelling of The Scottish Play, but there are elements still present in the story. Such as, there is magic. The girls and Brandon are playing around with an Ouija board and Maria acts strangely throughout the séance (not a spoiler, it happens in the first chapter). The spirits haunting Acheron Academy, as well as the myth surrounding the evil entity La Llorona, also play a significant role to the story. Several characters experience hauntings and, of course, no one else believes them.

Maria, the “Macbeth” of the novel, is morally conflicted about the things she does to get herself to the top. Her desperation to maintain her relationship with Lily is her motivation. While there are mentions of her mother running for state senate, Maria does not seem to care about her mother’s opinion of her sexuality nor does her mother seem to pay too much attention to what her daughter does, as long as Maria stays out of trouble. It is Lily, the “Lady Macbeth” of the novel that pushes Maria beyond her moral boundaries leading her to go down a darker path than she was meant to.

Lily, like Lady Macbeth, manipulates her loyal girlfriend Maria. I found their relationship to be unhealthy because of this. Unlike Maria, who believed the good always win in the end, Lily was not above hurting others to get what she wanted. However, also like Lady Macbeth, her conscience—and the spirits—come back to haunt her.

Then, there is my favorite character, Mateo, who I think of as the “Macduff” character. He’s smart and has a strong mortal compass. He’s gay and not afraid to show it—the opposite of Maria and Lily. And he is determined to get to the truth.

The beginning of As I Descended starts off slow, but once I was committed to reading it, I could not put the book down. The pacing is not too fast and not too slow. Robin Talley has a way of writing that makes everything flow and she builds up the suspense with shorter chapters. She also gave me the creeps. I made the mistake of reading As I Descended at 2am.

Overall, I gave As I Descended by Robin Talley 4 stars. The writing and the characters were great, although I think I could have done without the epilogue. Regardless, if you like young adult horror or are interested in reading more retellings of Shakespeare’s plays, I recommend you pick this one up.

 

 

 

Review of This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (Maybe Tiny Spoilers)

I had bought this book on impulse at Target a few months back, knowing there were mixed reviews surrounding it. Not surprising, given that it is the author’s debut novel (most first-time authors are a little shaky) and the subject matter: school shootings.

Prior to picking up This is Where it Ends, I had not read any other fiction books on school shootings. Having been watching everything that has happened in the news, I thought this would be a good way to get me thinking more about the issue. And it’s a short book, roughly 280 pages, so I thought I would fly through it.

This is Where it Ends was a lot harder to read than I had anticipated. Not because it was particularly graphic or emotional. It had its moments. For me, it was the pacing. Certain things seemed to drag on longer than necessary. The whole book itself could have been at least 50 pages shorter.

When I was scanning Goodreads reviews on this book after completing it, one that caught my attention made a comment about the “black and white sense of victims and villains.” This is a statement I agree with.

Tyler Browne, the shooter and the obvious antagonist of the novel, is painted as abusive, mentally unstable, and it is hinted that he sexually assaulted his sister Autumn’s girlfriend. However, Autumn and his former girlfriend, Claire, swear the Tyler holding the gun and killing children is not the loving, caring guy they knew.

We never fully understand why Tyler snapped, because the novel is told from four other people, each with their own biases against him before the shooting. In my opinion, Tyler had a nervous breakdown. Two years before, his and Autumn’s mother died in a car accident and their father, unable to handle his grief, became an abusive alcoholic. Tyler then watched his sister fall in love with Sylvia, a Hispanic girl and twin sister to Tomas, a boy he hated. He made no secret of his dislike of Sylvia, although whether it is because he was racist or scared of losing Autumn or jealous of his sister’s new relationship is unclear to me. Lastly, Claire broke up with Tyler at junior prom, after witnessing him harass Sylvia. Tyler felt everyone he ever loved was abandoning him.

I am not excusing Tyler’s behavior. There are things he does that are unforgivable. But I think the story would have benefited from seeing things in his perspective.

The four narrators of the novel—Autumn, Sylvia, Tomas, and Claire—I had a hard time connecting with. Perhaps it was the writing. There was little passion or emotion in the words they were saying and in what they were doing. I did enjoy Autumn’s perspective more than the other three, though, because of her inner turmoil: protect her brother or help her classmates?

But all four were clearly painted as “the good kids.” Tomas is hinted at being a troublemaker, but anything he did was harmless. Their qualities were emphasized more than their flaws, while Tyler was portrayed as completely psychotic.

Another issue brought up in other reviews of This is Where it Ends is diversity. While there is diversity, as Tomas and Sylvia are Hispanic, it seemed more about having non-white characters rather than diversity. The author seemed to go out of her way to bring up the fact that Tomas and Sylvia were Spanish. It is great to have two protagonists in one novel that are people of color, especially since the story is set in small-town Alabama, but you don’t need to constantly bring it up.

By no means is This is Where it Ends a bad book. In fact, I think it should be added to high school reading lists. While I gave it 3 stars—and, I admit, I was debating on going as low as 2.5—it is still a book about a controversial topic we need to talk about. Marieke Nijkamp has potential of becoming a better writer, as long as she works at it.

So, if you like books about controversial things or in the topic of school shootings, I would highly recommend you check out This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp.

 

10 Scary Book Recommendations

In honor of Halloween coming up this month, I have the top 10 scariest books I would recommend. I, personally, tend to prefer the paranormal and psychological side of horror. The kind of books you want to stop reading yet you can’t.

If you are looking for any scary books to read this month, or scary books to read in general, keep reading.

 

My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews

My Sweet Audrina falls on the more psychological side of horror. The protagonist Audrina is an unreliable narrator. She lives in an isolated Victorian mansion with her overly protective parents, bitter aunt, and jealous, psychopathic older cousin, where time is supposedly frozen forever. Audrina is also forced by her father to sit in a rocking chair in her dead older sister’s bedroom to absorb the memories of “the first and best Audrina.” But nothing is what it seems.

V.C. Andrews (the original, not the ghost writer) had a haunting way of writing that gave you the creeps. She created the image of a dysfunctional family with terrible secrets mixed with psychosis that makes you wonder what is real. And Vera, Audrina’s older cousin, does the kind of things that are worthy of a role on American Horror Story.

 

Anna Dressed in Blood duology by Kendare Blake

I haven’t read Anna Dressed in Blood or its sequel, Girl of Nightmares, since the beginning of college, but I still think of it as one of my all-time favorite books. And I definitely think it’s a great read around Halloween.

Theseus Cassio Lowood, otherwise known as Cas, is a ghost hunter, and a skilled one at that. He’s only seventeen and he’s armed with an ancient knife he inherited from his father. The ghosts in this duology, including Anna, are brutal and bloody. There are elements of witches, psychics, black magic, and Voodoo, too. The book is just scary enough to give you a thrill, especially once the story starts to build.

 

And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

Dawn Kurtagich’s most recent publication, And the Trees Crept In, is as spooky as her first book The Dead House, but in a different way. With The Dead House, there were some psychological elements in addition to the horror due to the murder mystery as well as Carly Johnson’s Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). As for And the Trees Crept In, there is more of a fantasy element. Although, the main character Silla’s sanity can be questioned on more than one occasion.

Silla flees in the middle of the night with her younger sister, Nori, to their Aunt Catherine’s house: a dark, secluded manor known as La Baume. At first, their aunt welcomes them with open arms and the girls are well taken care of. However, Aunt Cath, who slowly loses grip on reality, warns Silla and Nori to stay away from the Python Woods, the woods that surround La Baume. The woods are home to the Creeper Man. But is the Creeper Man real or a figment of the imagination? Which is worse?

And the Trees Crept In is told mainly through beautifully haunting prose, with occasional diary entries written by Silla and Nori. I flew through this book and I finished it earlier this week. This book will totally get under your skin.

 

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Another recent read of mine that I got out of the library. Through the Woods is a graphic novel with some of the most stunning artwork I’ve seen. It doesn’t get too gory, which is good if you are squeamish, but if you are a still a scaredy-cat, I would not recommend this book.

Through the Woods has five different stories, all with some element of the woods woven into the plot. While the opening does imply a Little Red Riding Hood theme, it is not that. My favorite story in this collection, A Lady’s Hands Are Cold, begins and ends with the central female character going through the woods. All are set in haunting settings—lonely cabin in the woods, mansion, a secluded village, etc.—and each story is drawn in a different color schemes, which add certain elements to it.

Some stories have an open ending and not all incidents that happen are clearly explained. It is left up to the reader’s interpretation and their imagination. In the case of horror, that can actually be a good thing.

 

Horns by Joe Hill

If you are squeamish or scared easily, I would recommend you stay far away from Joe Hill and his books (son of Stephan King, by the way). If nothing like that bothers you, by all means, read ‘em.

After a night of drinking and urinating on a statue of the Virgin Mary, protagonist Ignatius Perrish wakes up the next morning with horns growing from his head. Though no one else can see them, the horns are cursed: people tell Iggy their deepest, darkest, most disturbing thoughts. And some of those people have really, really gross ideas inside their heads. However, the horns also have another value: helping Iggy discover who killed his beloved girlfriend a year ago, framing him for it, ruining his life, and why they did what they did. This book is not for the faint of heart.

I had heard of Joe Hill’s book Horns because it was made into a movie with Daniel Radcliffe a few years ago. I haven’t seen the movie yet, although I have been told it is as creepy as the book.

 

Bliss by Lauren Myracle

There are several people—myself included—who despised high school. But I can say I had a hell of a better experience than the girls in Lauren Myracle’s book Bliss.

            The story is set in 1969. Bliss, the 14-year-old daughter of hippies, is sent to live with her grandmother in Atlanta and starts high school at a private, newly segregated high school that was once an convent. Having never attended public school before and eager to make friends, she falls under the spell of Sandy, a deranged classmate obsessed with the occult.

Bliss is up there with the cheesiness of the 1970s and 80s high school horror films. It turns something as innocent as high school, female friendships, and popularity on their heads. Plus, there are mentions of the Manson Family Murders weaved throughout the novel; they are a major topic of discussion with Sandy, as well as the other students. But I bet if I read it again after so long, I think the sleepover scene would still gross me out.

 

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red by Joyce Reardon

This book is the fictionalized diary of Ellen Rimbauer, the young bride of a sinfully rich, older philander and industrialist John Rimbauer. Inspired by true events (though not necessarily the Rimbauers), the diary tells the story of the doomed couple, their haunted mansion Rose Red, the mysterious disappearances, and the shocking deaths that happened at Rose Red in the turn of the 20th century.

 

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

What is Halloween without monsters? This Savage Song would be a perfect Halloween read.

This was the first book I had ever read by Victoria Schwab and I was not disappointed at all. It’s set in a dystopian world where humans are at war with monsters—Malachi, Corsai, and Sunai—that are created by the violent acts of human nature. Verity City, where the story mainly takes place, is divided between North (the human side) and South (the monster side). Each is ruled by a man with his own moral code and agenda; the protagonists of the novel, Kate, a human, and August, a monster, are the children of these men. Both Kate and August have their own morals and values questioned when they come together under deadly circumstances.

I read this book in August, after I got it in my July Owlcrate box, but I kind of wished I had saved it for Halloween. Monsters always go bump in the night this time of year.

Side note: This Savage Song is a young adult fantasy novel WITHOUT ROMANCE.

 

The Baby-Sitter by R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine: an oldie but a goodie.

I read The Baby-Sitter in eighth grade and I still can recall how scary it was. Jenny, a 16-year-old, starts to babysit for this darling little 5-year-old boy. Then, she starts receiving prank phone calls, sees a supposed neighbor prowling the yard, and finds a threatening letter in her purse. Again, sounds like a cheesy horror flick, but you would never guess who it is stalking Jenny and why they are doing what they are doing.

 

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

Imagine what fairy tales would be like if the characters were serial killers and feral children, and had a lot more sex. This is what you get in Angela Carter’s anthology The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.

            Carter’s adaptions of common fairy tales, such as Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, and Little Red Riding Hood, make the Grimm Brothers’ tales seem tame with their dark elements and graphic sexual themes. Several of the stories have strong, smart female protagonists that manage to save themselves from danger, instead of relying on a prince. But if you are sensitive to topics such as rape and violence, be warned going into this anthology that there are such things present in these stories.

 

Does anyone have any scary book recommendations for me? Leave a comment below!

 

 

My October 2016 TBR

I told myself I would not set any more crazy TBRs like I have these past few months. I also said I would not check out too many books from the library when I have so many at home not read yet. Needless to say, I failed at both of these. Good news is, I’m excited to read all these books. I’m hoping October will be a good reading month for me.

 

Books I Own

 

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

I didn’t get to read this in September like everyone and their mother did, because I had to take time to mentally prepare myself for the onslaught of feels I expect to encounter when I pick up this book. I finally started it a few days ago. Of course, I’m enjoying it and I am ready to devour it in October.

 

Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

The Vampire Academy is a series I want to finish before the end of the year. While I don’t think of them as mind-blowing as Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas or the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare, they are still fun to read. I recently started Blood Promise and I’m looking forward to see where this series goes from here.

 

Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Lost by Sally Green

I read Half-Bad last summer and really enjoyed it. The world of witches in this trilogy is not like others I have read in other urban fantasy books. I’m currently reading Half-Wild and I am liking it so far. What I like most about Sally Green’s storytelling is that it’s fast-paced. She’s hooks you right from the first page.

 

Library Books

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods is a graphic novel of scary stories is the book I went to the library for. Since October is the month of Halloween, I wanted to incorporate as much horror into my TBR as possible, in addition to vampires and witches. This is another book I am currently reading. I have a hard time putting it down.

 

As I Descended by Robin Talley

This is the book that turned the trip to the library for one book into six. Not only is it a Macbeth retelling, it’s a lesbian love story and has dark magic. I unfortunately have not read a lot of LGTBQ books and I want to change that by reading As I Descended.

 

And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

I read The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich two months ago and it was one of my favorite books read in 2016. When I saw she came out with another book and my library had it, I had to check it out. The story is about two sisters living in a haunted house and one of them starts acting strange, as if possessed. Plus, there is something up with the trees. That is really all I need to know.

 

A World Without You by Beth Revis

I heard of Beth Revis, but I haven’t read any of her books. A World Without You is a more serious contemporary with elements of mental illness and magical realism. When I saw my library had it, I had to stack it in my already tall pile of books.

 

The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray

I don’t know much about this book, but the cover drew me in. The summary itself also sounds interesting to me. It’s a young adult historical mystery set in London during the 1800s. An American girl is sent to London to live with her older brother and the story takes off when he dies. I think there might be some fantasy elements in the novel, too.

 

What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

Another scary book to read in honor of Halloween, this one with photographs. It’s another story of a teenaged girl inside a haunted house and a family secret. But it has a connection to the Civil War, which is something that you don’t see often in young adult literature.