Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab


Hello fellow readers! Fortnight of Fright continues with a review of The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab!

Title: The Near Witch

Author: Victoria Schwab

Publishing Information: August 2, 2011 by Hyperion Books

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Witches, Romance

Series information: Standalone – though a prequel can be read for free here

Format: Hardcover, 282 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the author a Book Expo America

Recommended For: Fans of fairy tales and lyrical, imaginative prose

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

The first thing to talk about when discussing The Near Witch is the way in which Victoria Schwab integrates gorgeous imagery into her prose. The Near Witch is reminiscent of fairy tales of old, invoking images of deep forests, dark moors, and misguided villains. What Schwab excels at is weaving absolutely beautiful descriptions with layered characters, and plot, she teetered on the line between too much and too little throughout the novel and I find that for me, The Near Witch was just right.

I thoroughly enjoyed the strength shown by the characters in The Near Witch, Schwab has an excellent way of showing the reader glimpses into multiple characters without becoming too overwhelming with detail. Lexi is our main character and though she is growing up in a small village ruled by men, she does her best to stand out and follow her own path. This is done in a beautiful way as we are shown the integrity in her character when she is willing to trust a stranger when no one else will. The aforementioned stranger is a rather mysterious young man who has a bit of a shadowy past, though he is doing his best to not let that affect his future. The relationship between the two characters was indeed sweet, if not a little rushed.  The secondary characters of the novel were also layered and interesting, the two “witches” of the village, Dreska and Magda, stole the show on more than one occasion, and I simply adored Lexi’s mother, though in truth I would have liked to see more of her throughout the novel.

What I can say about The Near Witch in terms of plot is that it is an extremely straightforward novel, there are no hidden agendas or surprise elements. In fact, I had a hard time not thinking ahead and making up my own twisty endings for the novel. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I did find that it made the novel lack some depth. Perhaps my expectations of a reader are too high but upon completion I did feel as if the novel was missing a certain something to place it on my favorites shelf. With that being said, I must mention that despite the lack of depth, The Near Witch was a beautifully detailed fairy tale that spoke to my heart. I recommend it to those of you looking for something less enthralling, but more comfortable, it evokes a feeling of putting on your favorite sweater on the first cool day, after a very long summer.

Review: Bloodspell by Amalie Howard

bloodspellTitle: Bloodspell

Author: Amalie Howard

Publishing Information: June 1st 2011 by Langdon Street Press

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Series information: Book 1 in a planned series

Format: Hardcover, 394 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a swoony, paranormal romance with a strong and likable heroine

Victoria Warrick has always known she was different. An outcast at school, she is no stranger to adversity. But when she receives an old journal for her seventeenth birthday, nothing prepares her for the dark secrets it holds — much less one that reveals she’s a witch with unimaginable power.

What’s more, when she meets the dazzling but enigmatic Christian Devereux, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Enemies will hunt her. Friends will turn on her. The terrible curse that makes her blood run black will stop at nothing to control her. And Christian has a sinister secret of his own…

Without knowing whom to trust, can Victoria survive her blood’s deadly desires? Or will she lose everything, including herself?

If there is one thing that stands out in Bloodspell, it is the character development, and level of change in the characters and their relationships with one another. Though much of the novel focuses on Christian and Victoria and their FORBIDDEN romance, it also includes layered subplots that really have more to do with the history of the characters, the characters being witches and vampires, and the struggle with the powers within them as well as those who would seek to harm them because of what they are. The secondary characters in this novel don’t get as much page time as I would have liked, specifically Leto, Victoria’s familiar (yeah, he’s a cat so obviously, I love him), and some “friends” that play very integral parts in the overall story, but don’t have much detail provided to their characterization throughout the novel.

In terms of plot, Bloodspell isn’t extremely intricate. In fact, it follows some familiar tropes that readers might roll their eyes at. There is the familiar forbidden love, (teeny) love triangle issues, and there is even a vampire council of sorts who rule over all vampire matters, specifically the law that states witches and vampires can (NEVERRRR!!) unite in any sort of…union. When it is spelled out like that, this book seems like all the rest, it seems like a slightly altered version of twilight, something that can easily be moved aside for more unique novels, however, things aren’t exactly as they seem in Bloodspell. Ms. Howard goes beyond the typical tropes and adds vast layers of self discovery, intricately dark forces, and unbeatable relationships of multiple kinds.

Speaking of relationships, I’m not going to lie to you guys, one of the biggest reasons that I enjoyed this book was because of the swoons. There are a lot of them. Good ones. Ms. Howard has a knack for writing those kissy scenes, lemme tell ya. Though the relationship between Victoria and Christian is a driving force throughout the novel, there are also stellar friendships and some very moving familial relationships that sort of broke my heart a little.

To be honest, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Bloodspell. While reading, there were moments that I was worried that it was falling into a very typical paranormal romance, and as it concluded I was happy to see that that was not the case at all. I was surprised by parts at the conclusion of the novel, and extremely happy to see that the author left many things open without tying things up too neatly. As a reader I felt that things were conclusive enough that I was happy where it left off, but also intrigued to see where things can go if and when the author continues on with the series. Bloodspell held its own in a very overdone genre, I highly recommend it to those of you who enjoy paranormal romances, but are getting sick of reading the same tropes again and again.

Review: Of Triton by Anna Banks

oftritonTitle: Of Triton

Author: Anna Banks

Publishing Information: May 28, 2013 by Feiwel & Friends

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mermaids, Romance, Mythology

Series information: Book 2 in the Of Poseidon series – read my review of Of Poseidon

Format: Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Those looking for an exciting novel filled with swoony mermen, romance, and non-stop action

Of Triton picks up where Of Poseidon left off, on the edge of a cliffhanger. There is much to be done to right a history of wrongs by the main characters in this novel and I don’t want to spoil either book in the series for you but just know that Of Triton includes a lot of glorious scenes in the water, where Galen is right at home. The romance is aplenty for more than one couple and the reader gains more insight into quite a few characters in this sequel, and that was what stole the show for me.

Emma left me a bit conflicted in Of Triton. On one hand, I loved how much of a BAMF she was and her new found abilities were pretty spectacular (aka I WANTS THEM), but on the other hand I had a hard time with how whiney she was. The complications involving her mother and her involvement with the Syrena brought about many emotions from Emma. Most of which I completely appreciated and understood, however there were moments where I was jolted out of the story because her demeanor toward her mother and others just seemed childish and out of character for someone so strong willed. For the most part, though, Emma represented herself as a strong female that I had no trouble standing behind. Though she was a simple human standing (swimming?) among fantastical creatures, she stood on her own in a really magnificent way. Galen really doesn’t need any explanation as he is just as swoon worthy and charming as he was in Of Poseidon. Now Toraf, oh, Toraf, how do I love thee? Toraf and Rayna were absolutely captivating in Of Triton. Those of you who read Of Poseidon know how, hmm what’s the word…passionate Rayna is. Mix that with Toraf’s strong demeanor and you really have a fabulous couple worth watching. Though I enjoyed Galen and Emma, I would really love to read more of Toraf and Rayna.

As for secondary characters, Emma’s mother was enjoyable and we are able to see where Emma gets her stubbornness and fiery characteristics. I also LOVED Emma’s grandfather; his devotion to his family was really very endearing and had me smiling on more than one occasion. All of those wonderful things being said, if someone stole the show for me in Of Triton it was without a doubt Rachel. Rachel is smart, witty, loving, and definitely ruthless. I adored that we got to see more of her in this novel and I really appreciated how much she cared about Galen and the others.

Though Of Triton was significantly shorter than Of Poseidon, it was filled with a bit more action. Where Of Poseidon focused on the laws of the Syrena and the background of the characters, Of Triton is definitely more about living in the moment and fighting for what is important. I enjoyed the history of the first book but I really appreciated how the reader gets to see Galen in his own world, in the water, fighting his own internal and external conflicts.

Overall Of Triton was an enjoyable and entertaining read. I can’t say that Ms. Banks leaves us with as big of a cliffhanger as she does at the end of Of Poseidon, but in lieu of that she leaves us with some bittersweet heartbreak. That really sealed my enjoyment of the series, and personally I can’t wait to read the conclusion of the trilogy.

Review: Towering by Alex Flinn

15806868Title: Towering

Author: Alex Flinn

Publishing Information: May 14, 2013 by HarperTeen

Genre: Young Adult, Retellings, Fairy Tales, Fantasy

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 304 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Fans of quick reads filled with a little bit of mystery, and a lot of insta-love
Rachel is trapped in a tower, held hostage by a woman she’s always called Mama. Her golden hair is growing rapidly, and to pass the time, she watches the snow fall and sings songs from her childhood, hoping someone, anyone, will hear her. 

Wyatt needs time to reflect or, better yet, forget about what happened to his best friend, Tyler. That’s why he’s been shipped off to the Adirondacks in the dead of winter to live with the oldest lady in town. Either that, or no one he knows ever wants to see him again.

Dani disappeared seventeen years ago without a trace, but she left behind a journal that’s never been read, not even by her overbearing mother…until now.

It’s hard to tell you how I feel about this novel because while I was reading it I really enjoyed it. However, now that I am looking back to write my review I am thinking of all of the things that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Does that ever happen to you? You read a book and you’re entertained at the moment but then looking back you find that it wasn’t a particularly good book? It’s hard to rate a book like that, but I’ll do my best.

The POV in the novel goes back and forth between Wyatt and Rachel, though much time is spent in Wyatt’s head as Rachel really doesn’t have much going on up in that tower. I liked Wyatt a lot, I found him endearing and gentle and a little bit sad. Rachel was a decent enough character as her naivete is believable due to her circumstances and her reliance on her “Mama” is necessary for her continued survival. I like Wyatt’s curiosity and strength, and I enjoyed the way Rachel took control of her own life when she felt the need, even though it did seem rather forced. However, I did not like the instalove between these two, and despite the fantastical elements that went into their meeting, it didn’t click for me and I was annoyed at how quickly and deeply they fell in love. The secondary characters in the novel were scarce and the villains fell very flat. In fact, the only time we really see the villains in depth is during the climax of the novel, and that was a disappointment as I really felt that so much more could have been done with their characterization.

My absolute favorite part of the novel was the mystery and setting. It read like one of those old school mysteries, teenage daughter goes missing, ghost starts haunting the new boy in town, mysterious singing, deep snow and wind reminiscent of the moors of Wuthering Heights. Sounds awesome, right? It really could have been, had it contained more detail and depth. On a whole, there was one interesting part that I honestly did not see coming, and there were times that I couldn’t stop thinking about the plot and even while I wasn’t reading, I was wondering what was going to happen next. I think that was the biggest disappointment for me. Once the novel climaxed, and the mystery was solved, I couldn’t help but feel let down. It wasn’t just that things were solved too quickly, though that was an issue for me, it was my disappointment in the flatness of the tale.  The BIG REVEAL happened and tied up ALL THE THINGS and Rachel saved the day (and her man) with her MAGIC and all was well!

The gist here is that before I started, and as I was reading, what I thought I was getting was an incredibly layered, detailed, and intriguing mystery. What I got was a rather typical young adult novel filled with enough magic to tie up all loose ends, and an insta-love between a troubled boy who would have a lot going for him if he hadn’t fallen so in love that he now has a live in girlfriend who doesn’t know the difference between a car and a carriage.

For those of you who are looking for a quick read to cleanse the palate in between those layered and detailed novels, give this one a go. It was enjoyable enough, but I won’t be running to read the author’s other novels any time soon.

Review: The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni

12394044Title: The Caged Graves

Author: Dianne K. Salerni

Publishing Information: May 14, 2013 by Clarion Books

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for an intriguing, atmospheric, mysterious, and romantic historical fiction

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds  herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Verity is forced to leave the family she loves to marry a man she has never met, and live with a father she barely knows. What is a girl to do when she is the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons? Not only is she snatching up the most eligible bachelor in Catawissa, she is related to two women who were believed to partake in the devil’s work, and who were buried outside the graveyard, on unconsecrated ground. Bow her head and take it, I suppose? Not Verity Boone. Verity is determined to be in love with the man she marries, but she is even more determined to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding her mother and aunt’s deaths, and Hell hath no fury like a woman who is told to “just let it go.”

The characters in The Caged Graves were wonderfully layered and personable, I found them all to be rather spirited and above all, believable. Verity is strong willed and brave, she has mastered that southern charm and when the ladies in town disrespect her she gives them an “oh bless your heart” right back. She’s not a fainter and it’s pointed out on quite a few occasions that she is “not a boy,” meaning, she doesn’t act properly all of the time and that means that she is a girl right after my own heart. Verity’s intended, Nate, is the man of the town, every lady had their sights set on him before Verity showed up, thus being the reason she needs to school quite a few of them in manners. In a nutshell, Nate is dark haired, devoted, sweet, and protective in a very tender manner. Where the ahem, other gentleman in Verity’s life, Hadley is a light eyed, ginger haired doctor who won’t hesitate to tell you what he wants and when he wants it. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like Nate at first, but I don’t think we are meant to. In fact, the first few meetings of Nate in comparison to the first few meetings of Hadley really show their differences and I wasn’t sure where my heart was headed for a while.

You may have heard a little something about a love triangle going on in The Caged Graves and readers, I can’t lie to you, it’s there. I can’t tell you how incredibly scared I was while reading (no seriously, ask my friends, it’s all I kept talking about) because I was so worried that this possible love triangle would turn into a SERIOUS PROBLEM, and my feelings would become conflicted with Verity’s and then at the conclusion I would be completely messed up wondering if I she made the right choice. Let me tell you, there were a few close calls, a few times I was wavering in my loyalties, but in the end I am thrilled with my Verity’s decision. So yes, there is a love triangle of sorts, but no, I don’t think that it controls the story at all. In fact, I think the relationships in the novel sit side by side with the mystery and they weave together quite nicely.

“You’re beautiful,” he said bluntly, “and I didn’t expect you to be.”

Ms. Salerni definitely has a knack for writing relationships of all kinds. I enjoyed the way Verity got to know Nate’s sisters, and her relationship with Beulah was rather fun and endearing. One thing I have to say is that I love, love, LOVE the way the author portrays the relationship between Verity and her father.  The best thing about it is how much it grows through the novel, though her father seems a bit awkward and standoffish at first, the reader is really able to glimpse how much he loves his daughter under his hard exterior. It honestly reminded me a bit of my own father and melted my heart quite a bit.

The setting and plot of The Caged Graves was completely enthralling. As we gain glimpses into the past through Verity’s mother’s diaries we are able to work out the mystery as Verity does, little by little. The action was continuous and intriguing and though I may have figured out small bits of the mystery as we’re meant to, the ending really caught me off guard. I love when that happens.

On the whole, this novel was just right. It had just enough history that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by incessant facts, just enough paranormal elements that made it still completely believable, just enough mystery that had my mind constantly working trying to figure out what was going to happen next, and most importantly, it contained the perfect amount of stolen glances, tender kisses, and undeniable swoons.

The Caged Graves is a different novel than I am used to reading, and it is hard to place it in one category as it encompasses so many wonderful elements. If you’re looking for an immensely atmospheric, mysterious, and romantic read, I highly recommend that you pick this one up immediately.

Review: Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

9247654Title: Keturah and Lord Death

Author: Martine Leavitt

Publishing Information: November 28, 2006

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 216 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Readers looking for a beautifully written and deeply romantic novel

Keturah follows a legendary hart deep into the forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near–and learns then that death is a young lord, melancholy and stern. Renowned for her storytelling, Keturah is able to charm Lord Death with a story and gain a reprieve–but he grants her only a day, and within that day she must find true love. Martine Leavitt offers a spellbinding story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and romance.

There is so much to say about this absolutely beautiful novel. My thoughts while reading and upon finishing were this:


From this you can see a few things, first, I read this book in one day. Second, it is obvious that I thought that the writing was beautiful and I have since bought my own copy so that I can take notes during my inevitable re-read.

Many things happen in this story and the plot is all interwoven as Keturah spends each day talking her way out of Death’s grasp. As Keturah struggles to save those she holds dear, she begins to lose herself to Death’s embrace. Over time, Keturah learns that death is a part of life, and there cannot be one without the other. She learns what it means to truly live, and what is worth fighting for, and that sometimes life doesn’t turn out quite how you thought it would.

“The girl knew that quarrels would come because their lives were intertwined – how passionately one defends a heart that is vulnerable.”

The novel is very straight forward and reads as if it is being heard around a campfire. There are no questions or twists in the plot, and things happen as you would expect. It is the setting that really drew me in, as I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of dark forests filled with fog and hard to place noises. It was reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow in the way that it made me feel chills along my spine with the barest hint of dark shadows. 

I did have a tiny bit of confusion and frustration over the format of the book. You see, it is presented in a way that show Keturah as the teller of the tale and as the main character in the narration. Therefore, at the end of the novel, looking back on the events that befell her, the reader is presented with a moment of confusion: If Keturah is telling this tale to a group, how can it be as true as she promises? What really happened to Keturah? Additionally, I wanted more. I wanted more of Keturah, and Lord Death. As I turned the last page, I desperately wanted to know what happened to the duo. Due to it’s narration, the ending brought me up short and I couldn’t help but feel frustration and bittersweet emotion over the conclusion.

Keturah and Lord Death was written in a way that brought you along on a beautiful journey of growth, discovery, and love. It read much like 1001 Nights, leading you along, one step at a time. It has made it’s way into one of my favorite novels of all time, and I highly recommend it.

Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

ItSoBTitle: In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Author: Cat Winters

Publishing Information: April 2, 2013 by Amulet Books

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 400 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a period piece with mysterious and romantic elements

I am a fan of historical fiction novels but I have to admit that they usually revolve around some intrigue happening in the Tudor court and not the Spanish Influenza. To be honest, it was the cover of this book that first caught my eye while browsing Netgalley, and once I read the blurb it was the addition of séances and spirit photographers that really made me request it. In truth, I started the book on a whim, and couldn’t put it down.

Mary Shelley Black is forced to live with her aunt in San Diego after her father is arrested. She isn’t completely new to the area, she spent a lot of time there as a child, and has many memories there of herself and her childhood sweetheart, Stephen. Stephen has since left for the war and it isn’t long after Mary Shelley arrives that she finds out that Stephen has died. As she struggles to overcome this heartache, Mary Shelley begins to be visited by Stephen’s tortured spirit. It seems that Stephen can’t move on until he comes to terms with his death, and he’s determined to use Mary to find out some answers.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds has so many layers that it is hard to begin to describe its intensity. As stated above, it is a historical fiction novel, and Cat Winters did an excellent job in describing the austere and frightening time period in which people were struggling with the effects of war and death.  I found myself shivering at the thought of a flu outbreak and nearly sobbed over the details surrounding the war. Through this backdrop there is also a beautifully heartbreaking love story between Mary and Stephen. Though Stephen is only portrayed alive in Mary’s memories, his ethereal character was very real and deeply moving. I found myself somewhat surprised at how much this relationship touched me and made my heart ache. The underlying plot of this novel is of course the mystery, and being an avid reader I am very rarely shocked while reading. Cat Winters leaves many puzzle pieces throughout the novel and to be quite honest, I really thought I had it all figured out. As the novel climaxed and secrets were revealed I was stunned, horrified, and rather shaken to find that things were not at all what they seemed.

In an effort at full disclosure I have to share that I lost someone very close to me a few years ago in a very traumatic way and I couldn’t help but feel connected to the story on a very deep level. As a spiritual person, I connected to the way in which Mary gained more precious moments with her love, long after his time on Earth was over. My heart ached for those moments and I couldn’t help but feel bittersweet feelings over their relationship after death. Cat Winters captured real, heart wrenching emotions that I could have never put into words, and I will forever be grateful.

This is not a particularly happy read, but it is glorious, in the end. It is hard to find a specific audience for this novel as I really believe that it is fitting for all. If you enjoy layered novels, filled with historical fiction, mysterious, paranormal, and romantic elements, then this is the novel for you. This is a book that I am thinking about months after its conclusion. In the end,  In the Shadow of Blackbirds will consume you, body and soul.

Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

DTTitle: Dark Triumph

Author: Robin LaFevers

Publishing Information: April 2, 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance

Series information: Book two in the His Fair Assassin series

Format: Hardcover, 400 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Fans of historical fiction featuring layered characters, strong heroines, and manly yet gentle male leads

Like many novels that I adore, I took my time reading Dark Triumph; Robin LaFevers creates a vast and beautiful world that is easy to fall into. Her characters are layered and the story follows its own course, while weaving its way into prior plot threads left for us in Grave Mercy. As in Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph is full of detail regarding the land of Brittany, and its history, through this storyline we are able to see how Anne still struggles and we gain a further glimpse into the convent, which made me remind myself that not all villains are as obvious as you would think. For this reader, D’Albret was the clear choice as villain, and he played his part well, but the sly behavior of the Abbess is what put me on high alert, I am intrigued to see how the convent and its sisters fare in book three. Though a large part of the novel focuses on Sybella and her upbringing in D’Albret’s household, and how it came to be that she became part of the convent of Saint Mortain, the underlying issue was that Sybella was unsure of everything in her life. She didn’t believe in stability, love, and loyalty. It is clear that she never trusted anyone completely, save herself, and like Ismae she struggled to believe in the love that Saint Mortain held for her as a father. Even more, she struggled to believe that any being was capable of a true love that speaks to your soul and makes you realize that a life forever alone may be a lonely one indeed.

I found that I connected to Sybella much more than I did Ismae in Grave Mercy. Sybella was flawed, she was layered and she had a wildness in her that I couldn’t help but be enamored with. There is no question that the things that Sybella goes through in her lifetime are serious and enough to drive anyone to madness. I felt for Sybella, yet I also respected the way that her anger shaped her and drove her to stand up for herself, always. Though it is true that these handmaidens to Death go through training, of sorts, they are chosen by Him for a reason and their ability to carry out his wishes are only partly why. Ismae believes that she is to work as Death’s Mercy and after time, Sybella realizes that her past and her particular gifts have molded her into Death’s Justice. It is the trials and anger that Sybella carries as both a shield and sword that make her into the strong woman that she is.

I will speak briefly of the Beast of Waroch because there is much to be said and therefore, too much to potentially spoil. LaFevers goes a different way than most when creating this hero. She does not paint him as a suave, handsome and utterly charismatic yet insufferable male lead. Instead, he is steadfast, unbelievably manly, strong, and is described as being “ugly” on more than one occasion, yet at the same time he is loyal, charming, and an altogether gentle character. The dual nature of his character is what really shook me, and though I fell fast for Duval in Grave Mercy, I can say with conviction that Beast has secured my heart until the very end.

Then there is Julian…oh, Julian. How do I even begin to explain the array of feelings I felt toward you? True, there were many times while reading that I was disgusted and enraged, times I kept thinking “MY EYES! MYYY EYEESSS!!” over what I was reading. Then, little by little, you squirmed your way into a dark recess of my heart and I started to have FEELS. I started to care. Little by little, I started to feel my heart break. Something that was so HUGE yet was not the center of the plot managed to move me in a way that I did not see coming.

As I said above, Dark Triumph is extremely layered and detailed, and it’s the details that really go straight for the heart. We learn much more about the Saints in this novel and that was really one thing that I need want more of. I absolutely loved the lore presented in this novel and if Robin Lafevers wanted to give me a history lesson on her Saints I would gladly sit and listen for hours. Then there was the addition of the Charbonneri, and their characterization in Dark Triumph was interesting and deeply moving, I hope that we hear more from them in the next installment.

Also, I can’t leave you guys hanging, remember how Grave Mercy had a rather glorious slow burn romance between Ismae and Duval? Remember how near the end you were feeling the FEELS and anticipation so you were nearly falling over with the intensity of it? Dark Triumph has that, but in a completely different way. The relationship between Beast and Sybella was in no way instantaneous, but it wasn’t a relationship that the reader saw coming a mile away while the heroine was all “Oh I am unworthy and cannot trust a man” for 400 pages. Yes, Sybella was wary and no, she didn’t trust right away. Instead, where Duval stood back and let Ismae come to terms with her feelings on her own, Beast was his unfaltering self and nearly told Sybella how she felt before she realized it herself. There were swoons galore, guys, I can’t lie to you. While letting Sybella stand on her own two feet Beast also managed to provide a very important stronghold for her to fall back on. Oh, and, let’s not forget, there were some kissy scenes. Rather good ones, I must add.

The most important thing that you should know is that Dark Triumph was easily my most anticipated read of 2013, and like with so many books that I have hyped up in my mind, I was wary that Dark Triumph would fall short of my expectations. Thankfully, it not only didn’t fall short, it exceeded my expectations and left them in its wake. If you have not yet read Grave Mercy, I suggest that you do so very soon as Dark Triumph comes out in just a few days. Though I was lucky enough to snag an advanced copy, this was one book I did not second guess in pre-ordering. If you enjoy fantasy, strong heroines, swoon worthy male leads, historical fiction, paranormal elements, family dynamics, intrigue and more swoons, I suggest that you pick Dark Triumph up as soon as possible. I wait, rather impatiently, for Annith’s addition to the His Fair Assassin Trilogy.

Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

12507214Title: Girl of Nightmares

Author: Kendare Blake

Publishing Information: August 7, 2012, Tor Teens

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Horro

Series information: Book two in the Anna series

Format: Hardcover, 332 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Fans of horror, romance, dark humor and well developed characters

It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.  His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with. Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears. Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor

“She crossed over death to call me. I crossed through Hell to find her.”

Girl of Nightmares scared (I used the term loosely) me more than Anna Dressed in Blood and I was both happy and disappointed by this fact. In Anna Dressed in Blood, Anna was thought to be the villain, she was a murderess and creepy as Hell. As the story progressed we learned her background and why her story was so sad and in turn we realized the real villain(s) of the novel. Girl of Nightmares is vastly different. There is much history presented on Cas and his family and I was really interested to find out his background, it really made for a nice companion to book one where we learned more about Anna. However, due to the focus on Cas, we didn’t hear much from Anna and when we did she was being harmed and though she was definitely the same, strong Anna from book one in that she was no damsel in distress, she was also a little more like a teenager in love and I missed her intensity. As I mentioned, this book did scare me properly, there was a fantastic part in the novel in which Cas, Thomas and Carmel are walking through a “suicide forest” and honestly readers, I had to put the book down for a bit because I was too afraid of something lurking over my shoulder, there really aren’t many books that manage to creep me out to that extreme.

Like book one, Kendare Blake weaved together an intricate and beautiful storyline that held me captivated from page one. I especially loved how included the secondary characters were in the story, Thomas and Carmel are perfect characters to balance out Cas, they all work together in a glorious way. Blake’s characters were layered and interesting enough that made me care about their feelings and actions, while some of them made me question their motives and made me want to keep my eye on them, metaphorically speaking of course.

A review for a second book in a series is always tough to do. You don’t want to spoil anything for your readers who have yet to read the first, and you are inevitably comparing the two works and how they work in tandem instead of appreciating them without bias as unique pieces of literature. Thus is the case with Girl of Nightmares. While reading the book I was entranced, intrigued, and even a little scared. I went into the story knowing that this was a two book deal and I have to say that they were perfectly matched companions to one another.  I was particularly fond of the ending of this novel, the story progressed beautifully and the ending gave me what I wanted and needed from the characters without being too neatly tied up. In other words, it didn’t feel rushed or forced but it was believable and made me content as a reader.

Overall Girl of Nightmares was a successful conclusion to the series. There aren’t many authors who can maintain such impeccable balance between dark humor and serious undertones in a novel. Girl of Nightmares was both scary and endearing, a perfect October read.

Review: Deep Betrayal by Anne Greenwood Brown

12912519Title: Deep Betrayal

Author: Anne Greenwood Brown

Publishing Information: March 12th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Fairytale

Series information: Book 2 in the Lies Beneath series

Format: Hardcover, 352 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Fans looking for a romantic and mysterious tale about mermaids and the importance of family relationships.

Deep Betrayal begins where Lies Beneath left off, with Lily counting the days (and hours, and minutes) since Calder has been gone. She is doing her best to move on without him but can’t completely shake his memory. As time passes, Calder returns to her and together they confront Lily’s father with his family secret. Jason freaks out a bit (within reason) and Calder does his best to teach him the ropes, so to speak. The conflict here is that “Lily and Calder time” is now being lessened due to his spending time with her father and there are bodies piling up all over the place. Obviously Calder and Lily believe that his sisters are to blame but they deny their involvement and things continue to become even stranger. On top of family, relationship, and community crises, Lily starts to discover that she has her own changes taking place, changes that may alter her life completely.

I really loved the mermaid lore in this one, most mermaid novels are focusing on Poseidon or Triton – and I’m not complaining because that is something I also love, but Deep Betrayal went a different way. Anne Greenwood Brown goes a different route in that she uses the lore of Maighdean Mara as the all mighty of mermaids, and Calder and Lily must uncover secrets about this thought to be fabled being in order to find out who is behind the murders throughout their community. I am a lover of lore of all kinds so I did my best to research a bit about Maighdean Mara and I was really unable to find any information with the exception of one source that states one mermaid tale that tells of a woman named Li Ban who survived the drowning of her entire family. In doing so she demanded (not sure who she demanded this of) that she be turned into a salmon and her dog be turned into an otter so that they could live together in the sea. Other sources are literally translating Mhaighdean Mhara to “The Sea Maiden” or simply, “mermaid,”  and telling the tale of a selkie whose skin was stolen so that she was forced to stay on land and marry a mortal, this is a common Celtic story that I have heard variations of many times. I honestly may be looking too far into this but I was thrilled to find a bit of folklore in this novel and it was fun doing some additional research!

I did enjoy Lies Beneath, but I found Deep Betrayal to be significantly more entertaining and mysterious. I loved that the point of view was from Lily’s perspective and I thoroughly enjoyed her relationship with Calder. It was quite a bit more smoldery than book one which I of course loved (Calder has green eyes and broods on a daily basis), and on top of those yummy moments the reader gained a bit more of an understanding of their relationship and why they work as individuals without being confused over the merman/human dynamic. I was able to appreciate their relationship throughout the novel, from the petty fights and quick makeups to their irrevocable mindset that they needed one another beyond all else. I especially loved how Lily didn’t pine a la Bella Swan, she missed Calder but she didn’t let it take over her life. I also adored, I’ll say it again, adored the ending to this novel. I did see parts of it coming but things happened in just the way I wanted them to and I am undeniably pleased at how things turned out. That being said, I do wish that we heard more from Calder’s sisters but I am hoping that they all come together in book three.

Deep Betrayal was a beautiful novel, it complimented the first book in the series while also standing strongly on its own. The characters were mysterious, heartfelt and expressive and I can’t wait to see where they go in the final installment.