Review: This Monstrous Thing

22811807Title: This Monstrous Thing

Author: Mackenzie Lee

Publishing Information:  September 22nd 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books

Genre: Science fiction, steampunk, gothic, fantasy, historical fiction

Series Information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Fans of gothic literature, the original Frankenstein, steampunk or books that focus on familial and platonic relationships over romantic relationships.

It should come as no surprise to any of you that I am a huge fan of gothic literature, give me Stoker over Austen any day! Therefore it was no surprise that I was completely on board with this novel as soon as I read the premise. I am happy to say that I was very pleased with the Lee’s re-imagining of Frankenstein. I was reminded of my multiple reads and analyzations of Frankenstein and the question of humanity many times while reading, and I think this would make a perfect companion to the original in any classroom setting.

“When Oliver asked her how she read so quickly, she told him with a sly smile that she took books to bed like lovers.”

I absolutely loved the characters of this novel, though I would have liked the secondary characters to have been fleshed out just a bit more. I do believe that my favorite parts were the parts that involved Mary, as I so enjoyed reading the slight nods to her lifestyle with Percy Shelley. I very much enjoyed the relationship between Alasdair and Oliver, I loved how despite everything, the brothers still had deep loyalties to one another. I was very surprised by how intricate and interesting the plot was. There were many layers to this novel, and it was interesting to see how they all weaved together. There were lessons to be learned, and damage done for sure throughout the novel; in the end the reader was able to see the importance of humanity, loyalty, and how our decisions shape us and the world we live in.

Shelf Talker: It turns out that This Monstrous Thing is a wonderful retelling of a classic tale. It blends gothic elements, mystery and questions of humanity together in a truly wonderful way. Definitely pick this up if you are looking for a novel that is gothic, mysterious and at its core, rather sweet.



Review: The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

Title: The Mirk and Midnight Hour

Author: Jane Nickerson

Publishing Information: March 11th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Romance, Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction

Series Information: Standalone (though apparently the three books are companions in the “Strands” universe)

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Readers looking for a quick read with an enchanting setting and vibrant setting.

A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest. All collide at night’s darkest hour.

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother.

When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she’s drawn to him. But Violet isn’t Thomas’s only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn’t been out of compassion.

Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.

From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”

I was wary to pick up The Mirk and Midnight Hour because I had heard very mixed reviews about Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson, and by very mixed reviews, I mean that some people downright LOATHED it and they were very passionate as to why. Upon hearing that The Mirk and Midnight Hour was just a companion set in the same world, and not a sequel, I thought I would give it a go. How gorgeous is the cover, and the a retelling of Tam Lin hooked me right away.

The best compliment that I can give The Mirk and Midnight Hour is that months after reading it, I still can’t stop thinking of the haunting and vibrant setting where the story takes place. Much of the novel takes place in the woods, where Violet finds a wounded soldier, Thomas. I am a sucker for a gothic tale, and I love me some beautiful, bird filled woods. The setting and the secondary characters ended up adding some depth that the novel was missing from the beginning. I enjoyed Lainey and Michael, who work on Violet’s farm as slaves, and I absolutely adored Violet’s cousin, Seeley.

First, there is a lot going on in this novel. There is a focal point on Violet’s home life, her relationships with her stepmother and stepsister play an important role in the growth of the novel, and though at first they seemed irrelevant to the plot, I really enjoyed they way that the relationships grew as the characters did, I was surprised to find how much I liked Violet’s stepsister and mother come the end of the novel. For me, the love story was, in a word, rushed. I realize that some growth in their relationship happened “off the page,” but I still couldn’t see how they fell in love so quickly and deeply. Though I did enjoy it to an extent, it was not deeply moving in the least.

Probably the biggest flaw in The Mirk and Midnight Hour was found in the “retelling” of Tam Lin. Readers have to trudge through quite a bit of the novel before we actually meet his character and  though I can understand how certain circumstances can bring people together, the romance felt a little too easy for me. The fairies found in Tam Lin are replaced with (what is described in the blurb as being) Voodoo and I found it to be a tad out of place. Violet also has a rather nonsensical affinity with bees that somewhat plays into the novel but again, it felt out of place (and quite frankly confused me).

Shelf Talker: The Mirk and Midnight Hour was a very quick and vibrant read, if you are willing to look past some frustrations over the under developed romance and and less than stellar retelling. If you want a gothic novel, filled with a girl growing up in the south during the Civil War that focuses on the struggles of this time with hints of romance, voodoo, and a creepy atmosphere, then give this one a go.

On the Same Page: Fairytales for Wilde Girls

Title: Fairytales for Wilde Girls

Author: Allyse Near

Publishing Information: June 3, 2013 by Random House Australia

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Gothic, Fairy Tales, Romance, Paranormal, Mental Illness

Series Information: Standalone

Format: Paperback, 432 pages

Source: Purchased for my personal library

Recommended For: Fans of darker fairy tales filled with descriptive imagery, fans of Neil Gaiman, and fans of books that are much more than what they seem.

Fairytales for Wilde Girls was unlike anything I have ever read before. It was dark, and deep, and sad while simultaneously maintaining ribbons of hope and stolen moments of happiness. It was a novel of self discovery and it was the dark overtone of the novel that really assisted the snippets of light to shine through. One of the most outstanding things about Fairytales of Wilde Girls was the language and use of metaphor by the author. Allyse Near has such a gift in the way in which she conveys every moment with lyrical and descriptive language, it really heightens the novel and sets it apart from other pieces of literature. That being said, some of the quotes throughout the novel really stuck with me and I wanted to share their beauty with you guys! I made up some nifty little images to go along with a few quotes that I really loved, take a peek! Continue reading

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Title: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Publishing Information: August 15, 2013

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Gothic, Horror, Romance

Series information: Book 1 in a planned series

Format: Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Fans of highly atmospheric and gothic novels, such as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, and Amber House by Kelly Moore

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

I am a sucker for any novel described as being a gothic horror; it is one of the few things that make my eyes glaze over when dreaming of the possibilities. A lot of times it is hard for an author to match what the reader wants, especially in terms of writing horror. April Genevieve Tucholke weaves the perfect amount of horror and mystery into this paranormal novel. I was very taken by the way in which the atmosphere of the novel plays into the action of its characters, there was a perfect balance between the two and it made for a much more dramatic reading.

Let’s talk characters, Violet is strong and careful, she is more mature and responsible than a typical 17 year old as she has practically raised herself since her parents have been gone, she also misses her dead grandmother terribly and often talks to her as if she were still alive. Her brother Luke is somewhat reckless and where Violet has matured in their parent’s absence, Luke has developed a more obvious “craves attention” sort of personality. Sunshine is their neighbor, and is described as beautiful with sleepy and seductive brown eyes. If I am being honest, I didn’t like Sunshine at all, and I didn’t like the way that Violet compared herself to Sunshine constantly, though it did give the reader insight to Violet’s lack of confidence in herself. It was perhaps because of this confidence that Violet fell so fast for the gorgeous River West. River is good looking in a “vintage” way, with a gorgeous crooked smile. He is a very manipulative character, which obviously plays into the story, but I have to be honest I was a little frustrated with him and his constant evasiveness. Their relationship was pretty seductive, even though it did read somewhat like the paranormal romances we are used to. You know the kind where the girl “can’t stand” this guy and his ways yet she just can’t stop kissing him? I can’t complain though, because those kissy scenes? Oh, they were worth it.

Lot’s of people have bad stories, and if they wail and sob and tell their story to anyone who’ll listen, it’s crap. Or half crap, at least. The stuff that really hurts people, the stuff that almost breaks them…that they won’t talk about. Ever.

Though overall I adored Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, it wasn’t perfect. I didn’t really appreciate the so often seen “absent parents,” and how Luke and Violet are still in high school yet they somehow manage to learn to live on their own with no guidance or structure. I see how it was necessary to leave the parents out of the main storyline, but I would have felt better about it had Violet and Luke been a year older or perhaps been taken care of by an eccentric family member. This didn’t affect my overall impression of the novel but it was something that bothered me while reading it.

On the whole, the novel was beautiful and atmospheric, the description of Citizen Kane, the large house where Violet and Luke live was absolutely breathtaking, I found myself wanting Violet to explore more so I could learn more about what was hidden in the corners of the attic. I also particularly enjoyed the ending of the novel. Some readers are saying that they felt the ending to be rather rushed, and though I can see that in a way, I also think it was necessary for the novel to progress in this way in order to set it up for the continuation of the series. I also did not see the ending coming, I had musings, to be sure, but the revelation at the end was quite a surprise.

I highly recommend Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea to anyone looking for a descriptive and atmospheric novel. It is filled with enough mysterious and creepy elements to keep even the most jaded reader looking over their shoulder, also let’s not forget about the swoony bits as those are aplenty as well!

Review: Amber House by Kelly Moore


Title: Amber House

Author: Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed & Larkin Reed

Publishing Information: October 1, 2012 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Genre: Young Adult, Gothic, Paranormal

Series information: Book 1 in a planned trilogy

Format:  Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers interested in a vibrant, gothic horror story

“Behind me, the sound of chain sliding over wood.

I felt so cold, so squeezed, I could hardly draw in breath. A tear oozed like blood from the corner of my eye.

I made myself turn. Made myself look.

A woman stood in the shaft of moonlight. She was all darkness to me, backlit by the window. I could see thick curls of black hair, the curves of muscled arms, a shapeless drape of translucent gown. All motionless. A spider ran down a lock of her hair, and air escaped me in the smallest gasp. I wanted to shove my fist in my mouth to stop the scream rising in my throat.”

Sarah Parsons returns to her family’s estate after her grandmother’s death in order to assist her mother in selling the old mansion. After spending some time in the house, Sarah begins to find clues regarding her family history and she becomes connected to the house in a very serious way. Sarah begins experiencing echoes left by former “residents” and in time, comes to unravel the mysteries surrounding her mother and grandmother and the very intense legacy of Amber House.

I really enjoyed Sarah as a character because she was easy to relate to as she was a typical teenage girl thrown into an atypical situation. She reacts to certain incidents and characters in a way that shows her shyness, anger or understanding in a wonderful way. Sammy, Sarah’s little brother, plays a very significant role in this novel and as a reader I was very invested in his storyline as his innocence heightened nearly all aspects of the plot. I felt the same frustration and anger over Sarah’s mother as she did and I really appreciated learning more of her story as the novel progressed.

The romance in this novel is an interesting one. There are times when it screamed love triangle but don’t fear, it is so much more complicate than that! Jackson and Richard are polar opposites, both of whom were interesting characters in their own way. I really enjoyed how “real” Richard seemed to me, he was perfectly created to represent that guy in high school. You know, the one all the girls want to date and all the guys want to be even though he is rather douchey? That’s Richard. Jackson, on the other hand, was the best friend who really seemed to understand Sarah and her needs. However, he had a slightly mysterious edge to him that made him more lovable, in my opinion. The best part was that both guys seemed to have their own agenda and as the story progressed, their motives are revealed and emotions become conflicted. I won’t say that it was a slow burn romance between any of the characters, because it is a lot more intricate than that. However, I will tell you that as the story progresses, the romance unfolds slowly and sneakily, and when it finally comes full circle I was left with my emotions spilling over a tiny bit. The best part about Amber House is that though the romance plays a great part in the story, it isn’t the central storyline. Family takes precedence and things play out how they must as important decisions are made.

My main gripe with this novel was that upon finishing it I was enraged and confused because it ended on a note that left so many questions unanswered. I was seriously underprepared for the epilogue and I felt led astray. However, I resorted to Google and after serious searching, I found that Amber House is in fact, part of a trilogy. I breathed a sigh of relief. Bad feelings gone, all is well, and so on. Now my only issue is my impatience in waiting for its sequel! 

I found this novel while I was spending time browsing through Netgalley and after reading the blurb (and how gorgeous is this cover?!) I decided to give it a try. Admittedly, I wish I had waited a month or so to read it because it is a perfect read for autumn weather but nonetheless it is a book that has stuck with me months after reading the last page. Amber House is a gothic tale stirring up feelings reminiscent of Bronte’s windy moors and King’s room 237. It is a novel that kept me up way past my bedtime and had me falling asleep with the lights on. For those of you looking for a good “autumn read,” I highly suggest you pick up Amber House. It contains all of the amazing horror elements to keep you looking over your shoulder while also molding in intricate relationships and a deliciously vibrant plot.