Review: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Title: Carnival of Souls

Author: Melissa Marr

Publishing Information: September 4, 2012 by HarperCollins

Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal

Series information: Book 1 in a planned series

Format: Paperback,

Source: ARC from the publisher (BEA 2012)

Recommended For: Lovers of dark and paranormal fantasy


In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures–if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live. (Via Goodreads)

I am always up for a dark tale, and thus far, Melissa Marr has excelled at delivering them. Carnival of Souls was my second book by Melissa Marr and the epic world building, intricate characters and weaving storylines that I loved in Graveminder, were also evident in Carnival of Souls.

Carnival of Souls is unique in the way it is told in three different points of view, from Mallory, Kaleb and Ava…

Mallory is anything but normal; her life isn’t too stable as she is constantly moving from town to town with her adoptive father, Adam. Adam is a witch and is on the run from the daimons because he stole something from them long ago, and their leader would do almost anything to obtain what has been lost to him. It is the constant vigilance of Adam and Mallory that has kept them alive and safe for so many years. Mallory obeys her father’s wishes and doesn’t get too close to anyone, knowing that she won’t be able to spend much time around them anyway. However, things change quickly for Mallory when she meets Kaleb. She is instantly drawn to him and finds him intriguing in a way that she has never felt before. However, she does her best to resist getting to know him because she believes him to be human and knows she can’t risk him by drawing him into her chaotic life.

The Carnival of Souls takes place in The City and occurs once in every generation. It consists of fights to the death between daimons, and the prize is a raise in the caste, and a chance to join the ruling class.

Kaleb is not at all what he seems to Mallory, he is a lower caste daimon and is one who wears a black mask. The black mask sets him apart and showcases his skills as a fighter and a killer. It are these skills that lead him to be hired to find Mallory for an upper caste daimon. It comes as a surprise to Kaleb when he is drawn to Mallory in a way that he had never imagined, she immediately becomes “pack” to him, and you die to protect those in your pack.

Ava is also a daimon in The City. Though unlike Kaleb, she is part of the upper class. Ava chooses to compete in The Carnival of Souls for a different reason than to raise her status. Instead, she fights to win her freedom – the freedom to choose her own future. Female daimons in the upper caste are forced to marry and breed, and Ava would rather die.

At first the relationship between Mallory and Kaleb seemed to lean toward the insta-love we find in many paranormal romances. However, Marr made me believe in it in a way I have been unable to in the past. The moment Kaleb described Mallory as pack was the moment I believed fully in their relationship and began to become invested in their reliance on one another as a couple. I also became very interested in Mallory’s growth through the novel, Adam keeps many secrets from her and though she is physically stronger than most females her age, she begins as a very naïve character. She grew fabulously throughout the novel, and by the last paragraph I was metaphorically giving her a high five. I enjoyed the vastly different emotions I felt toward both Mallory and Ava, where Mallory had to grow on me, I loved the strength behind Ava and her utter devotion to fight for herself. I felt angst and sorrow over her decisions because she had no choice but to fight for herself.

“They were pack. She was meant to be in his life, and now that he knew it, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for her.”

Melissa Marr again delivered a world that I cannot stop thinking about; I loved the darkness and the blurred lines between good and evil. The caste system, the masks, and their representation throughout The City provided amazing imagery that I had no trouble picturing in my mind.

Carnival of Souls was fantastic and delightfully dark. I felt a deep connection to each of the characters and thought the relationships to be intricate and overly exciting. The plot of this novel is fast paced and I devoured it, desperately needing to find out what was going to happen next. I am eagerly anticipating book two in this series, I can’t wait to see who will excel in fighting for what they believe in.

Extra: I was lucky enough to meet Melissa Marr at BEA – and not to brag, but she totally hugged me – and she was so incredibly nice and just..well…awesome! She also signed my book (with what I think is the best signature ever):

Thank you so much for the ARC, Melissa (and HarperCollins), I doubt I was able to express my gratitude and love for this novel in this short post. In a nutshell: you rock!


Review: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Title: The Book of Lost Things

Author: John Connolly

Publishing Information: November 7, 2006 by Atria Books

Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Fairy-Tales

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 339 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Those in the mood for a fairy tale with some dark twists


High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things. (Via Goodreads)


The story begins with David, obsessing over his “routine” (see: OCD) that he believes will save his mother from her life threatening illness. Unfortunately, David is unable to save her and his mother succumbs to the illness and dies. Some time after (side note: a little TOO soon after the death of David’s mother, if you ask me) David’s father remarries a woman named Rose and nine months later she gives birth to a son. It is around this time that David begins having “episodes,” moments where he blacks out and wakes up with no recollection of what happened while he was asleep. Poor David feels as if he is all alone in the world, as his father is working for the government and therefore is never home. So David is stuck in Rose’s giant house with just Rose, (who he loathes) and his new brother Georgie for company. David does his best to avoid these two and instead buries his nose in his books, as they remind him of his mother.

Rose tries her best to make David feel comfortable, and even gives him the room of her late uncle, Jonathan Tulvey. The room is filled with Jonathan’s books and trinkets and David takes comfort in seeing that someone is as connected to stories as he is. David becomes curious and asks Rose about Jonathan and she explains that when he was younger he and his little sister vanished into thin air one day. David becomes intrigued by this and as time passes he begins to hear the books in his room talk to him, and he begins to dream of a very sinister man, whom he names “The Crooked Man.” These dreams become twisted with reality and as time passes, David travels to another world in which the fairy tale characters he has grown up reading about exist. However, these characters are not the same kind and caring versions that he has grown up to love. They are sinister and grim versions, each twisted into a new form.

These characters were one of the absolute best parts of the story. I don’t want to spoil the fun for you so I will just touch upon some awesomeness. First, Snow White is a fat, disgusting and mean person. Second, Ever wonder where werewolves came from? Little Red Riding Hood had some issues with bestiality (I promise the story does NOT go into detail at this point, thank goodness, because, EW.) and the Crooked Man is quite possibly one of the creepiest villains I have yet to encounter (Rumple who?) There was also a rather kind woodsman, a loyal knight and an extremely creepy Sleeping “Beauty” thrown into the mix. All of these characters David met on his journey to see the King, the ruler of the land, who was having a very hard time ruling. David learns something from each encounter and it is through these extremely trying situations that the reader is able to see him grow from a spoiled, selfish child into a mature and kind young man.

When pondering the setting to this story I realized how unique John Connolly writes. Ultimately, he was just writing about a vast forest, a small town, and a few huge castles. Yet, in my mind I saw a darkness creeping from the corners of my imagination toward David. I saw lights extinguishing behind him as he walked down the long corridor, I saw the trees sway when there was no wind. These are things Connolly simply hinted at yet I was able to pick up on these subtle images and make them into something that made me afraid as if I was the one walking through this land.

The Book of Lost Things is harrowing and phenomenal. I haven’t been so enthralled by a novel of this genre since reading The Child Thief by Brom. It was deeply imaginative and sinister enough to have even the bravest adult looking over their shoulder while reading.

“These stories were very old, as old as people, and they had survived because they were very powerful indeed. These were the tales that echoed in the head long after the books that contained them were cast aside” (Page 10).


Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Title: Sweetly

Author: Jackson Pearce

Publishing Information: August 23, 2011 for Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tales, Paranormal

Series information: Book 2 in the Fairy Tale Retellings

Format: Hardcover, 310 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Fans of fairytale retellings and those looking to delve deeper into the mystery surrounding the family introduced to us in Sisters Red.

Sweetly is a companion (not a sequel) to the book Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Due to the fact that it isn’t a sequel it is not necessary that you read Sisters Red prior to reading Sweetly but there are some small things you may appreciate a little more if you do.

Sweetly is a retelling of the fable, Hansel and Gretel. Gretchen and Ansel are siblings who lose their sister to a “witch” in the forest behind their home. Years pass and both parents succumb to the grief of losing their daughter, leaving Ansel and Gretchen alone in the world. They decide to drive cross country to start over in North Carolina. Their jeep breaks down on the way and they have no choice but to stay in the town for the time being. After some poking around town, Ansel finds a job as a handyman at Sophia Kelley’s candy shop.

Sophia is a young and gorgeous woman who has taken over the chocolate shop after her father is killed by wild animals. People in town are either captivated by her or believe her to be a witch. Those that believe her to be a witch also believe that she has something to do with the eight girls who have gone missing over the years, as they always go missing on the eve of her chocolate festival. Ansel and Gretchen are captivated by Sophia, for Gretchen, she is healing the wound that their missing sister left in her heart and Ansel falls in love with her almost immediately. However, after a time, Gretchen begins to suspect something is different about Sophia and she soon finds evidence that doesn’t paint Sophia in the most perfect light.

Gretchen meets Samuel, the town crazy and convinces him to teach her how to hunt Fenris, the werewolves that those of you who read Sisters Red will find familiar. The two vow to uncover the mystery as well as keep the rest of the girls in the town safe from the Fenris. Secrets are uncovered and Gretchen is forced to come to terms with who Sophia really is.

“There is always some madness in love,

and always some reason in madness.”

I have to say that I enjoyed this story a lot more than Pearce’s Sisters Red. I found myself more connected to the characters in this story which really helped me enjoy the novel on a much deeper level. Pearce also wrote this story in such a wonderful way that I really found myself craving the chocolate and candies that were showcased in Sophia’s shop.

Overall, this book exceeded my expectations, I had hoped to enjoy it more than Sisters Red and I did. Additionally, Jackson Pearce has a third companion novel coming out titled Fathomless that is a retelling of The Little Mermaid. I am curious to see if Pearce brings the characters together from the first two novels as they all have the same goals and since Fathomless will focus on the sister of both Silas, from Sisters Red and Samuel from Sweetly.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good retelling and wants their mouth watering at the thought of chocolate truffles and fruit flavored candies.


Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Title: Sisters Red

Author: Jackson Pearce

Publishing Information: June 7, 2010 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Werewolves, Retellings, Romance

Series information: Book 1 in the Fairytale Retellings series

Format: Hardcover, 328 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Readers looking for a different view on the story of Little Red Riding Hood filled with strong heroines and viscous villains.

Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris–the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls’ bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett’s only friend–but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they’ve worked for?

I love fairy tale rewrites and I love that this was loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood. However, I did not love this book. I wanted to, really! Looking back, I think that the reason I didn’t love it was because I had a hard time loving the characters. I found Scarlett to be obsessive and resentful for saving her sisters life, I found Rosie to be so naïve and annoying in the way that she couldn’t follow her own desires because they conflicted with her sisters. I found Silas to be a coward and honestly kind of a jerk in the way that he falls head over heels for his best friend’s sister and then manages to not tell her, even though they are living in the same house. The love triangle bothered me the most, Silas pushed Rosie to follow her heart while trying to tell Scarlett her heart’s desire was wrong. I can’t even get into what bothered me the most about this love triangle because it would ruin a shocking and rather infuriating climax that made me want to throw the book against a wall. ::end rant:: That being said, I can give the book credit in relation to its general plot line. It is interesting to turn the Red Riding Hood character into a fighter as she is a weak character in the original story. However, I do think it could have been interesting had the wolf character not been so bad. Perhaps I am a romantic but I like to daydream that the typical bad guy isn’t always bad just as the damsel in distress is sometimes fully capable of saving herself. I also have to say that the ending shocked me, I really didn’t see it coming and that was something that really redeemed the story for me. I realize that my opinion is quite biased and I can really see why some would love this book. I am currently reading Jackson Pearce’s companion novel Sweetly and I have high hopes that I will enjoy it more than I enjoyed Sister’s Red.

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: Shiver

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publishing Information: August 1, 2009 by Scholastic Press

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal

Series information: Book 1 in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series

Format: Hardcover, 392 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Readers looking for a book reminscent of Twilight, minus the vampires.

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf–her wolf–is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human–or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

When Grace was younger, she was attacked by wolves in the woods surrounding her home. As she lay dying, a wolf with bright yellow eyes fended off the other wolves and saved her life. As the years went on, Grace continued to find the wolf staring at her, keeping her safe. Grace begins to think of this wolf as “her” wolf and when a hunting party ventures into the woods she becomes terrified. Once at her house, Grace finds a naked, shivering boy on her porch who has been shot in the shoulder. Grace soon learns that this boy, named Sam, is indeed “her” wolf and has been watching and protecting her for years. The catch of his “disease” is that every summer, when it is warm, Sam turns into a human and once the temperature drops he becomes a wolf again. As the years go on however, Sam’s summers become shorter and shorter and he fears he will soon lose the ability to turn into a human all together. The story progresses and Sam and Grace work together to keep him warm, and human.

The cover of this book was what initially drew me in, and the fact that it was a book with a werewolf as a focus, a change from the typical vampire love story. I also really appreciated that the “change” for the werewolf isn’t brought on by the full moon but by the change in temperature. Unfortunately that was not enough to make me enjoy the story, I had a very hard time reading this book and found myself fighting against the storyline. I can definitely see why most readers would LOVE this book. For me, it was like the Twilight series, minus the vampires. The two main characters were head over heels, nothing can stop us, will do ANYTHING for the other in love. I had a hard time buying this, the characters were not very developed and their love was just supposed to be understood, with little evidence as to why they had fallen in “love” in the first place. Overall, I was a bit bored with the story and couldn’t really get into it; however I would definitely recommend it to readers who like teen romance and books like Twilight.