November 8, 2014

Book Review - Graveminder

Graveminder
Melissa Marr

Published: 2011

William Morrow (HarperCollins Imprint), hardcover, 324p.
ISBN: 978-0-06-182687-0


Three sips to mind the dead . . . 

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the attention her grandmother Maylene bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the small town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn't a funeral that Maylene didn't attend, and at each one Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: She took three sips from a silver flask and spoke the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you." 

Now Maylene is dead, and Bek must go back to the place she left a decade earlier. She soon discovers that Claysville is not just the sleepy town she remembers, and that Maylene had good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in Claysville the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected; beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D. If the dead are not properly cared for, they will come back to satiate themselves with food, drink, and stories from the land of the living. Only the Graveminder, by tradition a Barrow woman, and her Undertaker--in this case Byron Montgomery, with whom Bek shares a complicated past--can set things right once the dead begin to walk. 

 Although she is still grieving for Maylene, Rebekkah will soon find that she has more than a funeral to attend to in Claysville, and that what awaits her may be far worse: dark secrets, a centuries-old bargain, a romance that still haunts her, and a frightening new responsibility--to stop a monster and put the dead to rest where they belong.




Graveminder is the first book by Melissar Marr, and also the first book of hers that I've read.   It follows the story of Rebekkah who returns to the strange town of Claysville after the death of grandmother. 

Plot wise, Graveminder had some truly eerie elements.  That creepy quote on the front cover, "Sleep well, and stay where I put you", is not just a random bit of advice.  The dead will truly rise in Claysville if not properly seen to by the Graveminder, a woman who's sole purpose is to mind the dead, and who along with her partner, the Undertaker, keep the dead from rampaging.   However, at the start of this book all we know is that Maylene, the current Graveminder, is dead.  Byron, son of the funeral director, has a long history with Maylene's granddaughters.  When he comes to collect the body, he is shocked that the murder of Maylene isn't being investigated properly.  The body is moved, and the house cleaned within hours.  The mystery surrounding the actions of the Sheriff, and other important people in town, only adds to the sense that something is not quite right in this town.  And it isn't.  Claysville has a compact with Mr. D., and a doorway to the underworld - that just happens to lie under the funeral home.

I did like the characters in this book.  They are engaging and whether you love them or hate them, they have virtues and flaws that make them believable.  Maylene Barrow, what little we do see of her, is a stoic woman who believes in the importance of her role in this town.  I liked her, and felt bad for her having to leave this legacy to Bek.  William Montgomery is secretive and I just wanted to shake him a few times.  He has answers, but he's not going to give them up without a fight.  Rebekkah Barrow is strong, yet there is a part of her that wants to lean on her childhood crush, Byron.  While Byron is as steadfast as ever.  Still in love with Bek, even though the suicide of his girlfriend - and Bek's cousin - Ella scarred them both.  Ella, while not in the book, is revealed to have a part in this story as well.  Daisha, a tormented dead teenager, plays havok with the locals.  Forever hungry.  Powerful. Maylene's daughter, Cissy, is such a bitch that I wanted to slap that smug smirk right off her face.  She expected to inherit the title of Graveminder.  She knows the rules inside and out.  However, being passed over for Bek, a girl who isn't even a blood relative, has pushed this woman to do the unthinkable.

Marr's world building is suitable spooky.  Claysville is a town that nearly no-one leaves... at least not for long, and where people don't get sick, or die from diseases.  Having children is a lottery, and there are way too many cemeteries for a town of it's size.  It's a spooky slice of Americana.  



On to the book itself.  I did love the cover art.  It was suitably creepy - and as I bought this in the lead up to Halloween, it was precicely what I was looking for.  The naked cover itself is quite attractive.  A simple tan and dark brown that is utilized on the dust jacket, and the title on the spine is a simple gold embossed font.  My only criticism of the spine text is that I would have loved them to have used the same typography for the title that was on the dust jacket.  That font is quite eerie when matched to the old sepia toned building.

Overall I would recommend Graveminder to anyone who likes paranormal or ghost stories, and I'll definitely be reading more of Marr in the future.

Until next time,
 


November 7, 2014

Book Review - Enchanted Ivy

Enchanted Ivy
Sarah Beth Durst

Published: 2010

McElderry Books, hardcover, 310p.
ISBN: 978-1-4169-8645-4

What Lily Carter wants most in the world is to attend Princeton University just like her grandfather.  When she finally visits the campus, Grandpa surprises her; she has been selected to take the top secret Legacy Test.  Passing means automatic acceptance to Princeston.  Sweet!

Lily's test is to find the Ivy Key.  But what is she looking for?  Where does she start?  As she searches, Lily is joined by Tye, a cute college boy with orange and black hair who says he's her guard.  That's weird.  But things get seriously strange when a gargoyle talks to her.  He tells her that there are two Princetons - the ordinary one and a magical one - and the Key opens the gate between the worlds.  But there are more secrets that surround Lily.  Worse secrets.

When Lily enters the magical Princeton, she uncovers old betrayals and new dangers, and a chance at her dream becomes a fight for her life.  Soon Lily is caught in a power struggle between worlds, with her family at its center.  In a place where knights slay mosters, boys are were-tigers, and dragons might be out for blood, Lily will need all of her ingenuity and courage - and a little magic - to unite the worlds and unlock the secrets of her past and her future.

 

 

Enchanted Ivy is a quick, and uncomplicate YA book.  Firstly, the cover is very attractive (although it doesn't scream university setting) and the muted shades of grey and purple added to overall appeal of the cover.  Even the naked cover was quite attractive, and I loved the shimmery purple text used against the mottled grey and white paper on the spine (which was paired with a plum coloured cover.)  These colours are also mirrored on the dust jacket in the title.

On to the world building.  It is okay - for the limited settings - but could have been embellished more so one really had a sense of both Princetons.  The author seemed to focus more on the characters than their surroundings.  Except for the description at the end of the struggle Lily has with the dragon.

The characters were entertaining.  I enjoyed the relationship between Lily and her mother, who is losing her memories, as well as the relationship she has with her Grandfather. Very true to a multi-generational household. Tye is very mysterious, and the attraction between him and Lily is almost comically instantaneous - but this is a short book so I didn't expect a long courtship.  Jake, and his connection to Tye, was a real surprise.  I enjoyed his reactions to the 'other' world, however his loyalty to his twisted grandfather was very frustrating, but realistic.  Speaking of the grandfather, Mr Mayfair at first seems to be a nice old man, but as Lily gets drawn further into a magical war the gentle facade gives way to the zealot underneath.  Definitely a character I love to hate.

I did love the inclusion of all manner of magical creature.  The talking gargoyle reminds me of Sam from Shanna Swendson's MSI series (go read it, it's fantastic!).



There were only a few negative points, and the main one was the huge size of the text.  Seriously, it was like reading a large type book! Secondly, it got quite repetitive in places which bogged down the fast pace.  Also I found some of the plot devices to be quite predictable.  Corrupt leaders, betrayals, secrets and lies.  However these negatives didn't dampen my overall enjoyment of the book - and a younger reader may not even notice them?

This was my first Sarah Beth Durst book, and although it wasn't the best fantasy I've read, I'd like to try some more books by her as I found her style to be interesting.



November 6, 2014

November 5, 2014

All Souls Trilogy Boxed Set so pretty

Hello my lovelies!  Just had to share this with you.  My boxed set of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness arrived yesterday from Book Depository.  OMG!  I can't believe I finally have the US hardcovers.  Anyway, here are a few pics for you to enjoy as I can't help but admire my pretty new books ;-D









Aren't these spines GORGEOUS!  My only regret is that they are't signed copies :-(

Until next time,

 


Top 5 Wednesday - Red Covers



Well it's that time of the week again.  Time to delve into the mysterious, and often forgotten, depths of my bookshelves to find my Top 5 books of the week.  This week we are looking for our favourite books with RED covers. 


 

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

 A striking cover even though the cover art has nothing to do with the story.  Love the
fonts and it has a raised text which feels nice against the glossy background.



 

Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones 

Love this series, and the cover is gorgeous.  It's things like the tennis shoes, sexy dress,
skull ring with the scythe that make it memorable.  Is just so Charlie ;-D



 

 Playing with Fire by Katie MacAlister

This is the first book in the Silver Dragons Trilogy (set immediately after Aisling Grey series finishes), and I just love it.
Very simple graphics that are represent the book.  Love the colours.... love dragons ;-D



 

Undead and Unpopular by MaryJanice Davidson

This is the 5th Book in the Undead series about Betsy Taylor, a woman who loses her job on
her 30th birthday and is killed on the same day only to wake up in a funeral home - in cheap knock-off  clothing!  
Turns out that Betsy is the foretold new Queen of the Undead.

Funny series, quick and uncomplicated.  Love the simple vector graphics which are very
much a representation of the Betsy.



 

A Girls Guide to Vampires by Katie MacAlister

While I wasn't in love with this series, these covers are just amazing.  I love the simplicity
of the woman in her Asian dress.  The small intricate details such as the laces on her shoes, or
the bow and arrow in her hand, are just gorgeous.  This has to be my favourite red cover to date.


So, that's it for yet another week.  Hope you enjoyed my favourite red covers.  I'd love to hear what you think of them.

This series was created by the lovely Lainey at GINGERREADSLAINEY and I'll include a link to the Goodreads group {here} if you would also like to participate.

Until next time,
 

November 4, 2014

Book Review: Maplecroft


Maplecroft
The Borden Dispatches, Book 1
Cherie Priest

Published: September, 2014

ROC, paperback, 435p.
ISBN: 978-0-451-46697-6



The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me.  Perhaps rightfully so.  I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial.  With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents.  Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place.  It originates from the ocean's depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me.  No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it.  With an axe.


As an avid reader and book lover, I understand the effort, blood, sweat and tears that the author puts into their books.  I hate it when I come across those rare few that really rub me the wrong way, but I feel that I have to be honest in my opinions as I review these books.  I say this because as much as I wanted to, I really did not find any redeeming qualities to Maplecroft.

This was the final book from my book club's Sept/Oct/Nov selections and I was looking forward to reading this paranormal retelling (with gothic overtures) of the acquited American murderess, Lizzie Borden - it being Halloween and all.  However I was so disappointed with Maplecroft that I actually had to put it down half way through.  I needed an few hours to get myself out of this book - and that rarely happens!

Sadly, the very inviting and mysterious cover art could not save Maplecroft.  I just was not a fan of the multiple POVs.  Yep, there are over six voices that each take turns in telling us exactly what happened to Lizzie, and how the evil menace was created/found, and set loose on the town of Fall River.  Now one or even two POVs would be okay.  The synopsis on the back cover made it seem like it would be from only Lizzie's POV, but having all those characters was so confusing.  It just ended up as one big mess as I couldn't differentiate between most of the characters - and by the half way mark, I didn't really care either.

All the characters were so annoying.  Even our main character, Lizzie Borden, was nothing special.  She's in her early 30s (32yo I think).  Average height, sturdy, strong - a lesbian in this retelling - with no qualities to recommend herself by.  Her manner is short and sharp and I found nothing in her that engaged me as a reader.

Dr Seabury was also not an engaging character, let alone one of heroic proportions.  He's in his early 60's and more often than not spends part of his chapters pondering the possibility that he has been lax in his professional care of the community.  He dithers and flounders and unfortunately after Lizzie, he also has the most chapters.  Even Emma (the sister), and Gertrude, aka Nance (the lover), were flat and un-engaging.  Nance is a sneaky cow that sees nothing wrong in drugging her lover so that she can satisfy her curiosity and spy on what is happening behind door to the basement.  A door that Lizzie keeps locked.  I felt absolutely no sympathy for Nance when she got her comeuppance.  Even Lizzie's total devotion to her didn't evoke a reaction in me other than indifference and a wish for this book to be over.

Be aware that although there is a lot of axe swinging and body disposal in this book, gore does not make up the majority of the content. 

I wanted to like this book so much as the basic premise was quirky and twisted and dark (hmmm, perhaps Tim Burton should consider a Lizzie Borden retelling ;-D).  However, the reality is that I won't be buying any more of the books in this series.