Sunday, February 23, 2014

Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

These are some more super late reviews (do I write any other kind?) and it's two books I borrowed that make up a mini-series...not sure what you call it if it's only two books, a duology? So I decided to combine it into one review that gives you my thoughts on Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, and the followup, Girl of Nightmares

I really like horror movies, but I honestly don't really read horror books. However, Anna Dressed in Blood had such good reviews when it was first released that eventually, after the sequel was released, I finally decided to pick it up one day It's the story of Cas, a ghost killer who moves from town to town with his mother, tracking down evil ghosts that have been killing humans, and finally getting rid of them. When he finds the ghost Anna Dressed in Blood, he expects everything to go like usual-- but Anna is not ordinary. She's more powerful than any ghost he's ever encountered, and yet, when given the chance, she doesn't kill Cas. 

I don't read a lot of books with a male narrator, so that was something I immediately appreciated. I think Cas's voice feels authentic and although he's a bit stuckup, there's something just charming about him that I enjoyed. In perfect balance to his charm, there's Anna, who is perfectly creepy. The violence and gore in Anna Dressed in Blood is perfectly done, and Blake's writing and imagery are dark and thrilling. 

However, I did get disappointed partway through Anna Dressed in Blood when the story took a new direction in a way that I didn't like. I wanted a book that was pure horror and guts, but instead it decided to get a bit mushy on me. No thank you. From that point on, there were still some redeeming moments and I thought the characters were all well flushed out and believable, but even it got a tad scary again it just wasn't quite as satisfying as I was hoping for.

The sequel, Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, begins with a moopy Cas, and ugh, that is not what I wanted to read about. Guts and blood, please. However, it does move onto more interesting things and it has the same great writing, which is a mix of violence and humour. As a narrator, I just really enjoyed Cas's voice, even though I didn't always think he was great. I did want more of Anna in this book, along with more of the horror. In a lot of ways, because of the material, Girl of Nightmares is darker and more serious than Anna Dressed in Blood. However, I think there is less of that guts and blood, and more subtle horror, which I also really enjoyed once the story progressed to that.

In both Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, there is a great group of characters that each have their own personality and depth that I really enjoyed reading about. Even though they are written from Cas's perspective, Blake really has the ability to create a group dynamic that feels real. Even secondary character's like Cas's mom are believable and with their own story. I also think Blake's writing is really strong, and there is some fun and some creepy imagery in these books. Although at first I thought I could do without the romance-- okay, I still could, but that would have made these books something totally different, and in the end Girl of Nightmares won me over on some aspects I didn't like about Anna Dressed in Blood making the series as a whole a success despite the mush.

If you're looking for something a bit creepy, well-written, and with great characters you would probably enjoy Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Delirium Stories: Hana, Annabel and Raven by Lauren Oliver

I adore Lauren Oliver. Like, I had to use italics just to emphasize how great my love for her is. So of course I'm going to read every word she ever publishes (and more, if I could get my hands on them...). I actually read each of these three stories separately, but Delirium Stories: Hana, Annabel and Raven by Lauren Oliver is a collection, also available in paperback, that combines all three of shorts originally available as ebooks. They all take place in the Delirium universe, and each has a different main character, providing insight into the world, and flushing out the story further from the main three books in the trilogy.

Like always with these short stories, you don't need to read Delirium Stories to understand what goes on in the Delirium trilogy. What they share isn't necessary, or it would be a part of the actual books. But that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. Firstly, because, like I said, Oliver's writing is amazing. Secondly, I think each one adds a little more insight into the world, from different perspectives, and they help deepen the reader's understanding and knowledge of what happens in the books. So I do think they are worthwhile, if not strictly necessary.

In the first story, Hana, you get to see some of the events that actually take place in Delirium, but from the perspective of Lena's best friend, Hana. Like all of Oliver's books, this was well written with some beautiful imagery, especially involved flyers/papers flapping in the wind, that suck with me in particular. Descriptions like this:

"The wind kicks up, rustling all those flyers, the exhortations of safety. The flyers lift and sigh in unison, like a thousand people waving white handkerchiefs, a thousand people waving good-bye."

Hana's voice is so clear and real in this story, but the moment that leaves the biggest impact is definitely the ending-- such a wow moment.

The second short story is Annabel, and I thought this was pretty cool because Annabel is actually Lena's mother, and she is quite a mystery in the first two Delirium books. I really liked her story, even more than Hana. I found that her voice was a bit vulnerable but strong, in a way that reminded me a bit of Lena. Somehow, despite having all these different female narrators, Lauren Oliver still makes them distinct though and I never thought I was reading a different character than I was.

Annabel alternates between the past and the present in the same way that Pandemonium, but one thing remains constant-- you can't help rooting for Annabel. Her mother's love was just so strong, and she had just such a spirit, that you really just want things to work out for her. The relationship between her and her husband was heartbreaking.

Finally, Raven is the third and final story in Delirium Stories. Also for the record, I am writing these reviews about a year after reading these (except Raven, which I read in April 2013) and wow that is hard. I still need to review Requiem as well. Remind me to stop procrastinating on reviews for a year-- I think some from 2013 will remain unreviewed, but hopefully I can get on top things a bit better for 2014? Anyway, back to this review!

Like Hana, there was an interesting twist to Raven that I didn't expect, but reading her point of view was probably the least interesting of the three in terms of adding to the Delirium world. That said, she is a really strong individual and character, and like always Oliver kept my attention. Reading this before Requiem, and later knowing what happens in that book makes this story even more heartbreaking.

Overall, there's not a lot I can say about Delirium Stories because I waited way too long to review them. But based on what I remember, they were all enjoyable, well written, and heartbreaking in their own way. They aren't necessary, but they are lovely, and if you're a fan of the Delirium Trilogy I definitely recommend checking these out as well (they would make no sense at all if you're not a fan/not reading the books).

Monday, February 17, 2014

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Despite feeling like she is one of those YA authors I must have read, Heartbeat was actually my first read by Elizabeth Scott. Her books have caught varying amounts of my attention, but when I had an egalley of this I figured it was as good a starting place as any. 

Heartbeat is Emma's story, and Emma is a teenage girl whose mother is dead. Except, she's got machines in her helping her breathe, and she's still pregnant with Emma's baby half brother. Because after her mom died, Emma's stepfather decided to keep her alive so that his baby would have a chance at surviving. Emma, who used to be a perfect student, doesn't care about anything except the fact that her mother is brain dead and the fact that her stepfather is forcing her body to stick around anyway-- and she can't imagine that anyone can understand what that is like. And Emma blames her stepfather for everything.

Okay, so Emma herself isn't super likable. Her hatred for her stepdad seems extreme, but that's because we get to be the reader, watching from a distance. So even though I wished she would grow up a bit, I could sorta understand where she was coming from. She is a teenage girl who lost her mother, and she wants somebody to blame for a tragedy that seems meaningless. But then she also goes blowing off her friend, Olivia, who does nothing but try to be there for her, in favour of this boy, Caleb, that is very good-looking but also causes a lot of trouble. And that I respected a lot less. 

Caleb himself is the kind of bad boy that needs saving and only the main character's love can do it because deep down he's a good person, stereotypical type of character that I didn't find that original or interesting. But, in combination with Emma, I like him. They are sweet together, and it's nice seeing people find redemption in each other, even if it's basically what you expect. So it was cute, and I did find their romance believable and not. 

Heartbeat is a pretty quick, easy read and the plot is interesting so it keeps your attention. It doesn't have me rushing out to pick up everything else Elizabeth Scott has ever written, but there are a couple of her books I have been interested in and heard really good things about, so I'm not deterred from grabbing those in the future. I think whether or not you like this book might boil down to if you can stand Emma or not, and while she wasn't my favourite main character, there were enough redeeming characteristics and realism to her actions that I didn't mind.

Overall, Heartbeat kept me interested enough to keep reading, and to read other books by Scott in the future, but it wasn't special enough to be something I'm rushing out to recommend unless this plot in particular interests you.

Release Date: January 28th 2014  Pages: 304  Format: Egalley
Source: Netgalley  Publisher: Harlequin Teen  Buy It: Book Depository

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Arise by Tara Hudson

I felt okay about the first book in this trilogy, Hereafter by Tara Hudson, but I wasn't blown away enough to know if I'd bother continuing. Now that all three books are released, and I want to finish up some unfinished series in 2014, I decided to give book two a shot. So what did I think of Arise by Tara Hudson?

Well, things are far from paradise for Amelia and Josh, as they can't even kiss too long without Amelia vanishing, and Josh has basically ditched all his friends so they don't think he's crazy for making out with empty space. Dating a ghost sucks. It isn't long before there is more drama thrown into the mix, as it turns out the underworld doesn't just "give up" and they want Amelia-- along with anyone she cares about who happens to get in the way. Amelia travels with Josh to New Orleans for one last Christmas together before she knows she has to leave him forever, but of course, once there, things do not go as planned. 

I found Arise pretty easy and enjoyable to read. It took a little chunk for me to really get engaged in it, but once I did I had a fun time reading it. This isn't a book to change your life or to reread again and again, but it had some interesting twists and it definitely kept my attention. Neither Amelia or Josh are the most interesting characters, but I did like Amelia a lot more in this book, even if she was still a bit whiny in this book. I also thought the tension between Josh and Amelia in Arise was well done, and played off the interesting dynamic of the human/ghost relationship. 

There were a bunch of new characters introduced in Arise and one in particular, Gaby, I really enjoyed. Gaby, along with the easy writing, is enough incentive for me to finish this trilogy up with the final book, Elegy, sometime in the next couple months. Overall I'd say this is a fun, decent read if you're looking for a paranormal romance and although Arise isn't groundbreaking for me, Hudson provides enough suspense and an action-packed second half of the book to keep me hooked. 

Release Date: June 5th 2012  Pages: 407  Format: Egalley
Source: Netgalley  Publisher: Harper   Buy It: Book Depository