Friday, 30 September 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Black

Series: Anna Dressed in Blood
Genre: Young Adult >Thriller/Horror
Publisher: Tor Teen/Hachette AUS
Release Date: October 2011
ISBN: 9781408319444
Cover love? It's so hauntingly gorgeous, with a dark and spooky atmosphere that suits the story perfectly.
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

I confess: I have never, ever read horror before. Back in the Grade 2 days, I had a tentative peek into a Goosebump novel, and it practically scared the crap out of me, so since then, I've always avoided horror like the plague. But Anna Dressed in Blood was so freaking amazing that I'm crying, begging on my knees for more from Kendare Black, and *gasp* yes, more horror!

Theseus Cassio 'Cas' Lowood is one badass character, so fierce and brave. He descends from a long line of ghost hunters, all committed to ridding the world of ghosts who have stayed behind after death, out for revenge. After his father was brutally murdered by a ghost that he'd set out to kill, Cas devotes himself to training and slaying the dead, honing his skills in the hopes that one day, he can return to exact revenge on the monstrous being that took his father's life. 

As a professional ghost slayer, Cas gets called to Thunder Bay to investigate the mystery of a particularly mysterious and violent ghost that the locals call "Anna Dressed in Blood". For the past 60 years, everyone who has dared to enter her house is torn apart, ripped to shreds. But when Cas faces this terrifying "goddess of death", he discovers that he's finally met his match - a ghost he can't destroy. But for some reason, she decides to spare his life.

Intrigued, Cas can't help but be drawn back to Anna's haunted house, again and again, attempting to discover the mystery behind her death, the reason why she is unlike other ghosts he's encountered. Because beneath the otherworldly and powerful exterior is a beautiful and fragile girl trapped by her dark past...

Kendare Black writes a spellbinding tale, entwining witchcraft and ghost mythology, tradgedy and hope, fear and adoration, until the reader is just as enraptured by Anna as Cas is. I adored so many things about this book - the gentle but fierce prose, the numerous twist and turns within the plot. My one lament is that the side characters aren't developed as well. I could sense that there was more to them, but I'll probably have to wait until Girl of Nightmares (Anna Dressed in Blood #2) coming out in 2012, to find out.

Black doesn't hold back on the violence or the gripping themes either - this is a raw and powerful book that will probably scare the living daylights out of you, but in a fantastic way that makes you hungry for more.  It kept me up well past midnight, on the one hand feeling too afraid and nervous to keep on reading, but also too creeped out and entangled in this beautiful and dark tale to bear putting it down. And when I finally finished, I just lay there in bed, thinking about it all night. My advice: read it in broad daylight, but for the brave looking for a good scare, I dare you to read it in the dead silence of the night.

Parental Corner: Violence (heavy), sexual content (minor), profanity (occasional)

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Review: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

My Rating:
Series: Birthright Series
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Crime
Release Date: 6th September 2011
Source: Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review.
Links: PanMac | Goodreads

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city’s most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.’s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she’s to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight—at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.


Imagine this.

New York, year 2028. You’re sixteen years old, dogged by the legacy of a criminal chocolate business your murdered father once lead. Your grandma, your only guardian, is the oldest person you know (born in 1995) and she’s bedridden. Your elder brother is gorgeous, and girls would love him, if only he didn’t have the mind of an 8-year-old.  Your little sister makes you ache to protect the rest of your family.

Not to mention that your a-hole of a boyfriend insists on sleeping with you.

So what do you do?  

I won’t tell you too much, but let’s just say that eventually, you get arrested for attempted murder.

All These Things I’ve Done is a book that whisked me off my feet and took me on a journey. A journey through one year of Anya Balanchine’s life as I saw an alternate, morally corrupt world through her eyes and explored the potential ramifications of extreme Prohibition laws. In 2028, chocolate, mobile phones and coffee are amongst the many items that we now take for granted that have been outlawed. The effect is a world that we recognise as our own, but disorientingly merges elements of the past and present, to bring them to the future. 

However, the dystopia of this world is merely hinted at, while Anya’s story takes the forefront. Anya is brave, smart and resilient, hardened by being forced to take over the parental role in her family after her father’s death. But she’s still young and impulsive, and nowhere near perfect, and I envisioned with bated breath, captivated, as she tumbled from trouble into disaster. Anya amazed me – I can’t imagine that any sixteen year old could have the wit, instinct and courage to experience what she does and come out as wholly as she does. She’s remarkable and extraordinary, but I felt her maturity was too unrealistic at times.

Gabrielle Zevin creates characters that unique, flawed and plausible, and through them, she portrays different facets of human nature. I believe that the best books are ones that make me think – hidden within are themes and ideas that bring up questions for me. I’m not a careful reader, but this book inspired me to try. The very title, “all these things I’ve done” suggests that the book is an exploration of the idea of  redemption. Do we all deserve a second chance, no matter what we’ve done, or are some acts too horrible to be redeemed? What is the threshold of human forgiveness? Does an ability to forgive others make you a strong person, or weak minded? Are we, as humans, inherently good or bad? I guess there is no clear, definite distinction between black and white, because Anya’s world and life is comprised of all shades of grey.

There are books that take me away with the romance between characters, and there are those that simply don’t.  While the synopsis portrays this as a story of a pair of star-crossed lovers, I didn’t really see that. I thought it was more of a subplot, and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes, when literally 15 pages into the book, we had already met the guy who would so obviously be the love of Anya’s life. I was frustrated that there was no real doubt or gradual falling in love; that they were automatically drawn to each other, despite Anya’s flimsy attempts to distance herself.  

Overall, All These Things I’ve Done is an intricately layered exploration of the ideas of redemption and sacrifice, set in a world where danger and deception lurk behind every door. Anya’s coming-of-age is an unforgettable story that I devoured in one sitting, and absolutely recommend to fans of crime, and dystopia.

My Rating:

Friday, 23 September 2011

Review: City of Fallen Angels, Wolfsbane

These are some already-released must-reads that I read over my temporary hiatus from blogging. Why am I reviving them from their glory releases a couple of months ago? Well, coz they were pretty awesome reads and I thought I should let you know about them. Also, I wanted to record my thoughts, just for looking back on. :)

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare
[Walker Books Aus, released 5th April 2011] [Urban Fantasy]

What’s it about? The Mortal Instruments series shot straight into my all-time favourites the first time I read them, because there is just something so enchanting and enthralling about the world contained between their pages. Clary Fray finds herself thrust unceremoniously into the dark and dangerous world of Shadowhunters (demon-slayers) werewolves, warlocks, and vampires, a world that only she can see, as she attempts to uncover the mystery of her mother’s murder.

My thoughts? In City of Fallen Angels (book #4), interspecies politics, the love of a star-crossed pair, and the forces of Heaven and Hell intertwine in a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching tale. When I read this, I took it everywhere with me, because I couldn’t bear to be parted from the non-stop action and the pure emotions that the book wrought out of me.

Why should you read it? So, I can’t say that the premise of the story sounds all that original at first, but trust me, Cassandra Clare takes what could have been a predictable, clichéd plotline and infuses it with an unforgettable cast and a rich story world setting.  If you love action-adventure stories  with heart wrenching romances, I think you’ll adore this series as well.

You’ll like it if you liked: Well, I think you’ll like this one no matter what, but The Mortal Instruments series had a similar “feel” and genre to the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.  

Additional Notes:
  • The audiobook version is narrated by Ed Westwick (Chuck from Gossip Girl), and Molly Young (Castle).
  • Cassandra Clare also has a prequel series to The Mortal Instruments  - called The Infernal Devices, a steampunk series set in the 19th century, which is just as riveting.
Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer 
[Atom Books Aus, released 26th June, 2011] [Paranormal – Werewolves]

What’s it about? For her whole life, Calla Tor has existed in a world where her kind, the shape-shifting wolf Guardians, have always been subservient to the Keepers, magic-wielders to whom the Guardians’ survival is inherently linked. Calla accepts that her destiny as an alpha female of the Nightshade wolf pack is to marry Ren, the alpha male of the rival Bane pack. For if Calla refuses, the Keepers will exact their fury upon her loved ones. But in Nightshade (Book #1), all that Calla knows to be true is cast into doubt when she begins to fall in love with a human boy, and discovers what sinister things the Keepers have in store for them both.
In Wolfsbane (Book #2), Calla finds herself fighting alongside the Keepers’ sworn enemies in an epic race to uncover the truth, save her friends from under the keepers’ oppressive rule, and salvage her relationships. 

My thoughts?  What I loved most about this book was how Andrea Cremer managed to interweave action scenes and plot development with enriching the world she’s built. In the beginning, Calla was thrust into the fight, leaving me (the reader) just as confused as she was. But gradually, we get to see more of the external forces acting on her world, and discover, alongside her, the truth of their past. Wolfsbane answers some of the biggest questions in Nightshade, but at the same time, creates more for book 3, Bloodrose.  

[SPOILER] I have to admit though, I was occasionally annoyed by Calla. Annoyed by her doubt and emotional confusion and her fallibility. Annoyed by the way that she was torn between her love for Shay and her lingering emotions for Ren, how she was tactless and emotionally confused. Perhaps the reason why was because I see myself reflected in her, and wished that she was stronger and more decisive, as fierce in love as she was in battle. And the relationship that she shared with Shay felt forced and superficial. Somehow, I didn’t feel genuine sparks between her and Shay, not like there was in the first book, but I attribute this to the fact that they didn’t have that much time together.

Andrea Cremer, however, often writes quite strong characters, which are distinct and flawed, with very human desires and reactions. None of her characters are close to perfect, so they’re realistic and believable. And what I love most of all is how she portrays same-sex relationships between her characters with finesse and tact. She, through Calla’s eyes, doesn’t place specific emphasis on their struggles or makes them the objects of ostracisation. She doesn’t over-glorify their love either, creating relationships that are genuine and caring. But most of all, I love how the characters accept same-sex relationships between other characters as ordinary, just like any other relationship. Maybe I’m being discrimatory by pointing out this, but I think this acceptance is beautiful, and ought to be praised. 

One more thing – there’s a plot twist in here that I caught onto early on, which is rare for me. I thought it was clichéd and too obvious, (although it was foreshadowed in the first book as well, which might have contributed) but I’m reluctantly intrigued to see how it’s explored. [/SPOILER]

Why should you read it? The Nightshade series is one that gets a place amongst my “love list” because it combines edge-of-your-seat action with real, emotionally complex characters, and best of all, a rich twist of the wolf mythology that draws you into the book and leaves you pondering the book well after the last page, questions dancing on your tongue. This book is kind of intoxicating, and I for one, couldn’t stop reading it until I had finished the journey within its pages.

Just a warning, apparently no YA book is complete without a classic love triangle and a bit of emotional drama to liven things up, and in this second book at least, I felt it was a little too much. 

Readalikes: Vampire Academy, Twilight, Blood and Chocolate.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Should we beware author blurbs?

Skye from In the Good Books wrote an interesting and thought-provoking post on author quotes (otherwise known as "blurbs" on the front of books. To paraphrase her, she says that quotes from authors she admires will make her pick up a book that she might have previously overlooked, but a taglne along the lines of "Fans of Twilight will love this book!" are a deal breaker.

I found myself nodding in agreeance, because to be honest, sometimes I'll get put off books that have a quote from an author, or some other sentence urging you to "read this book!".

Sometimes I can't help but roll my eyes at really cliched taglines, for example, "you will devour this book" or "this book will leave you breathless". I mean, c'mon, really?! These words have been so over-used that they've kinda lost their meaning. I don't believe them for a second. And well, publishers are in the business of getting readers to buy their books, so of course they're going to praise the book. This doesn't mean that their opinion isn't valid; they obviously love the book so much, they've chosen to put their full support behind it and get it published. This just means that we have to take words from a potential source of bias with a grain of salt.

But what about blurbs from authors? Well...

a) If it's an author I have read and admire who has recommended the book, then I might be more inclined to pick up the book, for sure. But if I don't like the book, then the author is discredited in my eyes. I'd probably be less willing to trust their judgement.

b) If it's an author whose books I did not enjoy, then I'm even less likely to read the book.

c) If I do enjoy the book, the it will be because the author did a good job, rendering the blurb irrelevant.

Also, I know that authors are sent new releases from their publisher/editor/agent for endorsements. And this is where things get tricky. It's beneficial to an author to stay "in the good books" (terrible pun intended) of their industry connections by giving a positive endorsement, yet in blurbing a book, they put their own reputation with readers on the line. Declining to review a book will undoubtedly step on a few toes, and will be detrimental in the long run when attempting to forge new connections or ask for favours. Gee, aren't politics fun?

Anyway, blurbs I read are often quite vague and general; sometimes  I can't help but be skeptical about the reliability of obvious and gushing praise, and I end up ignoring them, relying on my own reading of the book to give it a fair judgement. After all, reading experiences are subjective.

What I personally prefer is a book with just the title and author's name on the front cover. I often turn to my fellow book bloggers and my librarian for recommendations, and then I make my own judgements from my reading.

So the real question is, how effective is an author blurb anyway? Would you read a book based on another author's recommendation, or do you ignore them completely?Also, what do you think about book blogger reviews? Do they influence your book-reading decisions in any way?

Here's an informative and much more eloquent article I found, which explores this issue from a perspective of an author.

Also, thanks to Skye for inspiring this post!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

In My Mailbox #1

In My Mailbox is a feature hosted by the amazing blogger Kristi from The Story Siren. It's a weekly post where book bloggers can share what books they got that week - from publishers, gifted books or purchased ones. :) It's a pretty awesome meme, and lets you know about new books coming out. I'm always excited to see what other people are reading.

I haven't done an IMM for ages, so I'm not sure what no. I'm up to. So I'll just start from scratch. :) IMM #1 for 2011. :D

So in the last month: Thanks to these awesome publishers...I'm really honoured and thrilled to read these!

 Twisted by Gena Showalter [thanks to Harlequin Teen]
This is book 3 in the Intertwined series by Gena Showalter, so I've got to read the first two first. :) Anyone read this series yet?
Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen [thanks to Tina at Penguin AUS]
I haven't read Bright Young Things (book #1) yet, but I've been studying The Great Gatsby at school, and it's definitely piqued my interest in the Roaring Twenties/Jazz Age. I wonder if Godbersen's portrayal will also depict the hedonistic and morally decayed society that F. Scott Fitzgerald criticised, or whether she will glamourise the 1920s...

When We Were Two by Robert Newton [thanks to Tina at Penguin AUS]
Tina at Penguin told me that this was one of her absolute favourites, so I'm really eager to read this one! Gosh, I want the holidays to come soon!

 Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan [thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia]
Eeee! I LOVE SCI-FI and I loved Across the Universe, so I'm pumped for this one. The cover is sooo gorgeous, and the blurb is v v intriguing.

 All The Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin [thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia]
THIS WAS SO GOOD. I picked it up and did not stop reading until I was a review is coming soon!

 Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick [thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia]
It sounds along the lines of Gone by Michael Grant - a post-apocalyptic novel in which all the adults disappear after one mysterious phenomenon...leaving behind a world full of kids. I really enjoyed Gone, so hopefully I'll like this too - although I'll inevitably be comparing the two all the way through.

 The 39 Clues: The Medusa Plot by Gordon Corman
Conspiracy 365: Revenge by Gabrielle Lord
[thanks to Scholastic AUS]
Scholastic does amazing things with their books to make them appeal to a younger male audience immersed in modern technology. 39 clues comes with collectible cards, and the cover of Con spiracy 365 is really awesome and 3D. I haven't read any of the others, but I'm desperately wishing I had a younger brother to give these to. I'll try to review them though. :)

 Frostbite by Richelle Mead [swapped with Lux from The Paperback Heart - thanks!]
I've read this, but I love re-reading VA and I've been painstakingly collecting the whole series to lend out to my cousins/friends, and this one completes it. So thanks so much Lux!

 Wolfborn by Sue Bursztynski [Thanks to Sue!]
Sue is a really nice and awesome person in general, so check out her blog here. I'm reading this book now, everytime I take (really long) breaks from doing Maths homework, hence the bookmark. 
She sent me a sample chapter about a week ago, and it's really good, so feel free to pop her an email or send me one at and I'll forward you the sampler as well. :)

 Impossible by Nancy Werlin [swapped with Skye from In the Good Books- thanks!]
This book is about a family of girls cursed to become pregnant at 18, and the only way to break the curse is to fulfil the impossible demands outlined in the song "Scarborough Fair". Quite unique, I'm looking forward to it. Thanks heaps, Skye!

And that's my book haul of the month. Have you read any of these? What did you think?
If not, what books have you been reading?
And link me to your IMM too, if you have one. :)
Happy reading!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Hey guys, just a quick post about getting into Pottermore! I signed up on the second day, but got my email about a week ago, so I've done a bit of exploring already. The artwork on the site is so stunning, and I love reading the extra content from JK Rowling, especially McGonagall's life story *tears*. For those of you that aren't on the site yet, the coolest features are: getting your own wand, mixing potions, and of course, getting sorted!

I got sorted into..SLYTHERIN! I'm a little surprised, but happy all the same. It's a pretty cool house.

Do you have a Pottermore account? Leave your username below, or add mine (below), and we'll exchange gifts.


What house (did you/do you want to be) sorted into? And thoughts on Pottermore?