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The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho – An exquisite homage to love and life

terracottabride

In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.

It’s a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn’t choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she’s reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua’s creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death.

After reading Cho’s spectacular Sorcerer to the Crown, I was an instant fan. I was thus inevitably drawn to The Terracotta Bride – a fantasy short story that plunges us headfirst into the throes of the Chinese afterlife.

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29

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

hex

My sincerest thanks to Hachette New Zealand, for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting, but in so doing send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.

Hex creeped me the heck out.

I don’t like anything horror, especially horror movies. I am the sort of person who, while walking in the dead of night to the kitchen, will think of something scary and then scare myself. I am a big, big wuss. Despite – and surprisingly – I enjoyed Hex very much. I was told that Hex ‘exposes how psychological fear can make a modern society spiral into dark, medieval practices’. And after much reflection, this is a perfect description of the novel in a sentence.

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31

Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

succubus blues

When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants, the wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?

But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid’s life is far less exotic. At least there’s her day job at a local bookstore–free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can’t.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle’s demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won’t help because Georgina’s about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny. . .

I first picked up the Georgina Kincaid series when I was young and naive about my sexuality. Because of the former, I picked up this book, read parts of it, and felt too embarrassed to continue. Now that I’m much older and mature and can appreciate its contents, Succubus Blues turned out to be perfect escapist material. Succubus Blues has everything that I love: Read’s writing and characterization, a compelling romance, paranormal and urban fantasy elements, and subtle exploration of ideas of mortality and love.

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14

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

chaos of stars

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you’re the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she’s only worthy of a passing glance—so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there’s no such thing as a clean break from family.

Blending Ally Carter’s humor and the romance of Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly, The Chaos of Stars takes readers on an unforgettable journey halfway across the world and back, and proves there’s no place like home.

I discovered The Chaos of Stars when I stumbled upon one of its beautiful quotes. I remember reading it, and then promptly bursting into tears. This, dear friends, was the quote:

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36

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

monster calls

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Despite my undeniable love for A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, this is a book that is difficult to review. First, for its beautifully crafted story that is best read and experienced rather than explained, and second, because no matter my writing capabilities, I believe I could not do this book justice.

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10

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

broken stars

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.

The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

I went in reading These Broken Stars with an expectation: that it would be an epic adventure set in space. I love the feeling of being so small in an infinite universe. There’s something about it that fills me with awe and wonder. Based on this, it would seem that These Broken Stars had everything going for it, and reading its grand and profound book summary, I believed that I would adore These Broken Stars.

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35

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

all the bright places

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven has its heart in the right place, as evidenced by Niven’s incredibly heartfelt Author’s Note. Therein, she details her inspiration behind the novel, and articulates her passion for raising awareness of mental health and all its facets. Although I have some criticisms of the book, which I will duly outline, to summarize why I don’t love this book: I did not feel emotionally connected to the story and its characters.  Continue reading