Paranormal

Book Review: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

I had the honor of attending the release party for “The Cure for Dreaming” at Powell’s a few weeks ago. You can read about it here. When I saw this book cropping up on so many of the blogs I follow, I knew I had to look deeper into it. As I read more, I realized that this book was pretty much written for me. Women’s rights? Check! Victorian Era? Got it! The setting is in Portland, it involves Gothic elements, and the supernatural crops up? Check, check, aaaand check! There is also no denying that it has a beautiful cover. It is much prettier in person with a semi-metallic tone to it. There was no doubt in my mind that I would own this book. It was great to meet Cat Winters and have it signed. This was the first of her writing I have read, and it was wonderful introduction.

The most appealing aspect is the message– Even if you feel like you have no voice, you can still make a stand. You can make a difference. You are allowed to follow your dreams and they cannot be taken from you. What a wonderful message to send to our young people who can feel marginalized by the flood of dissenting voices and differing opinions that saturate the media. Like the 1900s where this is set, we are in the midst of rapid social, economic, and technological change and there are vocal extremists on all sides of the equation. “The Cure for Dreaming” is a story where teenagers can easily relate to the feelings and emotions of Olivia and her desire to speak out and bring forth social change without a contemporary setting. The themes of social equality, bullying, and emotional abuse are also contained between the covers, making the cure for dreaming quite a deep story for its relatively short length.

What sets “The Cure for Dreaming” apart from other historical novels with similar themes is the incorporation of paranormal elements as well as imagery from Dracula. I enjoy two types of vampires. The first are the sort of wolf-like predators found in Deborah Harkness’ “All Souls Trilogy”. Noble, long lived, yet unable to escape from the predatory instincts within them. The second, and most beloved, are Bram Stoker vampires. Use elements and imagery from Dracula, or talk about Vlad Tepas and Erzebet Bathory and I am hooked. Olivia’s visions after hypnosis are laced with imagery from her favorite novel, Dracula. These elements enhance the Gothic feel of the novel and gives readers a slightly different take on a historical novel. If you are a fan of the Bronte sisters or Jane Austen, there are pieces here you will love. My only real complaint is that sometimes the language felt a bit anachronistic, but this is definitely coming from someone who really enjoys Victorian literature and Steampunk.

I recommend this to a wide audience. There are strong male and female characters. The themes will appeal to many young adults, and older adults. If you are a fan of creepy novels, or paranormal, I definitely suggest you pick this one up.

If you have read it, what did you think?

the cure for dreaming by cat winters

Paranormals on Parade – Five Stories About Vampires, Ghosts, and Monsters (Oh My!)

Happy Wednesday! This is Halloween week, such an exciting, dark (maybe a little too dark since daylight savings time has yet to hit), and spooky time of year. If you are staying in, sheltered away from the rain and cold wind (at least here in Portland) you are going to need something to read, and I have a few haunting suggestions for you.

1. The Bird Eater by Ania Ahlborn (3.42 Goodreads)

bird eater ania ahlborn

Goodreads Summary: Twenty years ago, the mysterious death of his aunt left Aaron Holbrook orphaned and alone. He abandoned his rural Arkansas hometown vowing never to return, until his seven-year-old son died in an accident, plunging Aaron into a nightmare of addiction and grief. Desperate to reclaim a piece of himself, he returns to the hills of his childhood, to Holbrook House, where he hopes to find peace among the memories of his youth. But solace doesn’t come easy. Someone—or something—has other plans. Like Aaron, Holbrook House is but a shell of what it once was, a target for vandals and ghost hunters who have nicknamed it “the devil’s den.” Aaron doesn’t believe in the paranormal—at least, not until a strange boy begins following him wherever he goes. Plagued by violent dreams and disturbing visions, Aaron begins to wonder if he’s losing his mind. But a festering darkness lurks at the heart of Holbrook House… a darkness that grins from within the shadows, delighting in Aaron’s sorrow, biding its time.

My Thoughts: Wonderfully creepy. There was a part of me that was never certain if what was going on was real or imagined, and a part of me that dreaded turning the page to find out.

2. Written in Red by Anne Bishop (4.36 Goodreads)

written in red anne bishop

Goodreads Summary: As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

My Thoughts: “Written in Red” has one of the most unique views on creatures of the night that I have read. It is wildly creative, and well worth the read. There are some nail biting parts, but overall if you are sensitive to scary, you should be good here.

3. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (3.74 Goodreads)

the historian elizabeth kostova

Goodreads Summary: Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

My Thoughts: I have a morbid fascination with Vlad Tepas and the role his bloody legend played in the creation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. This story is such a wonderful and haunting tale that in some ways shows how a legacy can become a legend. I am not going to lie, this is one of my favorite books. It’s got just enough creep factor to make it a perfect Halloween read.

4. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman (3.82 Goodreads)

Anno Dracula Kim Newman

Goodreads Summary: It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort Vlad Tepes, the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. Peppered with familiar characters from Victorian history and fiction, the novel follows vampire Geneviève Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club as they strive to solve the mystery of the Ripper murders.

Anno Dracula is a rich and panoramic tale, combining horror, politics, mystery and romance to create a unique and compelling alternate history. Acclaimed novelist Kim Newman explores the darkest depths of a reinvented Victorian London.

My Thoughts: Yet another vampire novel that plays with the legend of Vlad Tepas. Sensing a pattern here? Vampires, Queen Victoria, and Jack the Ripper in an interesting alternate history? This story was steampunk before people even knew what steampunk was. Kim Newman has a wonderful writing style, and the best word for this story is engrossing. I could not put it down. The sequel “The Bloody Red Baron” is worth a read too, though I did not lose myself in it nearly as much as Anno Dracula.

5. Splintered by A.G. Howard (4.02 Goodreads)

splintered ag howard

Goodreads Summary: This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

My Thoughts: I could do without the burgeoning love triangle, but otherwise, this is a great read. If you really think about it, “Alice in Wonderland” is one of the most frightening tales we tell our children. Lewis Carroll’s classic has taken imagination in a darker direction for years. This is one of the best “dark” adaptations I have read. Asylums, monsters, dark and dangerous world, and so much more make it an excellent Halloween read.

Book Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (All Souls Trilogy 3)

Please be warned that this review contains spoilers for the first and second books in the “All Souls Trilogy”. It would be impossible to review without spoiling them, but I will try to keep it to a minimum.

It took me a while to get to this book because of my Galleys, but the time has come for my adventures with Diana and Matthew DeClaremont to end, and I am saddened by that fact. It has been such an amazing journey from Diana’s discovery of Ashmole 782 in a “Discovery of Witches”, to Diana and Matthew’s romp through the 16th century in “Shadow of Night”, and finally their action packed return to the modern word in “The Book of Life”. This series had me at “Oh look, such a pretty cover!” I mourn its end.

The conclusion to the “All Souls Trilogy” is non-stop action. Nothing is ever easy for the witch and vampire couple and when they return to modern times, they have very little time to rest. First, Diana must face the loss of one she holds dear, as well as the loss of her freedom and coven in the 16th century. Then Matthew must deal with the deadly politics of his family. All of this while Diana goes through a highly unprecedented pregnancy. But, it doesn’t end there. The search for Ashmole 782 is still on, and the congregation is still on thier tale.

Our favorite cast of characters returns in the final installment. Ysabelle, Gallowglass, Diana’s aunts, and Marcus are key players. We are also introduced to a few new faces that serve to enrich the story rather than confuse. Deborah Harkness has a way of writing her character’s interactions in such a believable way that I am drawn into their world and can understand their feelings and interactions. There were moments in the story where my heart ached for the people I had come to love.

Deborah Harkness never wavered in her telling of the story. Diana’s strength and resolve remain a fixture. Her scientific and academic approach to the existence of creatures in the modern world continues and we are even offered a few revelations by the end of the series. Intrigue abounds, and I can promise that I was never bored. “The Book of Life” is everything its predecessors were, and more. If you enjoyed the first two books, you definitely don’t want to miss this one! I hope Deborah Harkness shares more of her stories with the world, because I can easily see her becoming one of my favorite authors.

the_book_of_life_deborah_harkness

Book Review: A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

I would not like the narrator if I met him in person. He is self righteous, bitter , and jaded. He constantly makes jabs about modern society, revering the good old days of the 90s, before cell phones and digital libraries. There were points in which he was on a soapbox, and I desperately wanted him to step down and continue with the story. The truth is, I would not like half of the characters in this crazy story. And yet, I loved this book. I have never enjoyed a book so much when I disliked the characters so immensely. I almost gave up, but I didn’t. Garth Stein must have a gift, because even as the characters’ actions put me on edge, I kept reading. I wanted to know. No… I needed to know the secrets locked away in Riddel house. “A Sudden Light” is less of a ghost story than it is a portrait of a horribly broken and dysfunctional family, and the secret lies within the haunting. It is a coming of age story that resembles a train wreck. And. like I would continue to stare in horror as a train jumped its tracks and crashed, I could not take my eyes off the words on my screen.

There isn’t much I can say about this story without giving away the secrets within, so I will leave you with some impressions. My heart ached for these family members who hurt, lashed out, manipulated, and belittled one another even as those same interactions goaded me into anger. You can understand, as the story unfolds, what brought them to this point in their lives. Trust me, I felt like I needed counselling by the time I has swiped past the final page. The setting, so beautiful, and so depressing was a perfect fit for this tale.

Those who are looking for a straight forward haunted house story might be disappointed. “A Sudden Light” is character driven and full of lengthy poetic prose that call up the works of authors long dead. It contain powerful messages about love, duty, and conservation. What does a promise mean to the living? What does it mean to the dead? Is there a such thing as a truly happy ending?

“A Sudden Light” toes the line between young adult and adult books with a 34 year old narrator looking back on his fourteenth year, a time full of turbulence and change. I have no doubt that it will appeal to both audiences. It is also LGBTQ friendly. It is rare to find a young adult book that has a realistic and authentic gay relationship. I thought that Garth Stein handled it as he would any heterosexual relationship. It added to my enjoyment not to read a caricature of a gay couple as I have in other books. If you are a fan of character driven dramas, I would suggest you give this one a try, even if you don’t normally read ghost stories.

a sudden light garth stein

A Magical Autumn: Five Amazing Books Featuring Magic

Almost as if on queue, the weather has turned cool and breezy with a touch of rain and the trees that were green just last week have begun to change into beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow. Portland is quickly becoming a fall fairyland. I can smell the crispness of the breeze and almost taste the creamy deliciousness of pumpkin and other winter squashes. The transition from summer into fall has always been a magical time for me. It is a time of stunning transformation. A time of harvest and bounty. A time to enjoy, because it is fleeting, like the days of spring.

To celebrate this time and get you in a magical frame of mind, I have pulled together a list of magical titles for you to enjoy.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

This charming story was written by Salman Rushdie for his son while he was in exile. The story takes you on an adventure in the war torn world where all stories come from as the protagonist and his father try to get his father’s stories back.

The Diviners (The Diviners Book 1) by Libba Bray

Flappers, murder, and supernatural powers. You really can’t beat that combination. On top of that, Libba Bray writes in a way that makes the 1920’s come to life. Themes of friendship, duty, and acceptance are woven throughout this fun murder mystery.

Among Others by Jo Walton 

“Among Others” is a Hugo Award winning masterpiece that follows the life of a young Welsh girl who has suffered a great deal of tragedy in her young life and now finds herself in an English boarding school. She seeks solace in the pages of classic science fiction novels (which aren’t so classic at the time the story is set) and the magic in the world around her. Magic no one else can see. Jo Walton has a lyrical, character focused, style that drew me in right away.

The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi

Don’t confuse this novella with the famous novel by Paulo Coelho of the same name (is that confusing or what?). I love Bacigalupi’s post-apocalyptic fiction, so I thought I would give his co-written fantasy novella a go. I was definitely not disappointed. In a world where magic has a price that the entire society must pay, what would happen if someone could create a machine that would save them all? This is a short read, but worth the time.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I could go on and on about the “All Souls Trilogy” of which this is the first book, but I won’t. Soon I will have a review up with my thoughts on the final installment, and you can read a bit about the time I met the author here: Deborah Harkness at Powell’s Books. “A Discovery of Witches” is the first in a series of books set in a world like our own where vampires, witches, and daemons exist right alongside normal human beings. When witch Diana Bishop comes across a mysterious manuscript in the Bodelain Library, her entire life changes, for it is quite possible that she in her hands is a lost book that holds secrets every supernatural creature would like to know. The “All Souls Trilogy” has one of the most unique and intelligent takes on the supernatural that I have ever read.

Please note that I am a Powell’s Partner and All Night Reading will receive a small percentage of every purchase from the link above.
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