“Last Sacrifice” by Richelle Mead

This is the last in the Vampire Academy series. I don’t usually review full series but I have been low on books so you guys get reviews for EVERYTHING I read. And I read a lot.

I have slowed down lately because of my meds, but I’m still trying to read as much as possible. Reviews have been slow and far apart, my other reviewers do have their own lives and we are still in the middle of a pandemic (we have entered our …3rd? 4th? lock-down. So …it’s not improving around here). Myself and Lilith are disabled (we also both have our own small businesses), Asteria works for a hospital, and Apollo is an Assistant Manager. As I said, I’m doing the best I can so everyone sticking around and still supporting us means a lot! Eventually we will get back to normal …I hope.

Will I talk about the icky grooming in this review? You bet your ass I will!

This review is OBVIOUSLY going to be filled with spoilers because it is the last in the series, but I promise to not ruin any real surprises.

We are still following Rose and her adventures, and this time, she is accused of killing the Moroi Queen. We all know she didn’t do it, but for some reason there is a lot of damning evidence against her. Locked up and separated from everyone, she sits and tries to figure out how she got there. Up until there is a huge explosion and Dimitri (ex-strigoi thanks to Lissa) comes and breaks her out.

The majority of the book is about Rose and her rag-tag group trying to find a mysterious half-sibling of Lissa’s to help her win a seat on the council (each royal family needs more than one member to be seated on the council, and as far as anyone else knows, Lissa is the last surviving Dragomir). Also, as a way to get more time for Lissa and HER group to find out who framed Rose, they nominate Lissa for Queen. Since Rose can slip into Lissa’s mind, we get to see Lissa’s view as she goes through the trials to be Queen, and what everyone is doing to figure out who framed Rose. It does make it interesting that you get to see the full story, instead of just what Rose and Dimitri are doing and just hearing that Lissa is doing something.

Let’s discuss the love triangle! I read online that there was a “Team Dimitri” versus “Team Adrian” thing going on and all I could think of was “Team possibly-Grooming” versus “Team definitely-Grooming”. They’re both much older men, and Adrian pursued Rose like crazy and created a dating contract and everything. It all felt very icky to me. Normally love triangles just make me roll my eyes, but ones this toxic and gross concern me. It shouldn’t be taught that a man in his 20’s pursuing a 15 – 16 year old girl is okay. Or making the excuse “She’s 18 now!” is also okay. Even Rose’s mother and father treated it like “ho’ hum, silly teens!” Like, no. This is not okay. They were both men of power (Dimitri her TEACHER, and Adrian a Royal Moroi) using that power to seduce an under-aged teen.

If it wasn’t for that, this would have been a better book. When Mead had Rose dating boys her own age, I enjoyed the book more. But then she inevitably brought her back to Dimitri. Dimitri is hot, there is no ifs ands, or buts about it. He’s the strong silent type who can be dark and seductive. There is also the allure of taboo. He’s an older man, they SHOULDN’T be doing that but neither can resist because they are madly in love. I get it. Teens have hormones and this is as close as they can legally get to buying porn. I was a teen once too.

I enjoy the hunting parts, and the mystery, and the lives of the vampires. The world Mead created is interesting and I like this take on Vampires. The “Half-Vampire” thing never works for me because typical vampires are undead. Can’t have babies, but in Mead’s lore the half-vampires (known as Dhampirs) WORK – she explains exactly how it works and since Moroi are alive, she has made vampirism a species, not a disease. So I give her massive credit for that.

Rose is annoying as hell; she’s egotistical, shallow, childish, and rash. But I still like her. Lissa is her complete opposite so it does make for an interesting dynamic. And reminds me of myself and Apollo – we have been friends for 19 years and we still get asked how the hell the two of us are friends because we are complete opposites. So that dynamic DOES happen.

All in all, I enjoyed the series. If it wasn’t icky grooming I’d like it more, but for what it is, I do like it. I think the grooming brings up a talking point, and a way to identify it – because grooming never feels like grooming and society teaches people that attention from older men is a good thing.

If you like the Vampires-in-High-School trend, this is definitely one of the better and more interesting. Read it for Rose and Lissa and the interesting Lore Mead creates. If you want to be on a Team, go for it. This is truly just MY OPINION.

“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo: Book VS. TV adaptation

Because of the way I was introduced to this book, I thought it fair to do a comparison of the TV show (which I saw first) and the YA book it was based off of.

Before I get into the review though, I’d like to reiterate my thoughts on TV/Movie adaptations of books. I love adaptations; I love to see what another persons view of the media is – costumes, sets, actors. Yes, I even love the changes they make – to a degree. This is how I feel about it – if the adaptation stays true to the heart of the book, then change away! Writing and Visual media are drastically different, and not just in a “well d’uh” way. Writing can delve into the depth of thought and the depth of scenery, it can point out the ominous signs and the glitter in a characters eye. With TV and Movie, you have to SHOW that, and unless you have a non-stop narrator there’s no inner thought. If you zoom into someone’s face to show emotion, will everyone watching perceive the emotion the same? Will they understand the depth of the scene if they don’t have the character’s monologue? So, there are always a lot of changes to show the things that a book can perfectly explain to you. Not to mention shows are limited to what is physically possible and safely possible. Is their budget big enough to get that nice sweeping shot? Can they be in the proper locations? Is an actor or stunt double willing to be blown up?

Another big edit that I’m usually pretty happy about is travel. How many books have chapters and chapters of characters traveling from one point to another? Game of Thrones (especially the first book, dear lord), Lord of the Rings Trilogy (let’s be real, the first book was 80% walking), just to name a few. But when long scenes are cut out, important dialogue has to be shuffled. Scenes get blended, other scenes get made up, and that’s fine. I forget who the interview was with, but they said the changes made were for the book fans, so they could enjoy it like the first time viewers. So they couldn’t predict every scene and every outcome, and I appreciate that. I admit, some scenes that are added are dumb (IMO) but they do add twists.

Let’s start with the most difficult thing for the show runner to adapt – Shadow and Bone is all from the main characters perspective. In this adaptation you lose Alina’s thoughts on everything, her knowledge, her feelings towards people and scenarios – so they have to figure a way to show these things. Because of that some of her history is lost and her true feelings (yes, she has a crush on Mal – and has forever, but she hates his snoring).

Alina Starkov, in the book, is explained as pale as soured milk, plain looking, with mousey hair. But generally Caucasian. The actress that plays her, Jessie-Mei Li, is Half-Chinese. Through reading the book, I noticed some similarities in Bardugo’s lands, and our own. The people known as the Shu remind me greatly of China, so in the show they made Alina a Shu orphan. I read an article when the show was about to premiere that they wanted to add in that edge, because of everything that was happening in our own lives, they wanted to reflect it. Many shows do that, basically to show how idiotic the situation is. So many times in the show Alina has to deal with ignorance and racism (I did personally feel bad about this because she was already dealing with the pandemic Anti-Asian bullshit. She spoke up a lot about Anti-Hate, and in the show they made her deal with comments on her “Shu eyes” and things like that).

The story actually follows the book incredibly close. Alina Starkov, just one of hundreds of orphans made by the thing called the fold. There is a dark rip in the middle of their continent (world?) filled with horrifying creatures. People still need to travel, life has to continue, so for hundreds of years they have been driving ships across sand and through the fold. How is that possible? By people known as Grisha. Grisha (some nations call they witches and kill them) harness the “small sciences” and can cast and control certain elements. You have the ones that can throw fire, the ones that can create wind (and can cause a squall big enough to blow a full size ship through pure darkness), but then there are ones that can stop your heart and can control your mind. Alina, at least in the beginning of the book, is a simple map maker in the local army. One of her fellow orphans, Mal, is a tracker in the army as well. The two grew up together and have spent every moment together. When Alina could trust no one and felt exiled and alone, there was always Mal.

In one of their postings, the two groups were sent across the fold. They needed to map extra places, especially with War brewing between the two nations. As you can imagine, everything goes horribly wrong and the ship is over run by these monsters, the Volcra. Mal is brutally injured and as Alina is snatched out of his arms a bright light comes from within her.

Our dear Alina is a Grisha – and a special one known as a Sun Summoner. Basically, the only Grisha in the world with the ability to destroy the Shadow Fold. All children are tested as children under the Darkling’s orders (he’s more or less the ruler of the Grisha) and if proven to be Grisha, are brought to him to be trained. Because Alina didn’t want to be separated from Mal, she subconsciously pushed her powers down – in the show because that’s something hard to show visually, she slices her hand to distract herself.

The show cuts out a lot of the travel that Alina and Mal take, but for the most part they follow the same plot path.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers if you haven’t indulged in this series but otherwise the only BIG change is a character in the book only known as “The Darkling” is given a name.

I loved the show, to be honest I’ve watched is probably half a dozen times. Alina is not a strong character, so in both the book and the show she has to work hard. The book is given more time to show her personal growth and the learning curve – the show we basically get a training montage and move on. The book feels like it takes place over several months, where the show feels like a week. That kind of speeds up relationships and events and some of it gets a little muddled. I love watching characters grow and change and learn, I hate the trend of super-human females who are perfect from the get-go (looking at you live-action Mulan). Woman are humans too, no one is born perfect, we all fuck up and have to learn. That is also what makes an endearing character. Alina is thrown into a world she knows nothing about and has to learn a lot of hard lessons.

Before I forget, a HUGE change between the book and the series is another book in the Grishaverse known as the Six of Crows. They are not in Shadow and Bone, but the writers of the show weaved a completely new story into it. They called it the “prequel” to Six of crows so it doesn’t really change either book storylines drastically. Events were tweaked to include the Crows and it worked with the S&B plot. An example – in the book, the King has a big party with entertainers and all the nobility to show off the Grisha and the brand new Sun Summoner, spoiler events happen and Alina sneaks away into the entertainers wagons as they leave the castle. For the show, they have the Crows infiltrate the entertainers so they can get into that party to try and kidnap Alina. As we follow their plan, one goes awry and kills a handmaid bespelled to look like Alina, while the others get in and get as close to her as they can before the Darkling whisks her away and foils their specially laid out plan. While outside manning their escape vehicle, a Crow notices Alina sneak out and hop into the trunk on the back. Obviously these scenes are different, but in the end they go to the same place – Aline escaping the castle. In the show she then escapes the Crows and heads into a city, once again perfectly matching up with the book storyline. It’s shockingly well done.

As usual though, I recommend both watching the show and reading the book. The book rounds Alina out a little more, and shows a different view of the same scenes. It’s a well written and interesting book and I get upset when I have to put it down and go to bed.

Shadow and Bone is a Trilogy, so it will be interesting to see what the show does when it catches up, and the Six of Crows is so far only 2 books I believe? But they are both part of a series known as the Grishaverse. You damn well know that once I’m done the S&B series I’m getting the Six of Crows, I actually enjoyed their characters and heists more than Alina’s story.

“Amped” by Daniel H. Wilson

I don’t know the exact date I got this book, but it was back when I still worked at the bookstore because there is a label on it from the publisher. So this book has been out for a WHILE. Even though I KNOW that, I had to double check when it was published because it’s hitting beat for beat what has happened the past 3 – 4 years. Want to lose faith in humanity? This book was published in 2012. 10 years old and it could have been written this year.

That’s not to say that the book’s subject was intentional in the losing faith in humanity specter, even though it doesn’t help.

The book takes place in the somewhat near future, where everything sounds similar to today, but technology was developed that we haven’t quite mastered yet. Scientists created a device they can put into a human brain to make them smarter. People born disabled would be given the same advantages as everyone else. They were even creating these devices to correct ailments like epilepsy. Sounds great right?

Enter this book’s version of an anti-vaxxer!

The Pure Priders. People who feel that those with the implants, or “amps” as they are called, aren’t real people, they’ve been given too many advantages, forcing out the true, real, PURE humans. Older people with failing bodies are given amps and exoskeletons and reintroduced to the work force, “taking jobs” from the younger group. Notice the quotes around taking jobs? Sound familiar?

The Pure Priders hold rally’s, stake out jobs that have a large amount of amp employees, harass and abuse any amps they see. Amps are easily spotted because of the maintenance port on their temples. Pure Priders have started a new trend of leaving your temples clear of everything – including hair.

Owen Gray, a simple Amp teacher, witnesses the suicide of a student and fellow Amp. Owen’s amp was simply put in to stop his seizures, giving him no advantage over pure humans. His seizures were so severe after an accident that he could not function around them. There is a scene in the book where his amp gets turned off an he spends hours on the floor alternating between seizures and unbearable pain. Pure Priders feel that the pain of their brain ailments is worth it to remain “human”. This reminded me so much of the arguments around CBD. When I was a bit younger I remember a new story about a child who was basically catatonic so his parents attempted treating with CBD (back when it was “illegal”). Within weeks I do believe, the kid was back in school and functioning like a regular child. The parents were charged with child abuse and the child was taken off the CBD and allowed to recess back into the catatonic state. So what’s the true child abuse?

That’s what I mean about this book, it might be about Pure Priders versus Amps, and the really cool secret amp that was installed in Owen’s head (along with 12 super soldiers) that allows the amp to run on autopilot and make them deadly killers. What I saw in the book was the immigration/refugee issues, Internment camps, Me Too, BLM, Handmaids tale. There was a line in the book basically saying Amps are one signature away from losing all rights as humans. As an AFAB, I just chuckled and thought “first time here?” Back in the day women weren’t allowed to own property, make money, pretty much DO anything without a husband/father/brother/son, and Handmaids tale really showed us that we are only a few votes away from being nothing more than wombs on legs. “Amped” really illustrated that we all are one legislation away from being viewed as sub-human, without the protection of law, simply because someone doesn’t like us.

Moral dilemmas aside, this is a great book. Wilson is a great writer and if you want a cool borderline sci-fi (no flying cars or phasers) that will turn your stomach if you think too deeply about it, this is it. Owen’s plight is interesting because he is your average Joe thrown into an insane situation that pulls him in every direction. Does he side with the other super soldiers and learn how to control the thing in his head? Or does he stay and help the rest of the amps and their families?

“Spirit Bound” by Richelle Mead

Yes, I am still frighteningly low on books. My partner now works out of town so I get out even less, meaning I will probably be reviewing full series.

This one is book 5 in the Vampire Academy series and a LITTLE less creepy than the last few. Rose has graduated and is now out in the real world. Unfortunately, her record means she will probably be stuck sorting files for the rest of her life, instead of guarding Lissa.

Continuing on from the last book, the girls believe they have a way to cure the Strigoi, but they have to do some pretty shady things to get that information. Namely, breaking Lissa’s “uncle” and abuser, Victor, out of a high security prison. As you can imagine, this is a common trope in many books where a gaggle of teens can outsmart a high security anything successfully. If it’s that easy, it’s clearly not high security. But, there wouldn’t be a book without it. They break him out, take him to the only person alive who has cured a Strigoi, lose the criminal, and then go back to court to plan and figure out how to cure a Strigoi. Namely, Dimitri. Rose’s trainer and ex-lover. You know, the pedophile groomer. That one. In this book Rose is also dating Adrian, creating a standard love triangle.

The beginning of the book was groan worthy with teens being able to outsmart trained professionals, but the middle of the book blew by! I had to sit outside of my house for 4 hours a little while ago and I spent the entire time reading, I didn’t want to put the book down.

With the girls out of school, the book is able to delve much deeper into Moroi politics and the ways their world works. This puts both Rose and Lissa into situations they don’t know how to get out of. The change does make it interesting, but sadly Rose seems to be declining in her maturity. She was already borderline annoying, but now she has gone full force crazy ex-girlfriend. That is my one glaring complaint, Rose doesn’t have to be perfect, but she can have some self respect.

I am still enjoying this series, even with it’s icky moments and irritating character developments. I have this entire series plus the ones that come after it about different characters, I do believe. So, we won’t be getting away from Vampire Academy any time soon. Thankfully Mead is a good writer.

“Castle Dubrava” by Yuri Kapralov

Sorry for the long pauses in between book reviews. Everyone is still battling with pandemic times so I’m not leaning on them for reviews, I hope everyone who reads these can understand that. My own health has RAPIDLY declined so I’ve been in and out of hospitals for testing and put on a cocktail of new medication. I apologize profusely that the blog has not kept up to its normal volume but I do hope you understand we live in chaotic, unpredictable times.

Moving on from that, Castle Dubrava …ooh, Castle Dubrava what a wild ride you were.

I’m almost not 100% sure how I ended up with a library book published in 1982? I grab books from so many places it kind of blends together in my brain.

I …had several issues with this book. Several. I understand it was written in a different time and took place in that era but …some errors just transcend time. Also, the plot lines and things in the book wouldn’t be able to happen today, which does make it a little interesting. (Oh no, she’s missing! Maybe she ran off with another man? Here, let’s trace her cellphone! Oh no, she’s actually at the old abandoned church, we should go find her – End of book)

The book starts with Sally, an office lady in the States, who receives a letter from a long lost lover. The letter invites her to join him for a holiday in his homeland of Romania. Naturally she takes a month leave and hops on the first plane she can get (apparently the d*ck was that good – yes, references were made to the amount of sex they had). Oh, the 80s, back in a time when shit like that was affordable.

In Romania, as she waits for her lover, Nikolai, she is passed by an ornate and curiously old fashion horse-drawn carriage. Don’t worry, there were cars in this time, I was technically born 3 years after it was published -I can promise you, there was technology. Inside the carriage is a beautiful young man, but somehow the man looks familiar …but why?

This is where the book completely derails for me. People around the town were getting attacked by a woman that looked exactly like the red-headed American woman. My thought was ooo, mystery! We are following Sally until she starts hallucinating and running wild in the woods and then she’s just gone. Ushered away to Castle Dubrava where the mysterious man in the carriage, Michea, lives.

Changing points of view isn’t a huge deal, it’s just that as soon as Sally is gone we are thrown a mass of new characters all telling completely different stories. And for some reason, the writing wasn’t BAD, it was just hard to follow. Very few details and with every chapter something new, it was hard to get settled into a scene. As soon as you started to figure out what was happening you were tossed into the next scene with the next person. There were time lapses with no indication of time to get an idea of how long the time lapse had been. So everything became a little muddled to me.

The basic plot is – Sally goes missing, her luggage still in the room, Nikolai (her lover and a policeman) just assumes she went back to America or ran off with another man (without her luggage). People in the town around Castle Dubrava spread rumors that Michea is a Vampire, and the passing events have Nikolai believing these tales. Before Sally goes missing, two Germans are found murdered and drained of blood. The Germans were Archaeologists and found in possession of 5 pages from an old sacred script. Still being sore about WW2, the Romanian police spend little to no effort investigating the murder. Michea is linked to the pages (he has the original book the scripts come from) and Nikolai proposes to the rest of the police force that Michea is a Vampire who killed those men looking for the 5 pages …and is basically laughed right into medical leave.

Throughout the rest of the story, Sally’s story is revealed more through Michea’s story and the Priest (another random character thrown in), and the officer brought in to replace Nikolai (who also kind of disappears).

Some people may like this book, it has a different view on Vampires, and isn’t your standard typical High School sparkling Vampire that haunts the media now. But, it’s not my thing. I started to lose interest when I could no longer follow the story and none of the characters had really distinctive personalities so when a whole mass of Romanian names are thrown at me with cookie cutter personalities, I start to lose track of who is who.

Try this book if you like really old stories with lots of War references, or …just find a better modern book?

“The Dysasters” by P.C.Cast and Kristin Cast

Once again, a Cast book. I always try to give her books a fair shot because SOMETIMES they are really good (Like Moon Chosen, it was great!).

It’s basically about a scientist who bonded children with the elements. His first projects are slowly going insane, so when he tried the experiment again, he created two children to balance out one another with the element. The story follows Foster, who is on the run from the scientist with her adoptive mother Cora …who happens to be the wife of the scientist. Everything changes when the original four finds them and attacks right when they meet the other half of Fosters element – Tate. The rest of the story follows them as they run from the original four and try to find the other elements.

I’m on the fence about this book. It’s not BAD. But it’s not super great.

It sounds like it would be great, but the book is a whole lot of nothing really happening. The characters aren’t endearing enough to really carry a shitty plot line (like Cassandra Clare’s can) so I found the book lacking.

Then, Cast tried to science out how the children were made. He bonded Foster and Tate when they were still in the embryo with O2 and shot them with Gamma Rays. I wanted to curl up with all my science books and cry. O2, H2O …but I’m curious what chemical they go with for fire since fire is a reaction, not a periodic element. And for earth …which one? Earth as in soil? Rocks? Which rock? What kind of soil? The original four are going insane from their abilities; one sees weird creatures, one is fading I think, and Eve – the earth controller, spawns tumors made of gems and it’s slowly killing her. Her father, the scientist, draws the power of her gemstones from her to get them off of her body, but he is also addicted to the high he gets from it.

Caught all that?

It’s an interesting IDEA, I just don’t think it was executed completely well.

There were some things I liked about the book! I promise! One of the children bonded with water is actually transgender, so that was really cool! She might not have been a MAIN character, but she was important, not just a throw away character like other series have done.

Her writing feels a LITTLE adult, there is a fair amount of swearing (I KNOW teens swear, believe me, I was the champ at it, but sometimes it’s a little much) but she didn’t dive into the sexual aspect as much as her House of Night series, which was nice. The kids started calling the original four the ‘fucktastic four’, and I was going to make a joke at the expense of it …then I remembered a while ago I was talking to my husband about something and came out with ‘fucktardians of the galaxy’ so I really have no room to complain.

For a YA book it’s not bad, the characters aren’t too cliche, it’s a little predictable, but it’s a decent brainless read.

“Blood Promise” by Richelle Mead

Books are getting low. So yes, I will be reviewing ENTIRE series. I’m sorry.

When I started this series it was fun, standard typical vampire YA. Interesting ideas, relatively interesting characters, decent writing, interesting plot.

…But then, the ick happened.

Grooming. Statutory Rape. Under-age Sex. Teacher – Student relations. Pick your terminology.

If they had kept it a harmless crush, or dancing around a bit, fine. But the moment Rose entered an actual sexual relationship with Dimitri it got a little too ick for me. When she was put under his care she was about 16? He is 7 years her senior. They trained together, and when she was closer to 17, they started sleeping together. It is wrong on many levels. Too many stories are coming out about men using their power (managers, bossed, mentors, etc) to manipulate and assault the younger people coming into that industry. It’s sexual assault no matter how you frame it but this book romanticizes it.

At the end of the last book …

… *SPOILERS* …

Dimitri was turned into a Strigoi – which is a type of vampire that feeds on other vampires. Basically, what people like rose and Dimitri are trained to hunt to the keep the Moroi (true Vampires) safe. Dhampirs and Moroi can willingly turn into Strigoi, or they can be forced into it. The ones that are turned forcefully usually let it know amongst their other Guardians that they want to be executed if it ever happened to them. That is the case with this book. Dimitri let it be known to Rose that he would rather be dead.

And thus, this book starts with Rose completely bailing out of school and abandoning Lisa to look for Dimitri to kill him. I have so many issues with this book, I feel like such a jack-ass since I relatively enjoy these books. I’ll just point form the things that made me mad before I prattle on about the actual plot.

  1. Rose doesn’t know where Dimitri is, she is acting on a hunch that sends her to RUSSIA. She also refuses to tell anyone where she is so they can’t find her and stop her.

2. She left right before her graduating, ending her potential career as a Guardian. Unless she pretends to be human and joins their world, her options are basically Mercenary or Prostitute.

3. She abandoned Lissa. The girl she has known most of her life, who literally raised her from the dead and bonded the two of them together. The girl she had originally ran from the school with to protect.

4. She’s 17 turning 18. She’s a child.

5. She went without a plan, just a general idea, to the other end of the world. To kill a guy that was already stronger than her, and now has Strigoi strength.

6. She met Dimitri’s family and they thought their relationship was wonderful and they introduced her to another Shadow-Kissed couple that are married and years apart. Romanticizing this type of relationship is damaging to younger audiences. When the hot 20-something starts hitting on them they think it’s true love and books like this make it seem okay. Yes, my husband and I are 6 years apart, but I met him when I was 27! We make jokes about the age gap when we were younger and if I hadn’t been in my late 20s, it would have been gross.

Rose gets attacked by some Strigoi and because of her ramblings when she was unconscious, she was brought to Dimitri’s family. From there she is introduced to his mother and sisters, as well as his Grandmother, and a strange non-royal Moroi named Abe.

The story gets more into the Shadow-Kissed and spirit user thing, but every decision Rose made was just bad and really just highlighted that she’s a snotty brat who is always used to getting her way.

I do enjoy the series, and I won’t let this book turn me sour for the rest of them. But if you are reading this book, just be aware that it’s not aging well.

“Killer of Men” by Christian Cameron

I stumbled across Christian Cameron years and YEARS ago when my Aunt dropped off a giant box of books for my parents to read. Obviously I had to get in there since I have broader reading tastes than they do and came across one by him. It was an incredible book, so when I was used book store shopping and came across another by him, I nabbed it!

Sadly, it sat on my bookshelf for years …and years. But now that my TBR pile is itty bitty, it was time to go through the old 6ft book shelf and see who was neglected. My husband and I actually had a conversation about that, I made a joke that we were addicted to books and he scoffed, “I know, I’m the one that had to carry them downstairs!” I stammered a few times looking for a response and only managed; “I …well …maybe …some of those are yours!”

Both books I’ve now read by Christian Cameron are historical fiction, which I love. The older the better. So this book about Ancient Greece was RIGHT up my alley.

This book was written in a very interesting way, the protagonist, who is now an older man, it telling his life story to his daughter and her friends. I loved the way it was done, but it created an odd paradigm where you KNOW he succeeds at every task, because he’s the one telling us the story. I actually kind of liked how he would break the story to talk directly to his daughter and her friends, sometimes commenting on how he was an egotistical ass as a teenager/young adult, sometimes asking for more wine or commenting on his daughter getting upset at something in his story. It felt very “Interview with a Vampire” because of that.

Our protagonist is a man named Arimnestos of Plataea (warning now, I might spell some of these words wrong, I didn’t make notes and it’s a 404 page book so looking for a word used a handful of times is difficult) and the story starts when he is a child, at home with his parents and brother and sister. His father was a wonderful craftsman that drew the attention of great men, men like Miltiades – who brought mention of the war between Greece and Persia.

When the time came and all the men of Plataea gathered for war, Arimnestos’ family was called upon. His older brother was given armor as a hoplite and Arimnestos was tasked with the other young boys to distract the Persians and throw rocks at them. It was a rough battle, and his older brother did not make it. But Arimnestos learned something important that day that would be a common theme through the rest of the book – he was born killer. After getting his brothers armor and being upgraded in the phalanx, they rushed to the next battle.

As Elder Arimnestos liked to remind his daughter, there may be happy moments, but it was not a happy story. From losing his father to a back-stab, being sold into slavery, to fighting for his freedom and not knowing what else to do but keep fighting. Pirates, prostitutes, and the bronze storm.

If you aren’t a historical fiction fan, this book might be a bit boring. It goes through Arimnestos’ life from about age 9 to around 20. Growing up, going to war, things like that, nothing magical or thrilling, no horror or supernatural, just a young man stuck in a world that both wants to use his talent for killing, and to see him dead.

Arimnestos as a teen is a horrible person. Egotistical, naive, womanizing, all things that make him insufferable. But at the same time, that’s what made it interesting, he seems superhuman (ie: Mary Sue) but since he, in his older age, it the one narrating the story, it’s like he’s reanalyzing himself. He speaks about how egotistical he was, how immortal he felt, how foolish he was, and doesn’t shy away from when he really fucks up.

If you like historical fiction, especially ancient history, Cameron is a great author to check out!

“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman

I’ve been recently delving more in Neil Gaiman because I’ve always come across his books and I’ve heard nothing but praise for his work. And even though Sir Pratchett helped him write Good Omens, it was an incredible book (I do believe I reviewed it here), and created a need to read everything by both of them (I’ve read a few by Pratchett but I need more, I do believe I have reviews here for “colour of magic”).

I heard a lot about the Graveyard Book, enough that WITHOUT READING IT, we bought it for one of my husbands kids. But naturally …I wanted to read it too. So, we picked it up and it got tucked into my husbands reading shelf and forgotten. Yes, we both have shelves on our sides of the bed of books we want to read.

Fast forward to now when everything is closed and I’m running out of things to read. I happened to glance at my husbands side of the bed (he’s been out of town for work since January) and noticed two dusty covered books. A Dean Koontz, and this lovely gem. I grabbed it right away and set down to reading.

Immediately, like, literally first page, I’m thrown back to the 80s and early 90s to the era of Goosebumps, are you afraid of the dark (was that just a Canadian thing?), and tales from the crypt keeper. Back to a time where children’s shows were allowed to be creepy and scary, where they had deeper topics (granted, some kids shows are amazing for their messages) and pushed the buck a little further than they are allowed today.

And by that I mean, the book opens to a mysterious man wandering through the house of people he just murdered (a husband, wife, and elder daughter) looking for the toddler that escaped his notice. Down the hill from the house was a cemetery with an old crumbling chapel and the child wandered through the open door and down into the graveyard. The man Jack (that’s his name “the man jack”, he’s rarely referred to as just “Jack”) realized the child escaped and pursued him down into the graveyard.

The child is approached by two …residents of the graveyard, Mr and Mrs Owens, who notice something is amiss. The man is hunting around the graveyard, and is clearly chasing the child. Enveloping the toddler in her arms Mrs Owens disappears, taking the toddler with her. And yes, they are ghosts.

This starts the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens.

Bod is raised in the graveyard, taught ghostly magic (because the graveyard is protecting him, he is safe from all manner of ghosties, for the most part, and can fade, cause fear, dream walk, and several other tricks), and his mortal traits are looked after by his mysterious guardian Silas. Silas is neither alive nor dead, as are several of the characters that come in and out of Bods life.

The book is written almost like a TV series, each chapter is a different period in Bod’s life. Each chapter is essentially it’s own story, like Bod encountering ghouls, or finally entering the world to help buy a tombstone for a friend he made. Even though they are written like small segments, characters are consistent, and there is the constant threat that he isn’t allowed to leave the graveyard because outside of it they can’t protect him.

This is very clearly a 9 – 12 book, but Gaiman’s writing is amazing enough I think anyone can really enjoy it. It reminded me SO strongly of my childhood I almost got whiplash. I was the kid that would SEARCH for the horror and the creepy books, who snuck downstairs to watch Spawn when I was like 6. Some kids are just creepy, and this book embraces that, but also shows Bod conquering fear and showing that these ghosts, while scary, were once people. That the things that go bump in the night might just be a friend or ally in waiting if you take the time and patience to learn about them. Don’t judge the witch in the tree, or the scary noise in the corner of a dark room.

“Wytches” by Scott Snyder

Yes, this is another comic book/graphic novel. I do believe as well that it is a stand-alone. I saw it when it was still in comic issues and thought it looked super cool, so when the graphic novel came out I grabbed it right away. It would technically continue on, but I think it works perfectly as a stand-alone.

The comic is about the Rooks family – Charlie, Lucy, and Sailor. They recently moved to a new town – your standard fresh start from trauma. Lucy was in a car accident leaving her paralyzed from the waist down, and Sailor was bullied until the bully was attacked by …something in the trees.

Because of the story, a single volume graphic novel works. You feel fulfilled at the end, and while the BROADER story is obviously not cleared up, this small section of story is. It feels like it is part of a wider world, a grander story, and the way they left the Rooks, it is possible to carry on the story, but they also didn’t HAVE to.

Since it IS a small story, pretty much anything I say is spoilers.

Sailor was drawn out to the woods by a girl who had been bullying her for a while, with the intention of beating her or killing her (the girl brought a gun, and you only do that with one thing in mind). But something in the woods takes the bully, dragging her into a tree. She had hit Sailor in the head with the butt of her gun before the was attacked, so the police passed off Sailors story as a hallucination from a concussion. Cause naturally, who would believe monsters in the trees dragged her into a tree.

After the move Sailor is attacked in her bedroom, but a twisted and horrifying version of her bully.

This was my second read through because the first I remember feeling confused and couldn’t really remember the story now. The second read through reminded me of why I was confused, but also since I had a VAGUE memory of what happened, I was able to piece things together.

Because the story is kind of the middle of the Rooks story, you are following them, but also flashbacks to explain why things are happening in the story now. Even though this is a horror story about scary witches that eat children, it also holds themes of substance abuse, mental health, family ties, careful what you wish for, corruption, greed, and how far would you go to protect the ones you love? A lot of these I didn’t really pick up the first time through. The second time I noticed much more. Charlie is a comic artist, but he wrote the book as a way to overcome the horrible path he was down, to remind himself that he had great things in his life and didn’t want to lose that. But, because they are covering all of these views, sometimes the story gets lost in itself. When you go from current time, to a flashback, then to a panel of the “comic”, then back to the regular story, it does get a little confusing.

Also, the comic Charlie is writing reflects the themes of the rest of the book, which I also did not notice the first time. It kind of gives away the ending of the book, which I didn’t notice until the second time through. Which I did think was pretty interesting.

I love stories that grow the more you read them. I think that would be my only complaint of the book, is you really need to read it more than once to truly get it. I actually liked it more on my second read through, so there is that.

It is a great story, heart-breaking and heart-warming, scary (I also have a very skewed view of Horror so this might be more scary than I realized. I grew up reading and watching horror so not much scares me. If you are sensitive to horror PLEASE be wary of my recommendations.) and not reliant on media and pop culture references. They make a loose mention of Hansel and Gretel, which was fitting, so it didn’t seem out of place. If you are looking for a quick scary read about a father doing everything he can to protection his family, I recommend this one!