of monsters and madness blog tour (review + giveaway)

Today on Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia I’m part of the blog tour for Jessica Verday’s Of Monsters and Madness.  It’s a tale of gothic sensibilities and dark mystery.  It will be released by Egmont USA on September 9th, 2014.  Check out the end of the post for your chance to win a copy!

of monsters and madness blog tour






My education in classic horror has been sadly neglected.  I never read Frankenstein or The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and only short stories by Poe.  That said, these tales have become part of the pop culture lexicon, and I know the important parts of those stories because I’ve seen them reworked in film, comics or in novel retellings.  I keep saying I don’t like scary, but I do like dark fantasy, and much of it owes at least of piece of inspiration to the classics.  Jessica Verday’s Of Monsters and Madness is a gothic/horror mash-up with a perfectly pitched sense of impending doom.

of monsters and madness by jessica verday book cover
A romantic, historical retelling of classic Gothic horror featuring Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee, from a New York Times best-selling author.

Annabel Lee is summoned from Siam to live with her father in 1820's Philadelphia shortly after her mother's death, but an unconventional upbringing makes her repugnant to her angry, secretive father. Annabel becomes infatuated with her father's assistant Allan, who dabbles in writing when he's not helping with medical advancements. But in darker hours, when she's not to be roaming the house, she encounters the devilish assistant Edgar, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Allan, and who others insist doesn't exist.

A rash of murders across Philadelphia, coupled with her father's strange behavior, leads Annabel to satisfy her curiosity and uncover a terrible truth: Edgar and Allan are two halves of the same person - and they are about to make the crimes detailed in Allan's stories come to life. Unless Annabel stops them.

The year is 1826, and Annabel Lee has lived most of her life in Siam, far from her father’s influence and knowledge.  When her father finally sends for her just before her mother dies, Annabel knows she has no choice but to leave her home. When she arrives in chilly, dark Philadelphia, nothing is as she expected.  Her father is withdrawn and disproving.  Her surroundings are foreign.  And there are a rash of unexplained murders occurring nearby.  Annabel is determined to earn her father’s approval and learn the mysterious secrets of his house, but she doesn’t count on being attracted to her father’s assistant, Allan, or frightened of his mysterious cousin, Edgar.  As sinister happenings strike closer and closer to home, Annabel’s intuition and suspicions will not let her rest until she knows the truth—even if it endangers all she holds dear.

Well!  If you’ve read the official synopsis, you should have a pretty good idea of what will happen, and which classic tale the book retells.  The story’s surprises weren’t of the plot-twist variety, at least for me.  What was compelling about Of Monsters and Madness then?  Annabel Lee, of course!  She’s an unrepentantly curious character with a strong stomach, a desire to practice medicine, and a history in an entirely different culture.  She doesn’t fit the expectations of her sex for the time period or setting, and that causes disorientation and frustration, even though she tries to reign those feelings in.  The first person narration allows the reader to see it all through her eyes – and though she worries that she is cold like her father, in fact Annabel feels things deeply.  It is that deep feeling paired with curiosity that leads her into dangerous territory – and into the path of Allan/Edgar.  While the reader can guess what comes next, Annabel doesn’t know the story, and that makes her vulnerable to it. 

But back to the setting: historical! brooding! dangerous!  In other words, perfectly gothic, and a great backdrop for a tale of horror.  Speaking of horror, I’d say this is on the lighter-ish end of the spectrum, as I wasn’t scared away.  Still, there IS gore and murder… so it’s not the book for those who prefer sunshine and happy endings.  Though Annabel does seem a bit prone to wander into dangerous situations, her actions are plausible and the set-up works.  Another thing to be aware of: this is the first in a new series, and there are a some (okay, several) loose ends and mysteries left for following books.

In all, Of Monsters and Madness is a well-written homage to classic horror, a strong first entry in a new young adult series, and an ideal pick for Halloween reading.

Recommended for: anyone interested in classic horror, dark first-person narratives, historical fiction mashups, and fans of Kady Cross’ steampunk series for young adults.

Would you like a SIGNED copy of the book for yourself?  You're in luck!  Egmont USA is graciously allowing me to offer one copy to a lucky winner.  To enter, simply fill out the FORM.  Giveaway open to US/Canadian addresses only, will end on Monday, September 15 at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.  Good luck!

If you’re interested in learning more about author Jessica Verday and Of Monsters and Madness, check out the blog tour page, and tomorrow’s stops at The Book Monsters and Addicted 2 Novels.

Fine print: I received an ARC of this book for review consideration.  Giveaway prize provided by the publisher. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

blackfin sky blog tour (review + giveaway)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | | 2 comments
Do you like smart, sassy heroines with magical mysteries to solve?  Kat Ellis' debut novel Blackfin Sky may be the book for you.  It will be released by Running Press on September 2, 2014.  Check out the end of the post for your chance to win a copy!

Have you considered the elements that pull you into a story lately?  I am always partial to a beautiful book cover, but I’ve noticed my reading taste changing, too.  I am beginning to adore atmospheric magical mysteries, for one thing, and I’ve never thought of myself as a ‘mystery’ person.  Before I read the summary of Kat Ellis’ debut Blackfin Sky, I had NO intention of signing up for a book tour.  And then, somehow, I was hooked (like a fish on a line, she says, pun intended).  Good thing, too, because another one of my weaknesses is humor, and this book is strangely compelling AND funny.

blackfin sky by kat ellis book cover
Just like any other morning, Skylar Rousseau is late for school, but when she is greeted by a blanket of silent stares upon entering Blackfin High, she discovers that the whole town thought she fell from the pier and drowned on her sixteenth birthday three months earlier. However, Sky remembers the last three months living her life as normal, and since she is a full, living breathing human being, she has no idea whose body is buried underneath her tombstone. Everyone seems reluctant to help except her steadfast friend and crush, Sean... and a secretive man who draws her to a mysterious circus in the woods.

Sky must wade through impossibilities and lies to discover the truth about what happened to her, which proves to be a bit difficult when someone is following her every move with the intent to harm her. And Sky's only hope of finding the answers she seeks may have already been turned to ashes.

Skylar (or Sky, for short) is running late for school one morning when she notices that EVERYONE is acting weird.  Her friends, her family – it’s as if they’ve seen a ghost.  In fact, the entire town believes that Skylar fell off the pier three months ago on the night of her sixteenth birthday and died.  Skylar doesn’t know how or why everyone is under this delusion, but as Blackfin’s normal level of strange amps up, it’s up to her to unravel it all: her supposed death, the crazy fortuneteller’s odd pronouncements, the friend who went after her the night she died, her parents’ silences, and the odd circus in the woods. Blackfin’s citizens may be used to the town’s oddities, but they may also be in danger…

Skylar has never ventured far beyond the borders of Blackfin, but even she knows that the town is full of freaks.  And she counts herself as one of them – after all, she’s been enduring stares ever since she can remember.  Her unrequited crush on relative town newcomer Sean notwithstanding, life seems ideal.  Ideal until she wakes up one morning and everyone believes she has somehow returned from the grave.  Much of Skylar’s emotional energy in the first chapters is spent dealing with echoes of grief and open rumors of what happened on the night of her birthday. While the dialogue is snappy and it’s quite a hook, the main character’s very real confusion does not lend itself to immediate reader understanding.  In other words, the book gets off to a somewhat baffling start.

That said, things quickly pick up, as Sky’s intelligence, wit, and charm come to her aid in unraveling Blackfin’s mysteries.  It’s a fun, weird, crazy-in-a-good-way ride.  The sassy banter between Sky and her friends Bo and Cam is a major highlight, as is Sky’s relationship with her parents.  And of course we can’t forget her budding will-they-won’t-they-admit-their-feelings thing with Sean (it’s adorable too).  The supernatural/fantastical elements were done well, although I would love to one day see a diagram (or glossary of powers!) on paper.  It’s light contemporary fantasy with a twist of sci-fi for good measure.

If we’re going to talk cons, I must again point to the slow-ish start, and also to the overabundance of odd characters in Blackfin.  Which included a haunted weathervane named Silas and Sky’s home, aptly called Blood House (and an almost-sentient structure).  Yes, they add a charming dose of quirkiness, but I did, on a couple of occasions, wish there weren’t quite so many strange tendrils of story to keep track of.  At the same time, I couldn’t easily eliminate any one thing, so that kept the mystery intact. Net result = neutral-to-positive.

In the end, this is an engrossing story about a girl everyone thought was dead, and a legacy of creepy and freaky happenings that make her reappearance seem almost like one of Blackfin’s everyday occurrences.  It’s also young adult romance with snappy dialogue.  Basically, good fun.

Recommended for: fans of Gina Damico’s Croak and Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken, and anyone who likes contemporary young adult fantasy with humor, quirky heroines, and writing to pull off a combination of the two.

Interested in reading the book for yourself?  You're in luck!  Running Press is graciously allowing me to offer one copy to a lucky winner.  To enter, simply fill out the FORM.  Giveaway open to US addresses only, will end on Friday, September 5 at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.  Good luck!

Fine print: I received an ARC of this book for review consideration.  Giveaway prize provided by the publisher. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

waiting on wednesday (80)

Today I’m participating in "Waiting On" Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Its purpose is to spotlight upcoming book releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Blogging has taught me to love short stories.  I can read one or two on any given weeknight, and finish an entire story while also whittling away at a book (that I can later review, yay!).  Short stories are often dark and dangerous... which is perfect, because I still prefer small bites of horror, rather than novel-length ones.  And if we're going to talk about great, fantastical short stories, Kelly Link must enter the mix.  She is a master at both editing and writing tales of this size, and that's all there is to it.  That's why I'm so excited for Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant (EXCITED!).  It will be released by Candlewick on September 9, 2014.  Yay!

monstrous affections: an anthology of beastly tales edited by kelly link and gavin j. grant book cover
Fifteen top voices in speculative fiction explore the intersection of fear and love in a haunting, at times hilarious, darkly imaginative volume.

Predatory kraken that sing with — and for — their kin; band members and betrayed friends who happen to be demonic; harpies as likely to attract as repel. Welcome to a world where humans live side by side with monsters, from vampires both nostalgic and bumbling to an eight-legged alien who makes tea. Here you’ll find mercurial forms that burrow into warm fat, spectral boy toys, a Maori force of nature, a landform that claims lives, and an architect of hell on earth. Through these and a few monsters that defy categorization, some of today’s top young-adult authors explore ambition and sacrifice, loneliness and rage, love requited and avenged, and the boundless potential for connection, even across extreme borders.

What books are you waiting on?

top ten books i want to read but haven’t purchased/borrowed yet

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 | | 14 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

How do you keep track of the books you want to read but haven't purchased or borrowed yet?  In my pre-blogging days, I didn't 'keep track.'  Book discovery was limited to the library shelves, bookstore surprises, or on *very* rare occasions, author stalking via blogs.  Now however, I have lists of books I 'Want to Read' on Goodreads, an Amazon wishlist, and a meticulously curated library holds shelf.  I have many unread books at home, but the book-acquiring bug doesn't (ever) let up.  p.s. Friends and family: a bookstore gift card is ALWAYS a good bet if you don't know what to get me. *grin*

Top Ten Books I Want to Read But Haven’t Purchased/Borrowed Yet


1. Greenglass House by Kate Milford – Kate Milford is a fantastic human being, and she also writes lovely books.  Best combination ever.  This one (out today!) has two starred reviews, and I'll read it as soon as the library copies come in (I requested it through my local system, and they bought four copies! #winning).

2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I usually like (and sometimes adore) Gaiman's novels, but I've been dragging my feet on this one.  I didn't want to get caught up in the release hype, to be completely honest.  I'm thinking several cups of hot tea plus this book will make a long winter afternoon transcendent. 

3. The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones – Diana Wynne Jones' last book!  I am of two minds about this one.  I want to read it (obviously!), but I also never want to run out of possible DWJ books for emergencies.  Because DWJ's books are THE BEST for bad days, weeks, and months.  They're medicine for the soul.

4. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente – I think this is actually a novelette (or novella?!).  I am not sure what it's about, but that cover!  And Snow White in the title!  I'm a fairy tale fanatic, and I can't wait for this one to re-emerge as an ebook download.

5. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce – Speaking of beautiful covers and fairy tale retellings... say hello to a YA Rumplestiltskin retelling!  I can't believe I haven't read this one yet.  Clearly I am only waiting because I must own it first?!


6. Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody – Dear Australia: You have produced some of my favorite fantasists.  Garth Nix, hmm?  I've heard such good things about the Obernewtyn series.  I'm worried I'll feel as though I've missed an important part of my fantasy education until I buckle down and read them.

7. Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan – Brennan tortures her readers, and the first book in this series, Unspoken, was no exception.  I haven't read book #2 because I'm waiting for the series conclusion.  I think I can just about handle the whole series in one big gulp... if I know there's an ending in sight.

8. Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn – I go to Shinn books for guaranteed emotion.  I am just never sure if it'll be swoon or if there'll be an edge that bothers me, you know?  I will pick this one up soon (I think changeable fall weather calls for intense reads!).

9. Runelight by Joanne Harris – Harris, of Chocolat fame, wrote one of the best reworkings of mythology (Runemarks) that I've ever read.  There are two follow-up titles, and this is the first.  I don't know that it's available in hard copy in the US right now, but it's on the to-read list... so I'll order it from England if need be!

10. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – It feels as though everyone has read this title (and raved about it).  Well, I want to be part of everyone.  Also, the book sounds amazing.

What books would make your list?
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