Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury

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Goodreads rating: 4.65 stars

My Rating: 5 stars

If you’re interested in getting an inside look into Crimson Peak directed by Guillermo del Toro, this is the book for you. A wealth of information printed on heavyweight, glossy pages with beautiful stills, sketches, background information, and maps from behind the scenes of Crimson Peak. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase such an expensive ($50) book about a film, unless I really loved the film. This was totally worth purchasing and reading. There were insights into the story and characters that you wouldn’t have known without giving this a read. There are also behind the scenes interviews with the cast about how they got into their roles and Guillermo del Toro about how this story came to be. Overall, this book is well-worth reading if you’re a fan of the film and/or novel.

Recommended for: Anyone who enjoyed Crimson Peak, film buffs, fans of gothic stories/imagery.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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Goodreads Rating: 3.92 stars

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Not all monsters are terrible and not all humans are good, but to Hazel and her brother Ben, the faeries living in the forest on the edge of Fairfold have always been mysterious and dangerous – somewhere in between good and bad. The seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists and keeps the townspeople on their toes, but many people don’t know just how dangerous the fae can be. The one thing that attracts the most attention is the strange glass coffin in the middle of the woods, in which a beautiful boy with horns and pointed ears has been sleeping for as long as the townspeople can remember. Tourists and townspeople alike go to visit and take pictures, but when the boy wakes one day, leaving the glass coffin shattered and minimal clues as to where he went, Hazel and Ben must figure out what this means and just how much danger Fairfold is in before it’s too late.

Holly Black has always been and will continue to be one of my very favourite authors and this novel continues to prove itself worthy. I absolutely adore her talent for creating such a brilliant world in one single book without needing to elaborate or expand beyond just one single book (even if I could read endless amounts of books in her created universes). I always finish her books desperately wanting more – even if it’s a standalone – or running to the bookstore for the next one. While it was a little rushed at times, I loved how she created so many creatures based in myth in such an easily visualised way and made them her own. I felt like I was in the world while I was reading it and I am so not ashamed to admit that I finished this one in 2 sittings and since finishing it for the first time I have reread it two more times.

Recommended for: fans of the fae, people who enjoy faerie tales, LGBTQ readers

Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning

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Goodreads rating: 4.31 stars — My rating: 2 stars

I tried, guys. I really, really wanted to like this series. Don’t hate me for quitting on it after book two. I might attempt to read book 3 at a later point in time.

After learning that she and her sister were both adopted – and descended from the ancient Celtic sidhe-seers (people who could see the fae for what they really were) – Mac is on the quest to find the Sinsar Dubh, an ancient book that could mean the end of the world as we know it if it falls into the wrong hands. She still doesn’t know much about the irresistible Jericho Barrons, but she does know he’s dangerous, but without him, she’s in way over her head. Now that the human world and the fae world are coming dangerously close together, Mac is the only thing (besides Jericho Barrons) that stands in the way of the destruction of the human race.

I’m so disappointed that I didn’t like this series as much as everyone else seemed to have loved it. The characters still fall flatter than tissue paper and are (somehow) more cliché than they were in the first book. Tall-dark-handsomes, a “not ditzy” blonde (gone dark – literally) that are unconventionally attractive, but every guy seems to lust after her anyway (you know who I’m talking about), and cackling evil dudes leading an army of things that go bump in the night. Oh my stars, where do I begin? Admittedly, I did not read this book as thoroughly as I ordinarily read (if we’re going on word count, I probably read about 2/3 of it). I started off reading roughly the first quarter as per usual, but as it went on (and on and on), I couldn’t bring myself to read every single fluffed out description. I think that if all the fluffy descriptions were removed, this book would maybe have 50-100 pages of actual plot, and that’s being generous. I am still in love with the concept and world building and all that, but for the sake of all that exists, I cannot take any more 10 page interludes describing how much Mac misses being cute and blonde and beautiful or paragraph after paragraph describing how attractive some guy is (okay, maybe they weren’t ten pages long…). Not to mention, the plot doesn’t do much of anything in this book – I’d say it develops about as much as the characters do. As I said, I really wish I could’ve enjoyed this as much as much as everyone else seemed to, but I just can’t jump onto this bandwagon, no matter how much I want to. The worldbuilding and concept still catch me, but everything else just… the good is not worth the heaping amounts of ugh, eye rolling, and page after monotonous page that was happening, unfortunately.

This reminds me a lot of Janet Evanovich, now that I think about it… Janet Evanovich with faeries. So those of you who enjoy a lot of fluff with a little bit of fast-paced action, give this a go, you might enjoy it a lot more than I did. I’d also recommend this for anyone who likes urban fantasy and/or the fae – so long as you can put up with the characters and (lack of) development.

Crimson Peak (the film directed by Guillermo del Toro and The Official Movie Novelization by Nancy Holder)

Rotten Tomatoes: 71% (3.5 stars) My Rating: 4.5 stars

Goodreads Rating: 3.91 stars — My Rating: 4.5 stars

“Beware of Crimson Peak.”

Ominous, yes, but when you hear this from the horrifying ghost of your dead mother in the middle of the night as a child, this is infinitely more terrifying. For years, Edith hasn’t thought about the threatening warning, nor does she when she meets Thomas Sharpe, Baronet, of Cumberland, England, and his sister, Lucille Sharpe. The last thing she expects is to marry the man, or for that warning to actually have meaning.

I can’t tell you how much I love gothic stories. Originally, I saw this film when it was first in theatres November of 2015 – we had been interested in seeing it and she lived quite a ways away from me, so I decided to have an adventure out to visit and we could go see it together. I am a huge fan of anything Guillermo del Toro and Tom Hiddleston, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong with this combination and it absolutely did not let me down. I actually preordered the movie and book that night after returning to her dorm to spend the night. At times, it’s gruesome, but for the most part, the fear comes from within as a subtle inkling, as is the usual with gothic stories, but the extra layer added by the ghosts of Allerdale Hall adds another layer to the story. Even without the added ghosts, this would’ve still been just as scary, because with gothics the human element has to be the key point – everything else is extra – and Guillermo del Toro makes this work incredibly well with the ghosts, set, and plot. Everything works together beautifully to create a very haunting and atmospheric world.

Ordinarily I tend to avoid reading film-to-book novelizations because they don’t tend to be as good as the film(or, strangely better than the film); I don’t make a strict rule of it or anything, but I certainly won’t actively seek it out unless it’s a film I’ve really seriously enjoyed and think the book will be worth reading. I am so glad that I picked this book up; it gave a whole new perspective on the events of the film that film cannot convey, such as internal monologues/thoughts. It’s by no means in the characters’ heads all the time, but it gives enough to make it really interesting. Where the film could give you more visual perspective, the book could give you more mental perspective. For once, I’d have to say I’ve found a book and movie that are equal! No matter if you read it or watch it, Crimson Peak will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Recommended for: fans of gothic literature, fans of Guillermo del Toro, fans of any of the cast of this film, horror fans, and ghost hunters

The Love Letter by Jack Finney

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Goodreads Rating: 4.2 stars — My Rating: 4.5 stars

“The night is a strange time when you’re alone in it, the rest of your world asleep.”

When you purchase antique furniture, the last thing you’d expect is some kind of connection – a wormhole, so to speak – connecting the furniture to another time and place. But this desk is unusual. Secret drawers are one thing, finding an old letter in one of them is another, but writing back and receiving a response is clearly very out of the ordinary.

This is actually one of my very favourite short stories and it was shared with me by a friend as a writing prompt, oddly enough. This is a very charming short story that you really wouldn’t think you’d get so invested in, but upon reading it, you can’t help but feel the bittersweet elation at the discovery that a love letter has been written and presumably hidden away in this desk for years. Who wouldn’t write back to this person out of time – presumably the one that the desk belonged to originally? I’ll be honest – I definitely maybe cried reading the end of this and then searched around on Amazon and Ebay to find a hard copy of this.

Read it here: http://web.archive.org/web/20090223182332/http://homepage.mac.com/cssfan/jackfinney/sep590801016.htm

Recommended for: Anyone who likes a bittersweet, romantic, and/or quick read (as in twenty minutes or less, if you’re a quick reader), bittersweet love, unusual writing desks (that may or may not be like a raven), hints of time travel. Think The Time Traveler’s Wife but short and in letter form.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (ill. ed.) by J.K. Rowling (Illustrated by Jim Kay)

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Goodreads rating:  — My rating: 5 stars *****

Oh. My. Stars. I thought I couldn’t enjoy Harry Potter any more than I already did.

I think you all probably know of the boy who lived, but for those of you that need a refresher: The boy who lived: something young Harry Potter didn’t even know he was. All he knows is that he has a strange, lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead,  a dolt of a step-brother, and an aunt and uncle who would never love him as much as his parents had before they died. But when Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry sends him (many) acceptance letters, despite his lack of application (and presumed lack of funds), he quickly finds out he and his parents are a part of something much bigger than just the three of them and he is whisked away into a world of magic wands that actually work, literal spelling lessons, and a potions teacher who seems to be… up to something. Could He Who Must Not Be Named, the man who murdered Harry’s parents and was presumed dead himself, really be back? Worse yet, could he be out to finish what he started years ago when he killed James and Lilly Potter?

I’ll say it again: Oh my stars. I cannot gush about how much I love this series – The Sorcerer’s Stone will always hold a special place on my bookshelf, though my favourite is probably The Goblet of Fire or The Half-Blood Prince. The illustrations in this beautiful edition are in stunning full colour on semi-glossy pages that make everything pop. And, because it’s technically a children’s book, the type is large enough for me to read without struggling if I’ve forgotten my reading specs. As far as the story goes, while there are some minor flaws, such as the slightly uneven pacing, the story more than makes up for it. It’s an absolutely wonderful YA story that I think will become one of the classics.

Recommended for: Everyone. Well, everyone who likes fantasy, doesn’t mind reading children’s books, and loves a magical story.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

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Goodreads Rating: 4.15 stars — My Rating: 2.5 stars

This wasn’t a bad read, but it was definitely nothing to write home about, unfortunately. I had such high hopes for this. Curse you, Goodreads, and your deceptively high ratings!

While on a trip to Ireland studying abroad, MacKayla Lane’s sister is killed. The police seem to think it was a suicide, but Mac knows her sister better than they do and also knows that she would never kill herself. Despite her parents’ protests, she follows her sister’s footsteps to Ireland to try to solve what must have been her sister’s murder. Along the way, she meets Barrons and finds out that she’s a sidhe-seer, or someone who can see past the glamour the fae keep up to look human. Barrons, despite his secrets, is all Mac has, as far as resources go when it comes to the fae world (and when it comes to surviving), so she has no choice but to help him, in order to get his aid in return, but it seems her sister’s murder is far more complicated than it had originally seemed.

It sounds like a great read from the blurb on the back and so many people have given it rave reviews, but it falls painfully short for me. I can see why it was so hyped up (and why the author is totally milking this cash cow with more books), but the writing style is very weird, the characters are very cliché, and there is very little in the way of development. The two things this book has going for it is that the worldbuilding and concept behind it are actually quite good; you don’t often find urban fantasy specifically about the fae world. Other than that though, let me just put this out there, the farthest character development goes is Mac changes her hair colour and wardrobe to be a “badass” in all black and if you’re looking for cliché character designs, you’ve hit the jackpot. All the guys are tall dark and handsome and somehow lusting after Mac, who is a cute, skinny, pretty-in-pink blonde who breaks all stereotypes by being “not ditzy” (yeah, right). Not to mention, apparently this is written by future Mac about past Mac and future Mac will occasionally butt into the story with lines like ‘or so I thought I could trust him’ or ‘that seemed to be the case, but I know better now.’ (By the way, those are not exact quotes, but they’re may as well be – I just couldn’t bring myself to re-read for the sole purpose of finding more things I don’t like).

I’d recommend this for anyone who enjoys the fae and doesn’t mind clichés or fluffy descriptions.

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

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Goodreads Rating: 3.88 stars — My Rating: 4.5 stars

Apparently no Oxford comma is necessary for this one. Despite the OCD perturbing title, this book is definitely staying on my shelves for a long time to come.

After being the only survivor of a deadly car crash with her boyfriend and unborn baby, Wren retreats deep within herself, but when she meets Cal Owens, who is dealing with serious issues of his own, neither of them know if they’re ready to deal with their own problems, let alone one another’s. Despite her depression, her parents are urging her to get out and rejoin the world around her again, even though she is very reluctant to do so. She has fleeting moments of normalcy and even finds a friend through her melancholy haze that helps to keep her steady in such unsteady times.

This novel deals with very real and very serious issues in such a beautiful, realistic way that, while reading, you can’t help but feel for Wren. As someone who has dealt with very serious – suicidal – depression, this book really hit me hard, because having been in a very similar state of mind as Wren brought me back to those feelings I never fully dealt with or let go of. It’s an extraordinarily cathartic read, but be prepared with a cup of your favourite hot beverage, snuggly blankets, and tissues (okay, lots of tissues). Lovely, Dark and Deep is the perfect read for these upcoming cold months – at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere – though it can be triggering to those who are sensitive to depression, suicide, and miscarriage, so bear that in mind before picking this up.

I would recommend this for anyone who likes atmospheric, realistic fiction about serious real-life problems. It’s not overly angsty but doesn’t hold back emotions either.

American Vampire Volume 1

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Goodreads Rating: 3.98

My Rating: 4.5

Wild west, feuding vampires, Scott Snyder, what more is there to say? Skinner Sweet is your ordinary Wild West criminal – that is, until he gets turned into a vampire. The first American vampire.

The art is interesting and the style was fun and loose; it matched very well with the mood/time period of the story. These writers and artists are absolutely brilliant for coming up with this start to what’s looking to be a very intriguing new take on a classic supernatural monster – conspiracies and all. Scott Snyder’s vampires are not romanticized, in fact they’re almost completely heartless. Blood, power, and money are the only things they seem to care about, humans just come along with the territory. The characters are individuals (rather than being cardboard cutouts, so to speak), the plot leaves a lot of questions that I can only hope will be answered by future issues of this ongoing series, and it will definitely leave you needing the next volume (there are 8 collected and one new anthology comic issue thus far, so you’ve got a lot of reading to do if you haven’t started this fantastic series)!

Recommended for: vampire fans, horror fans, anyone who wants something new

Crimson Peak (the film directed by Guillermo del Toro and The Official Movie Novelization by Nancy Holder)

 

Rotten Tomatoes: 71% (3.5 stars) My Rating: 4.5 stars

Goodreads Rating: 3.91 stars — My Rating: 4.5 stars

“Beware of Crimson Peak.”

Ominous, yes, but when you hear this from the horrifying ghost of your dead mother in the middle of the night as a child, this is infinitely more terrifying. For years, Edith hasn’t thought about the threatening warning, nor does she when she meets Thomas Sharpe, Baronet, of Cumberland, England, and his sister, Lucille Sharpe. The last thing she expects is to marry the man, or for that warning to actually have meaning.

I can’t tell you how much I love gothic stories. Originally, I saw this film when it was first in theatres November of 2015 – we had been interested in seeing it and she lived quite a ways away from me, so I decided to have an adventure out to visit and we could go see it together. I am a huge fan of anything Guillermo del Toro and Tom Hiddleston, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong with this combination and it absolutely did not let me down. I actually preordered the movie and book that night after returning to her dorm to spend the night. At times, it’s gruesome, but for the most part, the fear comes from within as a subtle inkling, as is the usual with gothic stories, but the extra layer added by the ghosts of Allerdale Hall adds another layer to the story. Even without the added ghosts, this would’ve still been just as scary, because with gothics the human element has to be the key point – everything else is extra – and Guillermo del Toro makes this work incredibly well with the ghosts, set, and plot. Everything works together beautifully to create a very haunting and atmospheric world.

Ordinarily I tend to avoid reading film-to-book novelizations because they don’t tend to be as good as the film(or, strangely better than the film); I don’t make a strict rule of it or anything, but I certainly won’t actively seek it out unless it’s a film I’ve really seriously enjoyed and think the book will be worth reading. I am so glad that I picked this book up; it gave a whole new perspective on the events of the film that film cannot convey, such as internal monologues/thoughts. It’s by no means in the characters’ heads all the time, but it gives enough to make it really interesting. Where the film could give you more visual perspective, the book could give you more mental perspective. For once, I’d have to say I’ve found a book and movie that are equal! No matter if you read it or watch it, Crimson Peak will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Recommended for: fans of gothic literature, fans of Guillermo del Toro, fans of any of the cast of this film, horror fans, and ghost hunters