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Giveaway Winner and Review of DANGEROUS GIRLS by Abigail Haas

First order of business! The winner of the hardcover copy of SERVANTS OF THE STORM is Heather!

WinnerThank you all for entering, tweeting, sharing and most of all, reading. Not bad for my first giveaway.

So. DANGEROUS GIRLS. This was a book I picked up at DragonCon on whim, along with a few others.

411B21Tad+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Looking at the cover, I doubt it’s one I would have picked up for myself if not for the recommendation of a friend. A recommendation I apparently hallucinated. I swear on my bookcase this person told me she’d devoured this book, but we know by now my brain isn’t always the most reliable.

It’s been a week since I finished it. I let it sit, exercised my book hangover cures, read something else (that also broke my heart because of course it did) and I think I’ve overcome my deep emotions.

On the surface, DANGEROUS GIRLS is about a group of friends who travel to Aruba on vacation, and one of them ends up murdered. The narrative centers around two best friends: Elise, the one who dies, and Anna, the one they suspect killed her.

This book messed me up, you guys. It’s a total mindfuck.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the structure. It’s a non-linear narrative, shifting from the 911 call after finding the body to the investigation, evidence, and Anna’s time spent in jail to how Anna and Elise met and formed the group involved in this crime. It felt like a realistic portrayal of high school friendship. The two girls have a very intense relationship. Their bond runs deep, which makes it so hard to believe that Anna is even a suspect.

Especially when there’s a jilted lover with no alibi and a spurned native known for break-ins on the list of people Elise pissed off.

The writing is captivating. Haas obviously put a lot of work into establishing the legal world of a non-US trial. I loved the little unknown asides between characters (because there were no names mentioned/no tags, so it could have been anyone speaking), and how I felt that whirlwind friendship between the girls. I felt Anna’s heartache at the loss of her best friend and sister. I wasn’t sure how to handle Elise’s death until the end, but the ride to finding out the truth was a fun one.

It kept me up at night. I couldn’t stop thinking about. I had to get to the end, even though I knew what ending the book would lead to (the hangover.)

From what I’ve seen of other reviews, this is a book people either LOVED or HATED. I get that. For me, I think I read it at a time where I so strongly identified with Anna, the mindfuck of the whole thing slapped me across the face. I had my theories, which were ultimately proven incorrect, but that’s part of the fun of whodunits. I like the guesswork.

The ending destroyed me. I’ve never sobbed and pined over a book as hard as I did this one. The last book that really hurt me was IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS by Cat Winters.

I couldn’t even look at the cover without going all achy.

That being said, now that I’ve had time to wind down, I have a LOT of questions about the truth of this book. I just don’t know how it happened the way it did. The evidence doesn’t add up, and maybe that’s the point, but it still leaves an odd taste in my mouth. I still very much enjoyed this book, but it’s off the mark. I can see the why, just not the how. At the time, it didn’t matter, but now it’s an itch I can’t scratch.

Perhaps the narration hindered the killer’s reveal, but I just… don’t see it. And where the hell was the freaking necklace that whole time?

Give it a shot. I still think it’s a worthy book. Maybe you’ll see more evidence than I did. I’m off to heal from my recent bout of heartbreak, thanks to Susan Dennard and the conclusion of her A DARKNESS STRANGE AND DEADLY series. I’m not sure if I’ll write up a review of them or not, so if it’s something you’d like to see, leave a comment below.

Keep creeping, darlings.

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Review and Giveaway: Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson

I guess book review Sundays are a thing now.

I’ve had Delilah’s YA debut, Servants of the Storm, waiting on my bookshelf since its release in August. I have this weird quirk where I can’t read something until I’m ready. I think I’m half afraid I’ll ruin the magic too soon and I hate waiting to sink my teeth in more of Delilah’s gorgeous worldbuiling.

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Servants of the Storm takes place in Savannah, GA, which I have been to exactly once, in the fifth grade. I had little memory of what Savannah looked like, but Delilah does such a masterful job describing the city, you feel like you’re there. Which, given the sudden cold spell and the snow this week, I was more than grateful for the suggested heatwave.

I love the tilty girl on the cover. Just… yes. Dead and tilty.

You guys also know I love an unreliable narrator, and Dovey is everything I’ve wanted in a kickass heroine. She’s pretty fearless for a crazy girl, and her determination to save her best friend Carly propels her through a world twisted and manipulated by demons. Delilah infuses the whole narrative with creepy things in the dark, from people with fox ears and sharp teeth to devil dogs to haunted amusement parks. The questions is always “Is Dovey seeing reality?” or “Is this Dovey’s delusion?”

As a fan of her Blud series, I was pleased to find the same strong voice in a different tone. The relationships in this book felt real, and under duress, I may admit to crushing a bit on Isaac. I caught a definite Sleep No More vibe from Charnel House and I adored the little injections of humor. There’s a lot of mythology soaked into the origin of this story and I found it compelling. Once I started reading, it was difficult to stop. I wouldn’t call it fast-paced, but it was I had to take bites out of, always hungry for more

The ending left the story open-ended, with room for futher developement, but it provided a solid conclusion if Servants acts as a stand-alone. It reminded me of the “Normal Again” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I didn’t mind the love triangle, and I thought everyone seem pretty realistically teenaged. Maybe it’s because I have a demonically-possessed fifteen-year-old sister.

The paperback releases in April, stuffed with goodies like a “Which demon are you?” quiz, playlists, and a portrait of our main antagonist, Kitty. I really enjoy this cover, too.

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Want to take a trip to demon-infested Savannah? Well, tis the season of giving, and I’m giving away a hardcover copy of Servants of the Storm:

 

Well, there WAS a rafflecopter thing here but it seems to be having issues, so, just comment below with what sort of demon you’d be!

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I’ll pick a winner next week (Dec. 7). I’m a Coyote Earthquake. Sounds like a mixed drink. 🙂

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Gone Girl: Book and Movie Review

My first foray into Gillian Flynn’s work was Sharp Objects. I loved that book so much I immediately reread it. Flynn has a great voice, the story was compelling and gritty and I loved every moment. Dark Places was… well, a let down. My friend Cas had been telling me to read Gone Girl, but I was bit soured after Flynn’s second book hadn’t lived up to the first. When I heard Gone Girl was going to be made into a film, I broke down. The book had been sitting on my shelf for almost a year and every so often I’d think I should read that, and pass it up for something else. I started the book and finished it five days later. MV5BMTk0MDQ3MzAzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU1NzE3MjE@._V1_SX640_SY720_ Holy fuck was I wrong. Gone Girl centers around Nick Dunne and his missing wife, Amy. Nick, of course, is accused of her murder. Things look bad for Nick; hell, things are bad for Nick. A diary filled with damning things, suspicious spending, a “too perfect” crime scene… and a treasure hunt, their anniversary tradition, leading to more than just the traditional gift.

I could not put it down. Well, I did, but it had to be pried out of my hands. I wasn’t expecting the emotional rollercoaster or how angry I’d be and how thoroughly impressed. Once the punches start rolling and the story blossoms into this tangled thicket of thorns and roses, you are HOOKED. I went from hating Nick to feeling sorry for him and that’s not a switch I make often. These characters are wonderfully compelling and the plotline is so clever, it’s sickening.

Seriously, I want to see Flynn’s mind map for this story because it must have taken so much time and energy and planning.

Obviously, I was just as thrilled for the movie. I’d been hearing nothing but excellent things and as I’m sure you know, fellow readers, it’s hard to get your hopes up when there’s a book involved. I admit to being more than a little worried when punk rock me walked into a theatre filled with older couples and moms. I know they billed Gone Girl as a “hot night flick” but… no.

I could not have been happier. The filmography is to die for and they kept a lot of the lines from the book. I cannot praise Rosamund Pike enough as Amy Elliot Dunne. She was brilliant and almost exactly as I’d pictured Amy. Ben Affleck was great as Nick. He really captured the character’s inappropriate charm. Neil Patrick Harris took me by surprise as Desi Collings. I’d seen more as the Ezra Miller type, but NPH was excellent. Subtly dangerous. Slightly creepy.

The only change I was uncertain of was Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt, but he played the role magnificently. I was a bit sad to see the lack of Tanner’s wife, but they kept the jellybean/gummy bear scene, which I found hilarious in the book. The narrative was spot on, with a slight number of changes to make it work on film. I adored the little vignettes of Amy writing in her diary, the masterful switches in point of view. At 2 hours and 30 minutes, I was worried it would be too long, but I don’t think I’ve seen a more perfect adaptation of book to movie.

The only slight difference was the ending, which didn’t vary from the book as much as I thought it would. It added to the feel. I loved it. Of course I have to spare a moment for the soundtrack, which I bought immediately upon leaving the theatre. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross knocked it out of the fucking ballpark. If you loved the book, you’ll love the movie. If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you do so, but it’s not necessary as long as you know that it’s not a feel-good movie and there are no happy endings. It’s a thriller and I am thrilled I got the chance to see it on the big screen. Nick and Amy are so fucked up and absolutely perfect for each other.

I sat in my seat as the credits rolled and just smiled. I don’t remember ever walking out of a theatre grinning like that, that sort of haughty, deeply self-satisfied smirk. I can’t wait to own it on DVD. This is definitely one you don’t want to miss.

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Review: DEADLY DEBUT ANTHOLOGY

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The New York/Tri-State chapter of the Sisters in Crime have put out their newest anthology, DEADLY DEBUT, seven stories that walk the line between horror and cosy, with a dash of murder thrown in. I’m sure what to expect from anthologies and I am delighted to say this is one solid collection. Guys, there’s even a belly dancer story.

For those who don’t know, I’ve been a belly dance for a little over five years. But we’ll get to that.

“Death Will Clean Your Closet” by Elizabeth Zelvin is probably my favorite from this collection. It’s got that creepy vibe I love so much, a dash of unreliable narrator, and it’s just a little bit darkly hilarious.

“On the Saturday morning, when I finally got around to cleaning my apartment, I found a ton of mouse droppings, seven enormous water bugs, and a body. The body lay crumpled like a Raggedy Ann in the back of the walk-in closet. That closet was the jewel in my rent-controlled crown. It made me the envy of all my friends with one-year leases in the overpriced shoeboxes that had replaced most of the old-law tenements and crumbling brownstones on the Upper East Side. The white, working-class neighborhood of Yorkville had fallen prey to developers, who put in high-rises with Sheetrock walls as thin as a corned beef on rye in a greasy spoon.”

If that doesn’t make you want to start reading, I probably can’t help you. This one’s got a bite. I might be my favorite of the series.

Okay, it is.

“Murder in Aladdin’s Cave” by Lina Zeldovich is the second stand-out for me, and not just because of the belly dancers. I was thrilled to see some diversity, especially a portrayal of Middle Eastern dancers that doesn’t assume we’re all whores.

Can I just say how thrilled I am when writers use correct dancing terminology? Bonus: at our last show, we had a shamadan. I was not the wearer, but I can tell you that thing generates a lot of heat and fire is incredibly heavy. Which makes me believe some of the moves in that story are not, in fact, possible. Please do not toss lighted, flaming headwear from your head. It’s a bad idea.

Terrie Farley Moran’s “Strike Zone” serves as a nice ending to this collection. What better way to wrap up seven tales of murder and misdeeds then by mentioning Edgar Allan Poe. We all know how I feel regarding Mr. Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe killed him.

That’s not what they wrote in the Journal-American or any of the other New York dailies, of course. Those newspapers got carried away with gang violence and how maybe it was the Fordham Baldies did the deed. The papers called the Baldies the most dangerous gang the Bronx had ever spawned. But Edgar Allan Poe was the one who killed him. I know. I was there.

Though I’ve never been to Poe Park (I begged my dad, who grew up in the Bronx, to take me and he declined), the images Moran paints are basically everything I’ve ever imagined. I like her feisty gal narrator and just how she relays how “Edgar Allan Poe killed him.”

I very much enjoyed spending the afternoon immersed in this anthology. It’s about 125 pages printed (249 according to my Nook), and well worth looking into. Murder New York Style has two more anthologies launched and ready: Fresh Slices and Family Matters. If you want to check out all three of these collections, head over to the Murder New York Style website.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of these collections have in store.

Seriously, though how does one became a Sister in Crime because I want in! Talk about coolest name ever

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Fifty Shades of Do You Even Know What a Plotline Is

I’m doing something different. I’m going to attempt to update twice a week: one day about everyday things, one day about writerly, novel-shaped things. Today is the Writerly, Novel-Shaped Day. And if you haven’t guessed, I’m going to discuss a very popular novel.

If this is the novel that made your year, good for you. You read all three books? Well, awesome. Glad to see you engaging with a book. Please consider reading more books in the future. If this book did it for you, stop reading this blog post.

If, like me, you find this novel to be a thorn in the side of actual literature, by all means, continue reading. Many people already know Fifty Shades of Gray started out as fan fiction. I’m in no way bagging on fan fiction; in fact, not only do I read fan fiction, I’ve even written a couple. Not ashamed. Fan fiction is a good outlet. However, in the case of Fifty Shades, it was Twilight fan fiction. And bad fan fiction is BAD. We’re talking My Immortal standards here.

I’m no fan of Twilight. I found the plotline, when there was a ghost of one, simplistic at best, the characters were not developed, cliché, and Bella is probably the worst role model for every girl ever. She may be a teenager, but she’s utterly devoid of personality, common sense, and intellect. Fifty Shades may actually be WORSE. Unless you read it as a comedy. Then it’s hilarious.

Do you really expect me to believe that Ana, a 21-year old college girl, has never held anyone’s hand? And that she doesn’t have a computer despite being an English major? That she miraculously made it into college despite her apparent mental condition? “Her inner goddess” should know something is massively wrong. Aside from basically making every character a Mary-Sue, there is actually one thing that makes this “book” far worse. Let’s talk about descriptions.

“His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.”

Or something? With an ellipses? Seriously? Clearly, though the break allows the reader to fully grasp the emotional connection between subjects. The “something” implies that he is mysterious, something she can’t quite identify.

Oh wait, it’s just poorly written fan fiction.

There’s also a part where he mentions all the “vanilla sex” they’ve been apparently having in the Red Room of Pain (yes, it’s capped like a proper location). She says something like,

“I thought it was chocolate fudge brownie sex. With a cherry on top.”

Surely, I can’t be the only one with the “Are you kidding me?” face on. How the hell did this get published? E.L. James landed a book deal because it was a popular story based on Twilight. Her 21-year-old heroine acts like she’s 16, her 27-year-old protagonist is just a creepy stalker who likes tying people up. Sounds like a cross between Twilight‘s Edward and Jack the Ripper.

I could understand if the book was just poorly written, but the fact that it has no original merit whatsoever is a stab in the chest. Has all of literature seriously become some gimmick? Sure, editing accidents happen. I’ve seem some pretty funny typos.

But when the ENTIRE BOOK is one glaring error? How do you overlook that?

Those of you who’ve read my blog over the years know my writerly ambitions. For me, books like Fifty Shades of Gray mean only one of two options:

Either my work will be a godsend to the literary world, or I am absolutely fucked for knowing how to properly format a sentence and use a thesaurus.

I’m not saying don’t read it. I’m saying don’t read it seriously. As a comedy, Fifty Shades has some merit. It may be difficult to read through the blinding tears of laughter. I wouldn’t drop the money on the series either. Rent it from the library. Borrow it from a friend. Or just read another fan fiction. One with a plot line and actual formatting. They exist. I’ve read them.

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