Tag Archives: gothic

Graphic Novel Review: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Published 2011 by First Second books.

9615347Goodreads Synopsis: Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining début from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

My Review: Anya’s Ghost was such a brilliant graphic novel! It caught my eye in the library earlier in the month, and I’d read a couple of great things online. I couldn’t wait any longer to read it… Whilst in the middle of loads of titles, I picked it up. Once I had, it was hard to put down! It’s original, compelling, and has some of the most beautiful illustrations.

I wasn’t expecting so much from the 200 page story. It deals with an insecure teenage girl who doesn’t quite fit in, paranormal murder mysteries, and above all friendship… it’s all blended together to make a really emotional and addictive story! I guess I do read a lot of paranormal books… but none that deal with friendship as opposed to a romance story which is more often seen. This story made for a really fresh look on things. And it quickly turns from heart-warming to sinister and terrifying… I really wasn’t expecting the plot twists!

Anya was a very relatable character; she’s a teenager under exam pressure, finding it hard to fit in with anyone in school, struggling to maintain a friendship with the one girl who hangs around with her. It was easy to understand her and I grew really attached to Anya! She develops so much through the book, as she discovers certain things about people in her life and begins to make different and life-changing decisions. Anya’s ghost, Emily, also develops a lot in a really unpredictable way. She’s a really complex and unpredictable character. I didn’t see the ending for the story coming.

The artwork is absolutely beautiful. The style of drawing is simple and cartoon-y, but it really just… went with the story. I loved it. I was really absorbed in the drawings, and I found myself going back over pages after I’d finished just to admire some of the panels! The colour scheme is really pretty, all dark shades of grey and purple.

Overall, I’d really highly recommend Anya’s Ghost to anyone, whether you’re a reader of graphic novels or not! The story was really complex and riveting, with some unpredictable twists that leave readers in a daze. Vera Brosgol has created some very memorable characters that I was left thinking about long after the last page. It was breathtaking, and probably one of the best débuts I’ve read in a while!

My Rating:

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I borrowed a copy of Anya’s Ghost from my local library.

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The Coldest Girl In Coldtown

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Today for Halloween Reads, I’ve got a vampire book! I don’t normally read vampire books, but this one was great. Although this looks like a low rating, it’s actually a good one!

By Holly Black, published by Indigo.

The Coldest Girl in ColdtownGoodreads Synopsis: Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

My Review: I don’t think I’ve read many vampire books before. Twilight, Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak… that’s about it, I think! I’m not the biggest fan of them; probably because Twilight caused the YA industry to overflow with them, and I just avoided them, really. However, I requested a copy of Coldtown because the synopsis really captured me. It seemed very different to any other Vampire book I’ve heard about!

Coldtown really is a unique book. The concept is nothing like I’ve ever heard of, not just in the gothic genre: Quarantined towns of blood-suckers, rumored to be eternal parties for the undead; broadcast 24/7 on TV. Well… at first, I thought HUNGER GAMES!!!, but then, I was really wrong! The plot and all aspects of this novel were really original. I found some parts not explained as well as others- for instance, I couldn’t get to grips with the background of Gabriel, our lead vampire. I’m not sure if that was just me, or if it just wasn’t revealed in enough depth, though. However, it was a really thought-provoking concept: Because it was very realistic, and slightly political. The reason it’s a scary book is because the events are way too possible, if vampires exist!

The writing was, quite simply, very beautiful. From the start, I was hooked onto this novel, because the writing was so fluent, so descriptive… I just admire Holly’s writing so much! The book was written in a very interesting way. Flashback chapters, of course, have been done before by many authors; but in this book, pretty much every other chapter is a flashback for a certain character. That gave a really great insight into the character’s backgrounds, without lengthy, boring explanations during scenes set in the time of Tara’s adventure. The flashbacks were sometimes emotional, sometimes terrifying- and let me get to know Tara, primarily, very well. While they were so great to read, they did occasionally slow down the novel at points. Holly would leave a chapter on a cliffhanger, write a chapter focusing on another character or on something in the past, then go and tie ends together. It’s a great narrative hook, but at points it did frustrate me a little!

Tana was a brilliant main character. I was rooting for her to get through everything okay right form the start, when she wakes up in a bathroom after a high school party, and finds her friends massacred by vampires. She was a very self dependent, down-to-Earth and understandable- so she was very realistic. If you strip away all of the vampire trauma from her life, she is a very relatable character that I think teens will love! Her journey in this book involved life decisions, a fair bit of violence, friendships, and a pinch of romance… there wasn’t a moment I was bored of her!

Overall, Coldtown was a really good book, and it’s probably urged me to read some more books in the vampire genre. I enjoyed reading about the main character, and the idea for the story was scarily realistic, thought provoking, and interesting. It was a really fun read, great for Halloween- but a couple of things did let it down. The writing style, despite being quite clever, slowed down the pace at points. Also, I didn’t find some aspects explained as well as I’d have wanted it to be (Hopefully if I re-read it soon I’ll understand things better!) and so that made it slightly less awesome. But, it was an awesome book. Highly recommended to fans of gothic fiction!

Also, I will be going to the Foyles event to see Holly Black in conversation with Sarah Rees Brennan on Coldtown on the fourth of November! If you’re interested, go buy tickets on the Foyles website! If you’re already going, leave comment, so I can say hi! ;D

My Rating:

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This seems like a low rating, but it really isn’t!

I received a copy of Coldtown from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Witchstruck

By Victoria Lamb, published by Corgi.

WitchstruckGoodreads synopsis: Meg Lytton has always known of her dark and powerful gift. Raised a student of the old magick by her Aunt Jane, casting the circle to see visions of the future and concocting spells from herbs and bones has always been as natural to Meg as breathing. But there has never been a more dangerous time to practice the craft, for it is 1554, and the sentence for any woman branded a witch is hanging, or burning at the stake.

Sent to the ruined, isolated palace of Woodstock to serve the disgraced Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Queen Mary, Meg discovers her skills are of interest to the outcast princess, who is desperate to know if she will ever claim the throne. But Meg’s existence becomes more dangerous every day, with the constant threat of exposure by the ruthless witch-finder Marcus Dent, and the arrival of a young Spanish priest, Alejandro de Castillo, to whom Meg is irresistibly drawn – despite their very different attitudes to her secret.

My Review: Witchstruck was an extremely enjoyable book! I wasn’t entirely sure it would work at first, quite honestly- a paranormal romance? In the Tudor era?- but I still was really curious to see what the book would be like. On reading it, I was totally sucked into Meg’s world full of witchcraft, secrets, and lies. The concept definitely worked, and it’s so original. From the first page I was really interested in Meg’s story, as she assists with her aunts’ illegal magick with Elizabeth in a dark cell in the middle of the night. Very rebellious with a paranormal twist, so I instantly fell in love with this idea. Who wouldn’t? I also loved the setting. As already said, Witchstruck is set in the Tudor era. The author has captured this medieval world immaculately, and I found myself not wanting to leave it once the book ended! More specifically, the book is set in an isolated-to-the-world area, called Woodstock, where Meg Lytton waits on Elizabeth, after she was banished by her sister. It was all so realistic, because it is actually true that Elizabeth was under house arrest in Woodstock. I found it very clever how Victoria Lamb has entwined the fantasy with the facts, keeping everything accurate but adding a fantastical element that makes the story so exciting!

The plot was really great. There was a great build up to the story, with the beginning pages showing Meg, her aunt, and Elizabeth committing treason of Witchcraft. That set the tone for the rest of the story very well. It was so predictable that Meg was going to fall head over heels for Alejandro, a Spanish priest sent to keep Elizabeth true to Catholic faith, practically as soon as she saw him, but it was pretty enjoyable to read their journey, as they meet and get closer. The synopsis of this story, and the blurb of the book makes the book seem ridiculously romantic, but I didn’t really see it like that. It was more of rebellion, in my opinion, as I think the most romantic pages of the book were the last few: where a really happy ending (or beginning, as it is for book two!)take place, that I won’t tell you, so you’ll have to read this to find out, takes place!

Meg was a really great character. I understood her straight away; realised she was so scared of being caught but so eager to practice her paranormal gift. I really admired that determination with her- as that seemed to make her such a realistic, three-dimensional character. I really enjoyed watching her become close to Alejandro, and her emotions were just so real… and very well shown through the writers words. As well as Meg, I also quite liked Alejandro. He was a little mysterious: not much was revealed about him. However, he was made to be such a likeable character. He seemed to me like the Jace Wayland (heartthrob of City Of Bones, by Cassandra Clare) or the Tudor era!

As for the writing, Victoria Lamb obviously has some real talent. She’s made a subject, the Tudor era- a topic I’ve been over so many times in school, seem fresh and new, and much more fun to read about. I love her style of writing so much. I got a detailed, brilliant understanding of Meg and her struggles through a flawless narration!

Overall, Witchstruck was a really great piece of historical fiction. I’m really starting to get into the genre, though I’ve only ever read as historical as the Victorian Era. However, Witchstruck has given me a great introduction to Tudor stories, and ‘m really looking forward to reading more books like this! The plot was really great, and the author’s idea just genius. She’s combined interesting, intriguing facts with imaginative magick that spices up the story. I really loved it! Thanks to the amazingly awesome Harriet, I have a copy of Witchfall, the sequel, too. I really can’t wait to begin it; the effective ending to this book was a really shocking cliffhanger, in a way!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Witchstruck from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

The battles of Ben Kingdom: The claws of evil

By Andrew Beasley, published by Usborne

The Claws of Evil (The Battles of Ben Kingdom)

Every coin has two faces. Every war has two sides. One boy must make the right choice…

Street urchin Benjamin Kingdom has always lived poorly, with his dad and brother who don’t even acknowledge him. One day, his father comes across a silver coin which could potentially get them out of poverty, but adventurous boy Ben discovers that this coin is the reason that a secret war is raging across London. Ben finds himself thrown into the midst of a battle, between the evil citizens who live in underground tunnels, and the ragtag band of watchers who stalk the London rooftops. What side will Ben choose?

Seeing this in a book magazine, I was totally captivated by the cover. It. Just. Looked. So. Awesome. As I’m getting into steampunky/fantasy fiction at the moment, I just had to buy it  as soon as I saw it on a bookshop shelf… and it really lived up to my expectations. The Battles of Ben Kingdom had steampunk themes with essences of fantasy and hope.  Andrew Beasley’s It was really fun to read, and although seemingly aged at children around 11,  really enjoyable.  I loved the setting of Victorian London, and how the battle was taking place above and below the city. It was really imaginative!  At first I was torn between the two sides of the war- through Andrew Beasley’s writing I had grown to love and hate both sides. They both had strong leaders, and some really cool members. However, I was a bit disappointed how the cover ruined the truth about the leader of the Watchers. It wasn’t revealed until the end about his wings, and yet the Watcher leader is standing on the cover with them!

Benjamin Kingdom was a seriously cool protagonist. He was cocky, yet brave and intelligent. Ben was three dimensional and obviously well thought out, and his home life was pretty sad and almost brought a tear to my eye. It was really fun reading about him, and I don’t think I have ever read a book before where the protagonist starts to become evil halfway through. Yes, Ben did seem to go a bit bad, under the influence of the silver coin- named the Judas Coin, for it’s evil influences. That was such a cool twist! I also especially loved the supporting character, Ruby: a cool, quirky teenage girl from the underground. I would really like to see more of her in the sequel (OUT IN SEPTEMBER WOO-HOO)!

Overall, The Battles of Ben Kingdom was an incredibly fun read. Great for young teenage boys, and generally for YA steampunk fans. It had a solid plot, and the events were written brilliantly. There was a lot of action and adventure packed into the pages, and I can’t believe this was a debut novel! Keep on writing, Andrew, I so want to read more in this series!

The Beautiful and the Cursed

By Page Morgan, published by Hot Key Books

Ingrid Waverly and her sister Gabby move to Paris with their mother, escaping the memories of the accident Ingrid caused- setting fire to a house. They had sent Ingrids twin, Grayson, ahead of them to France to scout out a new home. They arrive at an eerie looking Abbey guarded by stone gargoyles but Grayson is nowhere in sight. Locals say he went missing. like the french girls who have been kidnapped.

Determined to find their brother, Gabby and Ingrid begin a search, but stumble across a scary new side to Paris. The gargoyle which sits on top of their abbey was once a human; Luc; and was turned into a beast, who is sentenced to protect whoever shelters within the abbeys walls. Also, Demons exist- and so does an ‘Alliance’, who pledge to protect people from the Demons. On their search for their sibling, Gabby will fall in love with Detective Nolan, and Ingrid with their Gargoyle Luc, but can they protect each other, and save Grayson, on top of stopping the evil force behind the kidnappings?

Move over, sparkly vampires- the magic gargoyles have arrived! This book was amazing. As soon as I saw the cover I knew this was going to be a great, Gothic read. It was thrilling from the beginning, with scary murder cases and supernatural secrets and evil demonic hell-hounds… So much awesome stuff. There was so much action, so much drama, packed into the pages, and I loved it.

I thought that the main focus would be on Ingrid, seeing as that’s the character on the cover, and even though most of the limelight was on her, her sister Gabby was also a main character. I loved Gabby and Ingrid, they were great protagonists; brave, courageous, adventurous 19th century girls. Luc made a great character too; a Gothic, half human gargoyle sentenced to protect the people that live in the abbey but accidentally falls in love with the eldest girl? How cool!

I didn’t think there was going to be a love triangle, but then one was introduced on the last few pages which was really unpredictable. I’d like to see it develop a bit more in the sequel out soon (The Sweet and the Savage), but I hope it won’t overpower the action!