My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

Rating: 3.5 of 5

Synopsis: “When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about him is just out of reach. Soon, as people close to Jessica begin to meet violent, mysterious deaths, David makes an unimaginable confession…” (source)

My thoughts: My Soul to Keep is the second book I’ve read by Tananarive Due, and now I can confidentially say two things: 1) Due writes in a way that I’m instantly drawn into the story; her characters, all of them, come alive from page one; and, 2) She breathes new life into old ideas/ seemingly overdone, overused fantasy tropes.

I loved the premise of My Soul to Keep especially where the Living Blood originated. It was interesting to look at how the immortals viewed humans, excluded females, dealt with threats to their anonymity. And while I was slightly teary-eyed at the ending, I loved Jessica’s transformation. To me that’s the true strength of a woman. I won’t say more because spoilers!

The only problem I had with this story, and why I had to set it aside a few times, was that I did not like Dawitt at all. Yes, I understand that the centuries and the traumas have changed him. That maybe it’s unfair to hold him accountable to human standards because he’s immortal. I sympathized with him, but he went too far, over and over again. His love was unhealthy.

Jessica, I liked; she was smart, sensitive and strong. Though, she doubted herself way too much. I guess she’s meant to be all the women who are like her in real life. It makes me sad to think of the women who settle for “the perfect guy” because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do. How they’ll consciously overlook warning signs and red flags just to avoid rocking the boat. But, like I mentioned above, Jessica gradually opened her eyes and tried her best to rectify the mistakes.

Recommended to anyone looking for dark fantasy with a strong mythic vibe.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Rating: 4 of 5

On my list of Best Zombies in YA, Shallow Graves ranks high, right after The Reapers Are the Angels and Raising Stony Mayhall.

I enjoy the playgrounds located in gray zones, especially when there’s a killer who only murders other killers. (Think: Dexter Morgan or John Wayne Cleaver as popular examples.) Are they good for ridding the world of evil-doers? Is what they’re doing righteous in some twisted way? Is murder ever justified, morally or ethically?

In Shallow Graves, the monster with a conscience is a 17-year-old girl who just so happens to be sorta, kinda, but not all the way dead. Her name is Breezy, she’s half-Chinese, half-Irish, bisexual, and she wants to be an astronaut on the first manned mission to Mars. Or, at least, she was all those things when she was alive, back when she was human, before she was a zombie who craves killers, not brains.

Recommended to readers who want a dark fantasy with horrorish elements, who don’t mind an occasional non-linear timeline, who want to read something with little to no romance, and/or just plain want something different than the usual mainstream young adult literature.

Whatever Wallace writes next, I’m excited to read it.

P.S. I don’t think this book needs a sequel but I would love to read a companion novel (or three). The worldbuilding is solid; the characters are there, waiting. Breezy, Zeke, Jake, Violet, Esme, Lyle, Mother, even Rain — potentially endless storylines to explore.

Author’s website | Read an excerpt | Add on LibraryThing | Add on Goodreads

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Alice by Christina Henry

Rating: 3.5 of 5

9780425266793A journey of recovery, self-discovery, and empowerment rather than solely a quest to vanquish evil. And possibly the darkest retelling of Alice or Wonderland that I’ve experienced to date.

Sprinkled with evidence of familiarity with other retellings, both page and screen, and populated with many of Carroll’s characters, albeit in name only, Henry’s Alice showed much originality which was almost eclipsed by its extreme brutality. I’d put it more in the realm of dark fantasy than purist horror, though. Sure it’s packed with fantastical creatures, magic, violence and sexual exploitation, and there was a hefty creep factor, but I just didn’t feel the underlying element of innate terror I find critical to qualifying a work as “horror.”

The pace moved along quickly and Alice did grow as a person over the course of the story, but her transformation at the end was too abrupt for me. As was the climax that resolved itself within a few pages. Part of me was hoping the story would close on a cliffhanger – after Alice and Hatch set off from the Walrus’ lair to confront the Rabbit – because I feared the ending would be too quick otherwise. At least there’s supposed to be a part two published in 2016.

Certainly this Alice was not written for those seeking a faithful retelling nor would it would suit those who avoid graphic violence and rape. However, if you’ve a strong stomach and high threshold for triggers such as rape, on top of an almost obsession to read everything even loosely related to Alice and/or Wonderland, you’ll probably love this version.

Footnote: I, for one, look forward to where Henry takes Alice and Hatch in Red Queen: The Chronicles of Alice, but I’ll freely admit to hoping it’s (A LOT) less rapey than part one.

Read an excerpt on the publisher’s website.

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Note to Self: Stunts by Charles L. Grant

Jacket cover Stunts by Charles L. GrantStunts by Charles L. Grant was published in 1990 and the hardcover edition I was reading had 438 pages. I couldn’t finish this book but I did manage to force my way through 161 pages. Unlike Broken, I was just getting interested in the story when I had to return it to the library on March 12th. And, because my car has decided to give me attitude, I didn’t know when my next visit to the library would be, so I couldn’t check out anymore books.
…Click to keep reading

Note to Self: Homebody by Orson Scott Card

I finished Homebody by Orson Scott Card on February 10, 2010. How I found this book at the library, I couldn’t tell you. It was possibly on a list of must-reads. Or, maybe, it found me.

Insert spooky music here.

The jacket’s summary was slightly misleading, though, as it described events out of order, which I assume was in an effort to make the story appear more suspenseful or certain events more critical. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good story. But I think the blurb could’ve been more concise and less scattered.

Don Lark was easy to empathize with, and his grief and anger were justified. …continue reading