Victorian Gothic Less-Than Thriller

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

First Look:

Love it!  Puppets are basically the theme of the book, and the giant hand and lighting (not to mention the kids’ faces) add a great creep factor.

Jacket Copy:

The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini’s act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two orphaned assistants.

Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack — adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara’s life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall.

As they seek to puzzle out Clara’s whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini’s criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini’s ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it’s too late.

Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz’s Victorian gothic is a rich banquet of dark comedy, scorching magic, and the brilliant and bewitching storytelling that is her trademark. Continue reading


Gothic Weirdness Made Gorgeous

Hopeless, Maine: Personal Demons by Tom and Nimue Brown

First Look:

Beautifully creepy.  I love this cover art so much: it gives me the shivers, but in a really good way.

Jacket Copy:

Trapped on an island off the coast of Maine, the people of Hopeless find life a little darker and more dangerous with every day that passes. The number of orphans rises continually, but who can say what happens to their parents? Plenty of the bodies are never found. This is not the stuff of happy, careless childhoods, it is instead fertile ground for personal demons. In Hopeless, the demons are not always abstract concepts. Some of them have very real teeth, and very real horns. The island has been isolated for a very long time. Partly because of being small and forgotten, partly because the rocks and currents do not encourage visitors, Hopeless is surrounded by fog and overrun with nightmarish creatures, from small things with tentacles to demons and vampires. It’s a peculiar place. Here, almost anything can happen, from the weird and unsettling to the darkly funny. With a cast of freaks, nutters and the odd power crazed psychopath, life in Hopeless is seldom dull. Hopeless is also about who you choose to be. The tale is a protest against apathy, and against the small evils that everyone takes for granted. The worst monsters frequently aren’t the ones with the obvious teeth – who are merely dangerous by nature – but the apparently ordinary people who choose to do hideous things.

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Super Speshul Snowflakes in Dystopia

Legend by Marie Lu

First Look:

It’s striking, and different than the norm, so I like those two things about it, but otherwise I think it’s kind of ugly.  The bronze-and-steel color scheme is not attractive to me, and the seal, while it does look military-esque, still makes me think it’s the logo for some company beginning with “R”.

Jacket Copy:

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

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I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

First Look:

Fancy gown, pretty girl whose face we can’t see well, fancy castle in the background: pretty typical teen fiction cover nowadays.  It really could be about anything.  Except!  Gears!  Does that mean steampunk?  Well, we’ll get to that.

Jacket Copy:

A spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance!

When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.

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Magical Tattoos & Alchemy

Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

First Look:

The silver tattoos are quite pretty, though since Donna’s ashamed of them, I don’t know why she’s hiding behind her arm.  Points for the vial, it’s very important at the denouement; points off for the clockwork bits on the vial, since I have no clue what that’s about (other than pandering to the steampunk crowd).

Jacket Copy:

Freak. That’s what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna’s own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

…I’ve made the decision not to reproduce the rest of the jacket copy.  It’s one of those terrible instances where the description mentions an event which happens halfway through the book, thus making you anticipate this event throughout the first half, when that was never the author’s intention. Continue reading

But Why Are the Cats Always Evil?

Cat’s Cradle, Book 1: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux

First Look:

Cute, but creepy.

Jacket Copy:

To most, Suri is just an orphan in a traveling caravan. But Suri is determined to prove she has the mettle of a monster tamer. When she unknowingly takes something valuable from a caitsith — a cat monster — she will have to quickly harness her powers … if she even has them!


It is supposed to have a sequel, but no word yet on when.

Worth Reading?

Good graphic novels that are written for kids (not just deemed “appropriate”) are always a cause for celebration.

Notable Things:

East/West Fusion!  Rioux’s art style seems like a fusion of western comic with manga style, and I like it.

Mythology!  It’s a fantasy world that seems to make sense, and Rioux introduces us to a lot of the rules without infodumping or overexplaining.


Graphic novels, although they can obviously be enjoyed by anyone, help encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book.  I am pleased to wholeheartedly recommend this book to any parent, teacher, or kid.  It looks like the beginning of wonderful adventures for our heroine, who is plucky and resourceful.  I only wish it had been longer.


I received a free digital copy from the publisher via Netgalley.

The Price Is Right!

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

First Look: 

Well, it looks like an urban fantasy.  Tough-looking chick in skimpy outfit, check.  Toting gun, check.  Urban background, check (points for the rooftop setting, though, which is actually important, plot-wise).  

Jacket Copy:

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night… The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity-and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city… Continue reading

The Worst Mermaids Come from Lake Superior

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

First Look: 

Mermaid, blood, the lake even looks like it could be Lake Superior.  It’s great!  Only one problem: the narrator character is a merman (Merman!  **cough, cough**  Merman!  </Zoolander reference>), so it would really make more sense to put a male character on the front.

Jacket Copy:

Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually, they select their victims at random, but this time around, the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother’s death.
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