Book Review: Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Title: Gravemaidens
Series: Gravemaidens Duology Author: Kelly Coon
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 29, 2019 Format: Kindle
Pages: 416
Source: NetGalley
Rating: Abandoned

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

I’ve been trying to read this book since I first downloaded it from NetGalley on May 1. The problem is, the book just doesn’t really hold my interest.

The book is considered fantasy by many readers who’ve given it the genre of YA and Fantasy on Goodreads, but so far, there’s no reason to call it fantasy. Unless you mean because of the world itself – but honestly, I’ve seen no indication of magic. Just primitive healing like you’d have found in medieval times.

I guess the biggest thing is that the book doesn’t get to the point. I mean sure, you have to give the reader something to read, but you also don’t need to take forever to do it. I made it almost 40% into the book and for the most part, the most exciting part was the selection of the Sacred Maidens.

I can’t stand Kammani. She’s whiny and annoying. She refuses to marry the boy who loves her because she wants to be a great healer. She wants to heal the Lugal for her own selfish purposes – to save her sister, even though her sister doesn’t want to be saved. She’s just a seriously annoying character that I can’t get behind. I honestly don’t care if she gets what she wants because I don’t like her.

I didn’t finish this book, which is why it has zero stars. Maybe I’ll try again later, but honestly, as much as I hate the main character, I doubt it.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Review: It Won’t Be Christmas Without You by Beth Reekles

Title: It Won’t Be Christmas Without You
Author: Beth Reekles
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins/One More Chapter
Release Date: August 30, 2019
Format: Kindle
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

From the author of the smash hit Netflix romcom The Kissing Booth!

Eloise, a self-confessed Christmas obsessive, can’t wait for the big day. Devoted to her Michael Bublé playlist, she’s organising the school nativity play and even her gorgeous Grinch of a neighbour, James, can’t get her down.

Her workaholic twin sister, Cara, on the other hand, plans to work over the holiday. The sisters used to be close but since Cara moved to London, everything’s been different.

Eloise isn’t giving up just yet. With James’s help and a white Christmas on the cards, Cara can’t fail to be moved by the magic of the season … can she?

I admit, I’m not usually one for romance or adult fiction. I’m more of a mystery, thriller, horror, and YA person. But this book seemed like it was going to be too cute to pass up. I was right.

Christmas is my second favorite holiday after Halloween. It should be – my birthday is Christmas Eve. So I know how important it is to be surrounded by loved ones for Christmas. So I can see why it is that Eloise is so disappointed when it seems that Christmas might not include her twin sister.

The writing style in this book might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Mind you, the book is set in the UK, so UK terms are used and might confuse some readers from other countries. The writing style itself kind of mish-mashes the story lines together. But it works. I didn’t find myself confused or wondering what was going on.

I found myself alternating between wanting to smack Cara and wanting to smack Eloise. They both seemed to be playing selfish – Eloise demanding her sister spend Christmas with her, Cara wanting to work as opposed to being with her family. But at the end of the day, aren’t we all at least a little selfish?

I was surprised to see how little the romance played into the story. It was there and it fit well into the story. Yet I can’t help but feel that with the exception of some dialogue between sisters, it honestly could have been left out with little consequence to the main theme of the book.

All in all, this was a vet quick, very cute read. I recommend it for anyone looking for a cute., holiday themed read.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 5 by Brian James Freeman

Title: Halloween Carnival Volume Five
Authors: Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley, Peter Straub, Brian James Freeman
Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Hydra
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Format: Kindle
Pages: 141
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley, and Peter Straub unmask monsters hiding in plain sight in an anthology of heart-pounding short fiction assembled by horror author and editor Brian James Freeman.

DEVIL’S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar
You’ve read about what happened that night. What you don’t know is the true extent of the damage. The papers got it wrong—and the truth is so much worse than you thought.

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle
Elaine hasn’t been back to her hometown in years. The house she lived in is gone. The tower house isn’t—nor are the stories of the fate that befalls whoever dares to go there.

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss
People think there’s some sort of mystical power that allows enchantments and witchcraft to come to life on Halloween night. But real magic obeys no calendar—and true evil strikes whenever it’s least expected.

SWING by Kevin Quigley
In Hollywood, everyone lives forever. At least that’s what I used to think . . . before Jessica. But no one seems to live long when they’re around me.

PORK PIE HAT by Peter Straub
When it comes to jazz, there are players, and there are legends. “Hat” was a legend. His real name didn’t even matter. Still, he had his secrets—secrets best left buried in the past.

You would think with a high profile author like Peter Straub contributing to this anthology, it would have been better. But nope.

We start off with Devil’s Night. It wasn’t the greatest story, but it wasn’t a horrible one either. It was a little bit on the messy side, but hey, it was a short story by an author I’ve never heard of before. The slight plot twist was pretty cool but I felt the ending was a bit on the rushed side, like the author ran out of steam or ideas and just wrote whatever came to mind first.

The Last Dare is, well, weird. Every city/town has that one house that everyone says is haunted. This one has a house with a chest that apparently eats kids? I was never quite sure what was going on with this story, to be honest. And the ending just left me completely unsatisfied because I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Not a fan of this one at all.

The Halloween Bleed was another “huh?” story for me. I spent a good portion of the time trying to figure out what was going on. It seemed to me by the end it was some sort of “wizard vs witch” magic shootout? I honestly have no idea and honestly, I was so bored during this story I don’t want to know.

Swing was… interesting. Honestly, it seems to me that it was written from the perspective of a Grim Reaper who deals exclusively in suicide victims. Which was pretty cool. It also seemed to me that said Reaper wasn’t particularly thrilled with his or her job and was quite sad about it. I liked this one, but it wasn’t enough to save this book.

And last but not least, we have Pork Pie Hat. I would have thought a story by Peter Straub that took up almost half the book would have been better. Instead, I found myself bored and wondering when the story would be over. The only logical explanation I can come up with is that this is one of his early works. Because otherwise, I just can’t with this story.

This one was just as bad as Volume 4. It gets 1 star because it just wasn’t a good anthology for Halloween stories.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 4 by Brian James Freeman

Title: Halloween Carnival Volume 4
Series: Halloween Carnival
Authors: Kealan Patrick Burke, Ray Garton, Bev Vincent, C. A. Suleiman, Paul Melniczek, Brian James Freeman Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Hydra
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Format: Kindle
Pages: 131
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Kealan Patrick Burke, Ray Garton, Bev Vincent, C. A. Suleiman, and Paul Melniczek treat readers to some spooky tricks with a hair-raising assemblage of tales gathered together by author, editor, and master of the macabre Brian James Freeman.

For some, office parties are the highlight of the season. For others, they can paralyze with dread. Theo is determined not to let his anxiety stop him from attending—though maybe he’s right to be afraid.

The candy’s always better on the other side of town, even if it means crossing paths with bullies. But a rich house with an unlocked door might just be too good to be true. . . .

Every town has one: a house or a field or an old tree that just gives off a bad vibe. Of course, those feelings are just silly superstition, nothing to take seriously. Right?

PUMPKIN EATER by C. A. Suleiman
Peter loves Halloween—almost as much as he hates his wife. Luckily, his favorite holiday presents an opportunity to fix his problem. After all, putting his wife in her place should be as easy as pie.

WHEN THE LEAVES FALL by Paul Melniczek
Haverville always seemed like a typical town to me: a place where people work hard, and no one ever really leaves. Until the night I went to Graver’s Farm—and discovered what Haverwille was really hiding.

I have no words. This anthology in the Halloween Carnival series was terrible. Literally, the only story that was in any way particularly memorable was The Mannequin Challenge. Even that story wasn’t all that great.

The Mannequin Challenge was the best story in the book. Even then, it seemed like I’d read it before – definitely not in Volume 4 as unlike Volume 1, I’ve only read Volume 4 once. No, it seemed I’ve read this one before in another book – or perhaps a story similar to it. Honestly, I don’t understand the ending or how any of the people were able to just hold their positions through what was being done, but whatever.

Across the Tracks was just dumb. Straight out dumb. The ending made zero sense and honestly, there really wasn’t anything creepy or scary about the story at all. It was just dumb.

The Halloween Tree was another one that was just plain dumb. A bunch of kids who are scared of a tree because they think it’s going to grab them. And what they do when it does. Big deal. This one reminded me of something a kid would write. I have no idea why Brian James Freeman thought this was one of the stories that was the epitome of Halloween.

Pumpkin Eater was OK. It was better than some of the others, but it still wasn’t great. It did have a nice plot twist toward the end, which is the story’s only saving grace. Again, I don’t get why this was chosen, but maybe I just don’t have the same taste as the editor.

When the Leaves Fall was the longest story in the book and frankly, I just don’t understand what was going on. Everyone says to stay away from a particular farm, yet everyone is basically working for this farm? What? Why? How? Not a single one of those questions is answered. The main character even says none of his questions were answered. What kind of story does that? Seriously, just no. Especially when you take half the book to tell your tale!

I was highly disappointed in this second-to-last installment of the Halloween Carnival series and gave it 1 star.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 3 by Brian James Freeman

Title: Halloween Carnival Volume 3
Series: Halloween Carnival
Author: Kelley Armstrong, Kate Maruyama, Michael McBride, Taylor Grant, Greg Chapman, Brian James Freeman
Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Hydra
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Format: Kindle
Pages: 141
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

Kelley Armstrong, Kate Maruyama, Michael McBride, Taylor Grant, and Greg Chapman unleash the unsettled spirits of the past in five frightening stories collected by celebrated editor, author, and horror guru Brian James Freeman.

THE WAY LOST by Kelley Armstrong
The kids in Franklin don’t ask questions. Each Halloween, one of them disappears into the forest. Dale promised his mother he’d never go into the woods alone. But the kids in Franklin also lie.

LA CALAVERA by Kate Maruyama
The Día de los Muertos Festival at the Hollywood Cemetery used to be ours. Now, without Jasmine, it’s only right that I go one last time in her honor—before I let her go for good. . . .

THE DEVIL’S DUE by Michael McBride
Pine Springs, Colorado, has prospered for generations by honoring its traditions and its promises. Then one man refuses to do his civic duty—and the price he must pay is fatally steep.

Samhainophobia: an irrational fear of Halloween. Phasmophobia: an irrational fear of ghosts. For Anne, these terrors are more rational than she knows.

Every year, one little boy wearing a grotesque Frankenstein mask comes knocking at Gerald’s door. Gerald has always managed to avoid him . . . until this year.

Ok, so this one was better than Volume 2, but not quite as good as Volume 1. But I will say, Halloween Carnival Volume 3 is a solid offering for horror fans and for those who prefer more tame Halloween stories.

The Way Lost was one of my favorites out of Volume 3. I found it to have a plot twist, more than one actually, that really threw me for a loop. While this one wasn’t scary – I’d call it more of a mystery than horror – it was a damn good story and one I read over and over.

La Calavera was all right, but it a bit too predictable in my opinion. I had the ending pretty much pegged less than halfway through the story. Maybe I’ve just read too many stories that work like that, but I wasn’t surprised nor did I think it was particularly creepy. The only reason I can think of for it being included was the Halloween theme.

The Devil’s Due was a damn good story. I just wish the ending would have been better. I don’t know, it just seemed to me that the story could have had a much more exciting ending than it did. I felt that the ending was disappointing after the action that happened before it. Maybe it was just me. I’d love to see the story edited and a better ending added.

A Thousand Rooms of Darkness was an awesome story. The idea of someone being terrified of both ghosts and Halloween is just unreal to me, but when you add in the plot twists toward the end it all makes sense. And those plot twists are to die for. Trust me on this one. You’ll love them… because you definitely won’t expect these!

The Last Night of October was the longest story as I recall and honestly, it wasn’t that scary to me. Some of the things in it didn’t make a lot of sense, at least not to me. And let me say – in my humble opinion, the “it is my fault _____ is dead and now they’re back to haunt/take me” trope is just over done. I would rather have seen it be something else like “it is my fault _____ is dead and now they’re back, but if I apologize or tell the story of what happened they’ll go away and leave me alone.” I mean, really, I would, because that never happens.

This one got 4 stars because The Way Lost, The Devil’s Due, and A Thousand Rooms of Darkness were great stories.

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Review: Halloween Carnival Volume Two by Brian James Freeman

Title: Halloween Carnival Volume Two
Series: Halloween Carnival
Authors: Glen Hirshberb, Lee Thomas, Holly Newstein, Del James, All Sarrantonio, Brian James Freeman Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Hydra
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Format: Kindle
Pages: 130
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Glen Hirshberg, Lee Thomas, Holly Newstein, Del James, and Al Sarrantonio bring the ghouls of the most haunted night of the year to life in a chilling collection of stories curated by master of horror Brian James Freeman.

MR. DARK’S CARNIVAL by Glen Hirshberg
Halloween is more than just a holiday in Clarkson, Montana; it’s a tradition passed down through generations. Only this year, the ghosts of the past may just be a little closer than usual.

When David was young, he believed in magic. In fact, he wanted to become a magician himself. But meddling in the forces of the mind has consequences beyond what an eleven-year-old can see.

MISCHIEF NIGHT by Holly Newstein
Cabbage Night, Goose Night, Devil’s Night—they’re all the same. Before the treats come the tricks. It’s all in good fun . . . until someone gets hurt.

When people need to disappear, I make them vanish. The catch? I’ve always got to be on guard—because that knock at the door may not just be a little monster looking for candy.

THE PUMPKIN BOY by Al Sarrantonio
When boys start going missing, Detective Len Schneider is determined to make it right. But his partner knows that there are worse things out there than a dead kid.

While I loved Halloween Carnival Volume One, I wasn’t quite as impressed with Halloween Carnival Volume Two.

To my idea, the best story in this batch of five stories was Mr. Dark’s Carnival by Glen Hirshberg. It added a twist at the end that I honestly didn’t see coming. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t see it coming. It was awesome, creepy, and just like when I watched The Sixth Sense, there were clues that I didn’t realize pointed to the ending.

The Facts in the Case of My Sister by Lee Thomas wasn’t too bad either. I kind of figured what was going on, but there were a couple of subtle things that startled me that had nothing to do with the actual story line, but were just awesome things to see in the story. While this story was predictable, it was very good.

Mischief Night by Holly Newstein wasn’t even memorable enough for me to remember what the story was about. I literally finished the book less than 24 hours ago and have no clue what that story was about.

The Ghost Maker by Del James wasn’t scary or creepy. It didn’t even fit as horror, sci fi, or fantasy. There was nothing horror about it. It was so straight forward that I just didn’t see the point in it being there.

The Pumpkin Boy by Al Sarrantonio was just plain weird. I have no idea what the author was going for, but I’m assuming weird wasn’t it. It had a plot twist that just didn’t make a lick of sense because you didn’t know enough about the backstory. I think it could have been a better story if the backstory behind it had been better fleshed out.

All in all, the only reason this collection didn’t get 2 stars was because of Mr. Dark’s Carnival – that was a great story and I’d love to see more like that in Volumes 3-5.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.