Blood Countess

Blood CountessBlood Countess

By Lana Popović

Series: Lady Slayers #1
Source Received from the publisher

Published by Harry N. Abrams
on January 28, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

three-stars

A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula.

In 17th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too.

I was so excited to read this book, based on the synopsis and eye-catching cover! I mean, “A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula” totally sounds like my kind of story!

I found it to be a quick read, initially. I thought I got a good sense of the place and who Anna was. But my reading slowed as I began to feel a little bored with the story at times. The pace was slow, and I kept waiting for something to happen. Although the synopsis says it’s a YA horror novel, it didn’t feel like one to me. Certainly, Elizabeth does plenty of horrific things, but not many of them happened on the page, and so I never actually felt like I was reading a horror story or anything remotely frightening. So this was perhaps a case where I had too high or misplaced expectations that weren’t met.

So while parts of the story disappointed me, the elements that I enjoyed were strong enough to leave me with a generally positive impression of this book. And I’m definitely looking forward to more ‘Lady Slayers’ stories!

three-stars

Week In Review

January 20 – 26

Good morning and happy Sunday! It’s been another snowy weekend, which means I stayed inside and read a lot (shocking, I know).

It’s Grammy night, and I will of course be watching only to see BTS, and I am excited! (Don’t get me started on them not being nominated though…)

2020 Pop Culture Resolutions:

I read one of the books and watched one of the movies off my lists:

Book: The Tenant, Katrine Engberg;

Movie: Burning, dir. Lee Chang-dong (this was excellent).

New books:

I received a couple of e-ARCs that I was very excited about:

Catherine House, Elisabeth Thomas (thank you Custom House!); and

The Lady’s Handbook For Her Mysterious Illness, Sarah Ramey (thank you Doubleday!).

I also picked up some more books from the library:

The Wild Robot Escapes, Peter Brown;

White Elephant, Trish Harnetiaux; and

The Dark Lord Clementine, Sarah Jean Horwitz.

Books read:

I finished reading six books, bringing my total for the year so far to 20:

The Girl From the Other Side, vol. 7, Nagabe (my library doesn’t have the next one yet and I am devastated!);

The Tenant, Katrine Engberg;

Clown in a Cornfield, Adam Cesare (e-ARC);

Spirit Hunters, Ellen Oh;

All Systems Red, Martha Wells; and

Catherine House, Elisabeth Thomas (e-ARC).

Current reads:

I’m making progress on From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata, and deciding which of my library books to read next!

Posts and Reviews:

I shared my 2020 Pop Culture Resolutions and a Top Ten Tuesday post about my recent book purchases, along with my reviews of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim and Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly.

Time for some more reading before the Grammys tonight! Happy Sunday!

Theme Music

Theme MusicTheme Music

By T. Marie Vandelly

Source Purchased

Published by Dutton Books
on July 23, 2019

four-stars

An utterly propulsive and unpredictable psychological thriller from stunning new talent T. Marie Vandelly

For the lucky among us, life is what you make of it, but for Dixie Wheeler, the theme music for her story was chosen by another long ago, on the day her father butchered her mother and brothers and then slashed a knife across his own throat. Only one-year-old Dixie was left alive, infamously known as Baby Blue for the song left playing in the aftermath of the slaughter.

Twenty-five years later, Dixie is still desperate for a connection to the family she can’t remember, so when her childhood home goes up for sale, Dixie sets aside all reason and moves in, re-creating a macabre decor with her family’s salvaged furniture. But as the ghosts of her family seemingly begin to take up residence in the home that was once theirs, Dixie starts to question her own sanity and wonders if the evil force menacing her is that of her father, or a demon of her own making.

In order to make sense of her present, Dixie becomes determined to unravel the truth of her past and seeks out the detective who originally investigated the murders. But the more she learns, the more she opens up the uncomfortable possibility that the sins of her father may belong to another, and, perhaps most tragically, to Dixie herself. As bodies begin to pile up around her, Dixie must find a way to expose the lunacy behind her family’s massacre and redeem what little remains of her soul.

I’d heard that this was a dark and twisty book, which means it was right up my alley!

This was so good. It pulled me in right away and I loved the way the story kept me on edge, wondering what was going on in that house, and if Dixie was losing her mind. And I could not put this book down, truly. I read it in a day.

I saw this compared to Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places, and they do have similar premises. I think if you liked Dark Places, you’ll like this book as well. They’re both dark, twisty mysteries with a terrible crime at the centre of it all.

Recommended, and I am very interested to see what T. Marie Vandelly writes in the future!

four-stars

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week’s topic is:

The Ten Most Recent Additions To My Bookshelf

I don’t do that many TTT posts, but I was excited when I saw this topic because I’ve added a lot of books to my shelves the past few weeks that I’m excited about!

Here are ten of the recent additions that I’m really excited about reading (these are books I’ve purchased, not ARCs or library books):

Rules For Vanishing, Kate Alice Marshall

Faux documentary a la The Blair Witch?? Yes please!

Ship It, Britta Lunden

I love stories about fandom! And this book sounds so fun.

The Bookshop On the Shore, Jenny Colgan

I loved The Bookshop On the Corner when I read it a few years ago, so I am super excited about a sequel.

An Anonymous Girl, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I love a good thriller. I’ve read one other book by this duo, and I’ve heard good things about this one.

The Dead Girls Club, Damien Angelica Walters

This is apparently a supernatural thriller, which is right up my alley!

The Remaking, Clay McLeod Chapman

This sounds so good and creepy!

Murder Lo Mein (and Wonton Terror), Vivien Chien

These are books three and four in the Noodle Shop Mystery series – a cozy mystery series I’ve recently enjoyed.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, Christina Lauren

I couldn’t pass this one up when it was on sale recently!

Permanent Record, Mary H.K. Choi

Regular person and celebrity dating is a trope I’m always drawn to! And I’ve heard really good things about this book, so I had to have a copy for my ereader.

Catch and Kill, Ronan Farrow

This was on sale in the Kobo store for a one-day deal, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I couldn’t pass it up at the sale price. I anticipate that this will be a difficult read.

Do you have any of these on your shelves already? Let me know!

Miracle Creek

Miracle CreekMiracle Creek

By Angie Kim

Source Library

Published by Sarah Chrichton Books
on April 16, 2019

four-stars

How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?

In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.

A powerful showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Chapter by chapter, we shift alliances and gather evidence: Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?

Miracle Creek uncovers the worst prejudice and best intentions, tense rivalries and the challenges of parenting a child with special needs. It carefully pieces together the tense atmosphere of a courtroom drama and the complexities of life as an immigrant family. Drawing on the author’s own experiences as a Korean-American, former trial lawyer, and mother of a “miracle submarine” patient, this is a novel steeped in suspense and igniting discussion. Recommended by Erin Morgenstern, Jean Kwok, Jennifer Weiner, Scott Turow, Laura Lippman, and more– Miracle Creek is a brave, moving debut from an unforgettable new voice.

This had been on my TBR since it was first published. I managed to go into this without really knowing anything about it, other than that it was a sort of courtroom drama, and that everyone seemed to love it.

This was a fantastic book. It was really well-written, kept me guessing, and it was totally heartbreaking. This was a great book, but it made me so so sad. (I mentioned on Litsy that it was so heartbreaking that I almost wish I hadn’t read it – I know that’s kind of a strange compliment for a book, but it accurately captures how I felt when I finished it)

This is Angie Kim’s debut novel, and I’m definitely looking forward to what she writes next!

four-stars

#2020 Pop Culture Resolutions

My friend Kathy is doing some 2020 pop culture resolutions this year to address some pop culture blind spots. I thought this sounded like a really good idea, and wanted to participate!

I’ve decided to watch 12 international films and read 12 translated works in 2020 – one movie and one book per month (although January is almost over, so I’d better get a move on!).

I loved Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite when I saw it last year, so I’m taking this as an opportunity to watch some more of his movies.

The 12 movies I’ve decided on (although I haven’t decided on the order yet), and which seem to be available in Canada on my various streaming services, are:

Mother, dir. Bong Joon-ho (South Korea);

The Host, dir. Bong Joon-ho (South Korea);

Shoplifters, dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda (Japan);

Burning, dir. Lee Chang-dong (South Korea);

Let’s Dance, dir. Ladislas Chollat (France);

The Bar, dir. Alex de la Iglesia (Spain);

Article 15, dir. Anubhav Sinha (India);

The Villainess, dir. Jung Byung-gil (South Korea);

I Remember You, dir. Óskar Thór Axelsson (Iceland);

Aruna & Her Palate, dir. Edwin (Indonesia);

The Raid 2, dir. Gareth Evans (Indonesia); and

Offside, dir. Jafar Panahi (Iran).

(I will also be rewatching Parasite as soon as it’s available to stream or buy on any of the platforms I have, but since I’ve already seen it, I didn’t want to include it as part of this challenge)

I haven’t decided on the order for the books either, but the ones I’m going to read this year are:

Last Rituals, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (Icelandic);

In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri (Italian);

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante (Italian);

The Hole, Hye-Young Pyun (Korean);

A Perfect Crime, A Yi (Chinese);

Brooklyn Heights, Miral al-Tahawy (Arabic);

The Tenant, Katrine Engberg (Danish);

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami (Japanese);

Ripper, Isabel Allende (Spanish);

Confessions, Kanae Minato (Japanese);

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets, Oksana Zabuzhko (Ukrainian); and

My Name Is Red, Orhan Pamuk (Turkish).

Let me know if you’ve seen any of these movies, or watched any of these books! And thanks Kathy for the great idea!

Week In Review

January 13 – 19

Happy Sunday! It’s cold and snowy, perfect for staying inside and reading!

My friend Kathy is doing some 2020 pop culture resolutions, and I’m thinking of participating too! I might try and watch 12 foreign films and read 12 translated works this year – one each per month – so I’m going to spend some time today making a list of movies to watch and books to read as part of the challenge.

New books:

I received some eARCs from Edelweiss and Netgalley:

Chosen Ones, Veronica Roth;

Daisy Cooper’s Rules for Living, Tamsin Keily; and

Braised Pork, An Yu.

I also purchased some physical books:

The Tenant, Katrine Engberg;

Uncanny Valley, Anna Weiner;

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Mary Roach;

In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri; and

The Assistants, Camille Perri.

I also purchased The Better Liar by Tanen Jones for my Kobo.

And I picked up a few books from the library:

Spirit Hunters, Ellen Oh;

Righteous and Wrecked, Joe Ide;

The Whisper Man, Alex North; and

Shelter, Jung Yun.

I finished five books this past week (bringing my total for the year so far to 14 books):

The Girl From the Other Side, vols. 5 and 6, Nagabe;

The Remaking, Clay McLeod Chapman;

Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss; and

The Whisper Man, Alex North.

Current reads:

I’m reading From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata, and an eARC of Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare.

Reviews:

I posted my reviews of The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller and Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke, along with my December Quick Lit post.

Time for more coffee and more books! Happy Sunday!

Mind of Winter

Mind of WinterMind of Winter

By Laura Kasischke

Source Library

Published by Harper
on March 25, 2014

four-stars

On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens with the fragments of a nightmare floating on the edge of her consciousness. Something followed them from Russia. Thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric adopted baby Tatty, their pretty, black-haired Rapunzel, from the Pokrovka Orphanage #2. Now, at fifteen, Tatiana is more beautiful than ever—and disturbingly erratic.

As a blizzard rages outside, Holly and Tatiana are alone. With each passing hour, Tatiana’s mood darkens, and her behavior becomes increasingly frightening, until Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter.

This was the first book that I read in 2020 and I nearly finished it in a day. Once I started, I knew I wouldn’t want to put it down until I finished reading.

This was the kind of book that filled me with dread and tension, even though I wasn’t sure why, and I just love books like that! So I raced to get to the last page and see what was going on here, and the ending lived up to the rest of the book.

Unfortunately, to say more would give too much away, but I definitely recommend that you pick this book up if you want a tense, suspenseful thriller that might surprise you.

four-stars

Quick Lit

December 2019

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and not always feeling like I want to write a full review for each book read (or sometimes I just don’t have much to say about a book). So I was inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit posts, as well as Hannah at So Obsessed With‘s monthly Quick Lit posts, and decided to do something similar as a way to briefly discuss the books I read in a month but don’t write full reviews for.

December was a decent reading month. I wrapped up my 2019 reading by finishing 130 books, which is excellent for me.

I read 12 books in December, and I’ve reviewed/have reviews coming for six of those. And another one was a re-read (Vicious by Victoria Schwab), and I reviewed that back in 2013 when I read it for the first time.

So here are my thoughts on the rest of what I read in December:

Dead Girls, Abigail Tarttelin (library) – 2/5 stars

This was not great for me. I really wanted to like it, and I was drawn in by the premise, but in the end I didn’t care for this.

Mycroft Holmes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse (library) – 3.5/5 stars

I’d heard that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had been writing a book (now a series) about Mycroft Holmes, and finally got around to reading book one in December. I enjoyed this quite a bit, and will be checking out book two for sure.

Into the Crooked Place, Alexandra Christo (library) – 3/5 stars

I really wanted to like this more than I did. I liked a couple of the characters, but I didn’t really feel pulled into the world, and never really got a sense of the way magic worked. This might be closer to a 2.5/5 stars for me, and I’m on the fence about whether or not I would continue with this series.

The Girl From The Other Side, Volume 1, Nagabe ; Adrienne Beck, translator; Lys Blakeslee, letterer (library) – 5/5 stars

I absolutely loved this comic about a little girl and the inhuman creature she lives with, who she calls Teacher. Were did the little girl come from? Is Teacher cursed? Cursed with what? I love their relationship, and I’ve already borrowed the rest of the series from the library and read three more volumes.

Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead, Olga Tokarczuk; Antonia Lloyd-Jones, translator (library) – 4/5 stars

This was one of those books that I’d been hearing about so much that I couldn’t resist the buzz and had to read it for myself (it won the Nobel Prize!). It was not quite what I expected, and I really liked it. It was a contemplative, meandering sort of mystery. Very interesting.

That was December! Stay tuned for my January reads!

The Widow of Rose House

The Widow of Rose HouseThe Widow of Rose House

By Diana Biller

Source Library

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
on October 8, 2019

four-stars

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.

Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history―and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

This book popped up on my radar via some bloggers I follow who enjoyed it. I liked the premise, and was excited that I didn’t have to wait too long to snag this from my library.

This was definitely more of a historical romance than a ghost story, and it was a very sweet and funny book. I really liked Alva and Sam right away, and enjoyed their banter. I liked this book quite a bit: the dialogue, setting, and characters were delightful!

I do wish the ghostly mystery had featured more prominently, but this was a very enjoyable, sweet story. Recommended!

four-stars

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