The Haunting of Tram Car 015 – P. Djèlí Clark

Source: Goodreads

In Cairo, 1912, Agent Hamed and his new partner Agent Onsi, of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, have a case on their hands. The Superintendent of Tram Safety and Maintenance at the largest hub in the city – Ramses station – insists that one of his tram cars is haunted. Ever since the space between the human world and the spirit world of the Djinn was perforated, The Ministry has been in charge of dealing with any uncanny police matters, which also, occasionally, includes hauntings. But Tram Car 015 is no normal haunting, and it will take all of the agents’ faculties to find a way to exorcise this spirit.

The steampunk-like setting for this story is beautifully imagined, and the suffragist movement created added depth to the world and its characters that I didn’t know I needed, but which absolutely made the story what it is. Deeply engrossing and mysterious, I was sorry it ended so quickly, but was 100% satisfied with the story. I think I just really want this to be a series? and maybe eventually a television series? Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but this story seems like it would adapt well to the screen and be just as captivating so long as Clark were at the helm. Personally, I can’t wait to go out and read more of Clark’s stuff, like The Black God’s Drums because this was just so, so good.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

May Bird Warrior Princess (May Bird, #3) – Jodi Lynn Anderson

Source: Goodreads

May Bird is adjusting to life in the land of the living just fine. Her particular brand of fame means that she’s part of the popular crowd in her middle school, and she works hard to stay there. But sometimes she misses exploring her imagination, wandering around the woods of Briery Swamp, and she especially misses her friends from the after-life. But ever since the lake dried up, she hasn’t been able to find a way back. Just when she’s ready to give up hope of ever being able to save her friends, Briery Swamp gets its first snow storm in history and May is swept off on another adventure into The Ever After – only this time, it’s the fate of the universe on the line, not just the land of the dead.

I really enjoyed how this story was told. At the end of book two, May had the choice to return home or stay and fight… and she chose to return home. But now that’s she’s back, she’s ready to take Bo Cheevil head on. Everything is on the line, and May refuses to fail this time. The three year gap between the second and third books allowed May to mature as a human and also weigh all of her options. Her interactions with her classmates and family helped the reader see her as a regular person, and her actions in The Ever After showed her to be a true hero, full of heart, and ready and willing to put the safety of others before her own. This series ended up being 100% delightful, one I got used to the creepy ghouls, zombies, and vampires. There is always something new to discover in The Ever After, and that is always one of my favorite parts of books – especially in middle grade books.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – May Bird and The Ever After
Book 2 – May Bird Among The Stars

May Bird Among The Stars (May Bird, #2) – Jodi Lynn Anderson

Source: Goodreads

May Bird is stuck in the land of the dead, but for the first time in her young life she doesn’t feel alone. She has Fabbio, and Bea, and Pumpkin, and Somber Kitty. They survived the bogey’s wild chase, and have made it to the train to North Farm, where a letter claims a lady can help them. The road to the north is strewn with the downtrodden, the fearsome, and downright petrifying, but May is determined to get home to her mother in Briery Swamp, West Virginia.

This second book in the May Bird trilogy, rather than being struck down by the sophomore slump, used its time to build up May’s character. Leaping off of May Bird And The Ever After‘s set-up of the world of the dead and May’s presumed destiny, as well as some of the obstacles she will face, May Bird Among The Stars helps May along the path to growing up and becoming who she was meant to be, willing or not. As she pushes to get home, May is unable to put on blinders that would prevent her from being influenced by the world around her. Deserted towns, refugee encampments, souls kept live slaves… It all has nothing, and everything, to do with May Ellen Bird. Word has spread quickly about her entry in The Book of The Dead – That she will vanquish the evil Bo Cheevil and safe The Ever After from certain disaster – but May would rather blend in and stay hidden until she can get home. As she approaches her destination, May must come to terms with what it means to be “The Chosen One”, and how she can only blend in for so long, when she was born to stand out.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – May Bird and the Ever After
Book 3 – May Bird Warrior Princess(Review available on May 21st)

May Bird and the Ever After (May Bird, #1) – Jodi Lynn Anderson

May-Bird-and-the-Ever-After-Jodi-Lynn-anderson

Source: Goodreads

May Bird lives in a mansion. It is old, and the only remaining building in town. She likes to explore the rundown square, as well as the woods that surrounds them. She hates school and the wall of briars that impedes her exploration of the forest. She also hates the ghost that comes to her room every night and watches her. Her mother can’t see him and wants to send her away from Briery Swamp to a boarding school somewhere in upstate New York. Everything changes when May Bird finds a letter, addressed to her, in the 50-year-old ruins of the Biery Swamp post office. Now a walk in the woods could change the course of her life, and death, forever. May Bird, her cat Somber Kitty, and the ghost are the only ones who can save the world of the dead.

I picked this one up at the library in 2016 simply because it had ‘ever after’ in the title. I like fairytales, alright? But this book is no fairytale. In fact, it took me a while to read its 300 pages because I kept scaring myself. I don’t do creepy or scary, and this has a decent helping of both, with a bunch of gross on the side. Nevertheless, once I got into it, I became completely sucked in. I could never have invented a place like the Ever After. It’s just not my style. But the fact that this world exists fascinates me to no end. It’s so perfectly detailed, and the writing is perfect. The trials that May Bird faces in this first book of the trilogy astounded me, and I laughed and cried and freaked out at varying points. Let me just say, for the record, that it’s hard to read with your eyes covered.

In all honesty, the book isn’t really that scary. I’m just a scaredy-cat. I hate being scared. I don’t do scary movies or scary books. I stopped watching the film of Stephen King’s It halfway through because my friends fell asleep and I was too scared to finish it alone. The only time I don’t get scared is when I’m protecting someone else. Then I can be brave. But reading scary books is not something I necessarily enjoy doing. I didn’t grow up reading the Goosebumps series because the covers scared me, but I’d guess that this is probably on par, especially since it came out a mere three years after the first Goosebumps book.

The point of view alternates irregularly between May Bird and her cat Somber Kitty, who end up in the land of the dead, known as the Ever After. We’re given to believe that live people used to visit frequently, but that since Bo Cheevil has come to power, everything has gone to Hell in a handbasket. The ghouls are escaping their pit in the dead sea, and the Boogie Man has been operating with an iron fist (and some giant dogs). The addition of a prophecy and a mysterious lady who runs an even more mysterious farm sucks you into May Bird and the Ever After like a water demon.

This book is middle grade/juvenile fiction but contains some pretty creepy ghosts and monsters. Recommended if you like scary stories like R.L. Stines Goosebumps series, but also if you’re willing to put up with some creepiness in your awesome dimensional-traveling adventure book.

HHC Rating:  4 Stars

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) – Libba Bray

Diviners-The-Diviners-Libba-Bray

Source: Goodreads

 

Evangeline O’Neill has special powers. She can see important moments in a person’s life just by holding something that belongs to them. This talent, of course, is not accepted in Zenith, Ohio. After a particularly bad evening of illegal drinking, the seventeen-year-old is shipped off to New York City to live with her bachelor uncle, William Fitzgerald, who runs The Museum of Creepy Crawlies, and his mysterious assistant, Jericho. Evie reunites with her childhood friend and the daughter of revolutionists, Mabel, as well as some new friends including Theta, a showgirl, and her brother Henry, a piano player, a thief named Sam, and a numbers runner named Memphis who might just be magical himself. Life can’t be the berries forever though, and before long Evie is called upon to use her powers to help stop a murderer before he raises the antichrist and wipes out all of man kind. Just another summer in 1920s New York, right?

 

I’ve heard about this book on and off since it came out in 2012, and I finally picked it up from the library in August of 2017. Definitely not disappointing! While the writing is easy to follow (except for the 20s slang, which I had to look up) and the chapters are short, the gruesomeness and maturity of the plot and characters’ thoughts definitely put this book squarely in the Young Adult category. If the reading level were a little higher I might even put it in adult, even though over half of the characters are ages 17-19.

If you can’t stand gore in your books, don’t read this. About half of the murders are detailed, and all of the bodies are described once they are discovered. If I was close to stopping my reading more the night and I knew a murder chapter was imminent, I would stop before it so I didn’t have it running around my brain all night long. Not that it really helped, because I still knew it was coming, so my brain usually decided to try and guess how it would go down *facepalm*. In that regard, I’m glad I’ve finished the book. At the same time, I’m sad to let the world go for a while until I get the next book. Bray’s version of 1920s New York City positively shines. I found myself wishing I could visit for the weekend (sans murders) to visit the theatres and clubs she describes in such vibrant detail. The buildings and the city are just as much characters as the human (and not so human) population.

If I were a cry-in-the-corner type of person, my horror-hating-soul would be doing that, because I don’t like being terrified of what’s coming, but I’m a bloody Gryffindor, and we don’t show fear, so I just marched on and kept reading. Overall, I think the horror aspects were very well balanced with the daily life in the 1920s and the mystery parts, which made me quite enjoy myself despite the demons lurking in the shadows.

Definitely pick this up if you have any interest in America’s supernatural history (I’m personally hoping one of the books in this quartet focuses on the witch trials), or if you adore 1920s period fiction, or if you liked Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, because this book is pos-i-tute-ly for you. Also, this cover is magic. I love it.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Lair of Dreams
Book #3 – Before The Devil Breaks You
Book #4 – Untitled – TBD

TV Review – The Vampire Diaries, Season #1

The-Vampire-Diaries-Season-1

Source: Wikipedia

 

Seventeen-year-old Elena Gilbert is still reeling from the loss of her parents in a car accident four months prior to the beginning of the show. She lives in the small town of Mystic Falls in Virginia with her younger brother Jeremy and their aunt and guardian, Jenna. The new school year starts and Elena and her two best friends, Bonnie and Caroline, meet the new boy at school, Stefan, who turns out to be a vampire. The storyline mostly follows Elena, Stefan, and Stefan’s mysterious older brother Damon, as well as a secret town council, made up the founding families, that somehow knows about vampires and seeks to rid Mystic Falls of them.

 

This television series is based on the book series of the same name written by L. J. Smith. I will readily admit I have not read them. Because everyone told me the writing was really terrible. Also, I had already seen the first season of the show at that point and knowing it wasn’t going to be as good made me just not want to go there and potentially ruin something beautiful. Because I consider what the writer has written to be cannon and any adaptations secondary, and I really want this TV show to be my cannon for this series.

This is a rewatch for me, but since I binged it the first time, I couldn’t remember where the first season ended and the second season began. This, my friends, is an excellent show and probably not appropriate for teenagers with the amount of illegal substances, underage drinking, and hooking up going on without anyone’s parents seeming to care overly much as long as they don’t see it personally. Not that that stopped me from watching it in 2009 when it premiered and I was a seventeen-year-old senior in high school. That said, Elena and pals are juniors, not seniors.

Being that this season takes place from 2009-2010, the music is super nostalgic for me. A lot of it is what I listened to during that time, and the tunes I didn’t recognize the first watch through I noticed now because they were songs I loved in college that hadn’t quite found me yet in high school. I also quite enjoyed the references to TwilightThe X-Files, and How I Met Your Mother, amongst others. The CW, like MTV, has a habit of picking attractive actors and actresses to fill their roles, though the CW doesn’t usually go over the top like MTV tends to. In this case, they played it right down the line and it worked out exceptionally well. While we had quite a few one-off characters, the season felt really full.

My favorite parts of the season might be the flashback scenes. Because we’re dealing with the eternally dead-yet-alive, the writers were able to jump into the past and show us bits of American history through the eyes of Stefan and Damon. I happen to know from experience that the flashbacks only get even better from here.

We got 22 45-minute episodes, and the first 6-7 mostly deal with getting to know the characters and setting up the layout of the town for the rest of the show. This was done really quite well. The remaining 15 episodes are composed of a mix of plots, furthering the basic character back story bits while also allowing room for a ‘big bad’. In this case, a bunch of scary vampires from the past show up and try to murder everyone. The season ends by wrapping up the season one big bad and hinting at the bad things to come in season two. If season one could be called “Let’s get to know everyone and hope not too many people close to our characters die”, then season two will probably end up being called “Feelings suck”.

 

Since this is season one, I won’t share any spoilers. Starting with season two, however, I’ll be referencing things from previous seasons, so don’t read them if you don’t want the plot spoiled!

 

And since this is of the utmost importance, I’m going to keep a tally of which team I’m on as far as ‘ships’ go in this series (Only the obvious one this time, though. No spoilers!):

The first time I watched this show, I was hardcore Team Stefan. Having watched other seasons I am now biased, obviously, but rewatching this season allowed me to see all the little manipulative things Stefan is doing while not actually realizing he is doing them. You would think that after 150+ years on this Earth he would know better, but, alas, he does not. So, this time around, I am wholeheartedly Team Damon. And I have no regrets.

 

Favorite Episode: Episode 19 – Miss Mystic Falls

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Life and Death (Twilight, #1.75) – Stephenie Meyer

life-and-death-stephenie-meyerSource: Goodreads

Beaufort Swan has spent his whole life being a grown up, and he’s tired of it. His mom is finally set to get remarried, and his new stepdad wants to move the family from Arizona to Florida. Beau, recognizing that everything is already about to change, makes the decision to move in with his biological father in Washington state. His mom has someone to take care of her, and Beau will have a chance at being a normal high school junior.

Getting used to the never ending rain of Forks Township soon becomes the least of Beau’s worries, while making new friends and trying to figure out why his perfect-in-every-way lab partner seems to hate his guts quickly take priority, but some of the answers could cost him everything.

 

Stephenie Meyer celebrates the 10th anniversary of the first Twilight book by gender swapping and rewriting it. Many have even speculated that she did it because everyone complained so much about how the original Edward used and abused Bella, and she wanted to show that it had nothing to do with their genders, but with the fact that one of them was a vampire and one of them was a human. Life and Death was originally released with Twilight, packaged together as a 10th-anniversary edition. I didn’t really feel the need to own another copy of the first book, so I waited until Life and Death was released independently. I picked up a paperback copy at my local Barnes & Noble for about $10.

It was a little slow at the beginning, and I also had a hard time figuring out who was who, having read the books and seen the movies nearly six years ago now. As far the Twilight craze went, I was a bandwagoner. My friend Christine read the books as they came out and was really surprised when the craziness appeared out of nowhere just before the final book, Breaking Dawn was released and the first Twilight movie was announced. I remember the books sweeping through our Catholic high school like wildfire, just as The Hunger Games would do three years later. Suddenly everyone had read the books, and vampires were the cooler than The Jonas Brothers. But I digress.

Life and Death gender swaps everyone, even minor background characters, except for Charlie and Rene, Bella/Beau’s parents, because at the time of his/her birth, it would have been very unlikely for the father to get full custody, so it wouldn’t make logical sense for Beau to be moving to Forks to stay with a mom who should have had custody all along. Everyone’s names start with the same letter as their old name, in an attempt to make it easier to figure out who is who. Though Mike/McKayla was the only one I could pick out without any trouble.

While I can’t tell you how many times or where exactly the book started to veer from the original, I can tell you that it does veer quite a bit. (I guess that’s why they released them together?) Beau is significantly more clumsy, and fearless, wishing to be the adult in all of his familial relationships, and obsessively in love with Edythe (or maybe the obsessive love was just more apparent from the male perspective? Bella’s thoughts were relatively quiet in comparison) and this ultimately drives the story in new directions. The majority of the Cullens have only very small parts, and everything after the slow beginning moves almost too quickly, though you probably guessed that by the fact that this novel is shorter than Twilight.

Overall, I felt it was well done, despite the slow beginning and the character confusion, and I actually enjoyed the new ending. While Twilight could never have ended that way, it made perfect sense for Beau and Edythe’s story to end there. I think I will always love the original quartet more, but it was refreshing and unique to be able to take a book I really enjoyed and look at it from a new perspective. I felt that I was able to get into the characters’ heads in new ways, and maybe understand Meyer’s world a little more thoroughly. I just need a list of people with their male/female names so I can get all of the characters straight in my head. Just thinking about it hurts.

 

Curio Street Reads Rating: 3.75 Stars