March Story Vol.1 by Hyung-Min Kim, Yang Kyung-Il: review

March Story, Vol. 1 (March Story #1)March Story Vol.1 by Hyung-Min Kim, Yang Kyung-Il (art)

Series: March Story #1

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Shounen

Publisher: VIZ Media LLC

Release Date: October 19th 2010

Synopsis: Reads R to L (Japanese Style), for M audiences. Among the quiet villages and towns of 18th century Europe, demons known as the Ill hide within the most beautiful works of art, sparked to life by the torment of their creators. Attracted by their jewel-like allure, the unwary find themselves possessed by the Ill and driven to horrific acts of violence. Only the hunters of the Ciste Vihad can dispel the Ill.

March is one such hunter, tracking the Ill from town to town to find the antiques that contain the demons before they can possess anyone. If the worst has come to pass, March’s full powers are unleashed to battle the fiendish Ill. Born of tragedy, the artifacts all have their own tales to tell, as do each of their victims. But March’s story may be the most tragic of all.

My Thoughts:

It has been a long time since I have been so mystified by a beginning of a series. If a person wants to start a series, this is how they should start it. With an intriguing introduction to the main character, a couple of amazing stories, and a dose of master storytelling.

I might as well insert a little warning in the beginning of this review. Awhile I label this manga as something in the Young Adult age group, I do think that only people who are mature enough to handle some adult things should read this. There is a good amount of blood in some of the chapters, and some nudity. I don’t think that these were used in excess or were just used to be used, though.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s go on!

As of right now, I can say that March Story is a story that follows March, a hunter of Ill. Ill are beings that live inside old artifacts, waiting for a human to pick them up. When a human picks them up, the Ill possesses the human and drives them to insanity with their whispers, and then take over the human’s body. The only thing that can stop an Ill is a Ciste Vihad, a person who has gotten the Ill possessing them under control. And that is what March is, a Ciste Vihad.

Of course, I believe that there is a much deeper storyline that is going to come into play in the future, but this first volume only touches upon what Ills and Ciste Vihads are, and the characters with the chapters it contains.

Most of the chapters in this volume have a very sinister feel to them. There is blood and screaming and horror. But there are some that are actually quite heartwarming. My favorite chapters is the one with the glass deer. It was such of an amazing chapter.

March is an enigma of a character for a time until about the middle of the volume. We don’t even officially know her gender until then. All we know at first is that she is a hunter that eliminates Ill. But when we actually get to know her and her past, well, it’s pretty painful.

The reoccurring side characters are also very good. I especially loved Jake, the chubby (an understatement) fortune teller that immediately caught my attention, for some reason. And Rodin is such of an interesting person. He is the man who owns a shop that sells items that have been cleansed of the Ill inside of them. And he isn’t at all hesitant to rip people off. It’s quite funny 😛

And Yang Kyung-Il’s art is GORGEOUS! Everything is vividly drawn, with great detail, and obvious love. Heck, even the dripping blood is nice to look at at times. Seriously, the art is Pandora Hearts pretty. That’s saying something.

This is a great beginning to a series. And if this continues, this might become tied with Pandora Hearts as my favorite manga series. The mangaka’s have a wonderful idea for a story. I would definitely recommend this for fans of D.Gray-Man since it does have similar elements.

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The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow WallpaperThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Stand Alone

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult/Adult

Genre: Horror, Gothic, Classic

Release Date: First pub. 1890

Synopsis: First published in 1892, The Yellow Wall-Paper is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. In the involuntary confinement of her bedroom, the hero creates a reality of her own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper – a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, The Yellow Wall-Paper stands out not only for the imaginative authenticity with which it depicts one woman’s descent into insanity, but also for the power of its testimony to the importance of freedom and self-empowerment for women.

My Thoughts:

Such a deliciously creepy story this book is! The Yellow Wallpaper is an unnerving story, to say the least. The short story sent shivers down my spine quite frequently. But this is also a short story that made me  feel a quiet sadness that I didn’t know I was feeling until I finished the last sentence.

With only a few more than ten pages, The Yellow Wallpaper packs quite a punch–much like Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day. It always surprises me when I read stories that are able to show so much in such a small amount of pages.

The Yellow Wallpaper is written as a journal by a woman who has been given a country rest cure. Confined in a room with barred windows, nailed-down furniture, a gated door, and ugly yellow wallpaper whose design has no pattern, the woman is denied any meaningful things to do, no stimulation for her mind. This clashes with her already mildly unstable mind and causes her to grow more obsessive and insane.

Gilman writes the story in such a way that it is actually hard to see when the woman’s sanity starts to crumble. The reader will be probably so enraptured that they will only notice the signs. It is only when you get to end that you really realize that the woman has been driven completely insane by the confinement, but by then it is already way to late… Her mind is already screaming.

The yellow wallpaper that the story is centered mostly upon is quite the mystery. There are many ways one can interpret the ‘meaning’ behind it. One could say that it represents how the woman has been imprisoned by her unstable state of mind. One could also say that the wallpaper represents how women in that time have been limited as people and mostly put under the rule of men (this seems to be the most shared interpretation). Again, there are many ways to interpret the story.

The writing is surprisingly light compared to many other classics. The prose is clean and pretty, but not heavy and wordy. And I loved it that way. It was easy to follow and compelling… It was the very definition of ‘readable’. Even with my tired, frazzled mind I was able to follow it.

And I must talk about the ending! I don’t want to spoil it by saying exactly what happened, but I do want to tell you all that it is as shocking as it is haunting. Never have I been so frightened (that seems like the best word) by an ending…

This is a breathtaking story that obviously had a lot of thought put into it. I did some research on the author and found some interesting facts about her reasons behind writing this beast (and beauty) of a short story. You can read it here.

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick: review

Midwinterblood Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Standalone

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy, Horror

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Release Date: February 5th 2013

Synopsis: Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.

An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood? From award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick comes a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love.

My Thoughts: 

Midwinterblood is a haunting and unsettling book. This book made me feel out of place, even in my own house. It made me feel as if I could open the front door of my house and find a hare sitting on my doorway, staring at me. I know this sounds like I am over exaggerating how I feel about this book. I am not. Midwinterblood is extremely dark and creepy, and it is an unusual and original addition to the Young Adult genre.

Midwinterblood is a story about a love so strong that it slips through the cracks in time. Midwinterblood is a story about two people’s journey through many lives, chasing each other. Midwinterblood is a story that is haunting and poignant and unsettling. It is a story that left me shocked.

Marcus Sedgwick masterfully intertwines seven short stories, connecting them by thin threads and the chilling place known as Blessed Island. Eric and Merle’s connected in different ways in each story. In one life they are siblings, mother and son, friends, or even connected by just one mere photograph.  It is up to the reader to find the commonalities, to get deep into the stories, and to find the lost, real identities of Eric and Merle.

Sedgwick’s writing is nothing short of excellent. His prose evoked a silent, subtle terror within me which is something that I have never experienced when reading a novel. Most of the writing is sparse, using detailed passages sparingly, but even so, Sedgwick’s writing contains beautiful sensory.

“The vast splendid horror of the painting remains but there, in the background is a new figure. Standing on the gallery, just behind the king, leaning around a pillar, only half visible, is the face, the shoulder, and the arm of a small girl. She’s holding an apple out toward the king, placing it on the balustrade of the gallery.” Pg. 167

The horror element of Midwinterblood is not the blatant, gory kind but rather the subtle kind that silently creeps up on you, slowly seeping into your bones. The eerie and gloominess that is in the atmosphere only enhances the subtle terror. The love in this book has a dose of everything. Sweetness, pain, happiness, sadness. The love that Merle and Eric had for each other was genuine and strong.

And let me not forget the final moments of this marvelous book. The ending of Midwinterblood was tragic and bloody. It made me feel like the story has ended but I also felt like the story had just begun. I will never forget such an ending!

I would recommend this book to people who want to read an atmosphere, chilling novel that has an original take on a love story and people that prefer silent horror instead of the in your face kind. I haven’t read any of Sedgwick’s other works but I have already set my aim on Revolver which is the 2011 Printz Honor winner. I am glad that Sedgwick has a big collection of novels written already and they all seem deliciously creepy.

And here is the beautiful painting that inspired this story:

File:Midvinterblot.jpeg

The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle: review

The Hallowed Ones (The Hallowed Ones, #1)The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

Series: The Hallowed Ones #1

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Paranormal, Thriller, Horror

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release Date: September 25th 2012

Synopsis: Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community?

My thoughts: I read The Hallowed Ones for one reason: I was promised Amish vampires. I did indeed get Amish vampires but I also got a well written story, a great female protagonist, a great male protagonist, a good look into how the Amish live, classic vampires, gore, and a whole lot of suspense.

I don’t have much knowledge about the Plain Folk and their way of life but the good amount of information this novel contains seems very accurate. I at first thought that book would be a bit overly preachy but I found that the religious tone in this book is anything but that. It was very interesting to learn more about the Plain Folk’s religion. I think that the creepy atmosphere mostly comes from how the book mixes a supposedly very peaceful and conservative way of life with something as dangerous and ugly as vampires.

I loved the vampires. The vampires in The Hallowed Ones are the classic vampires. They have fangs, a thirst for blood,  a weakness to garlic, and glowing red eyes. You will find no Edwards in this book. Although the first half of the book is pretty peaceful with almost no gore the second half has a lot of it: torn up dead bodies, staking through the heart, and decapitation. The horror, gore, and classic vampires were able to scare me and that was really refreshing.

Katie was my favorite part of the book.I was completely emotionally invested in her. She is not at all weak and submissive but rather courageous, fearless, strong, kind, and kick butt. She has her flaws and struggles with the problems many teenagers go through but she perseveres. Katie is able to question other people and do what she thinks is right even if it means standing up to the Elders and going against what her family wishes. She is simply an inspiring character. Alex was also able to win my heart. His slow developing romance with Katie was unexpected but they were very well suited for each other. I liked how the romance only plays a small part of the story letting the vampires take the stage.

The story was very well written and gripping. The Hallowed Ones was suspenseful and I was constantly on the edge of my seat. This book was clearly written by an experienced writer. The ending wrapped up the story nicely but also leaves a promise of future books which I am very, very excited for.

Two and Twenty Dark Tales by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink: review

Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose RhymesTwo and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes by Georgia McBride(editor) and Michelle Zink(editor)

Paperback

Anthology

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Genre: YA Fiction, Horror, Retellings

Publisher: Month9Books

Synopsis: In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.

Note: There are three short stories that are not included in the ARC version of this book

My thoughts: I I loved the idea of this anthology. I love dark retellings so I was very excited to read this anthology which is filled with retellings of the Mother Goose nursery rhymes. Many of the original nursery rhymes were already creepy so I was expecting a lot.

My high expectations of this anthology went down when I started reading the first short story. It was a pretty bad opening to the anthology. Unfortunately, there were many stories that had a lot of potential but were not executed very well. The anthology was filled with stories that had at least one of these faults: “dark and mysterious men”, insta-love, aimlessness, and not much relation to a nursery rhyme. It seemed like the story was written and then had some vague references to a nursery rhyme shoved inside of it. And some of them made about as much sense as this:

I got bored and my mind started drifting off which is obviously not a good sign. Fortunately there are some short stories that were able to snap me to attention.

The good short stories in this anthology were amazing! They had everything I wanted. There was sadness, horror, and creepiness inside the stories and I was a little sad when they were over. These short stories were a breath of fresh air and I loved reading them.

My favorites include:

Sing a Song of Six Pence: a dark and heartbreaking retelling of Four and Twenty Blackbirds

 Wee Willie Winkie: very creepy and had me scared to stay up past eight o’ clock

Candlelight:a sad story about two people who don’t appreciate what they have

Sea of Dew: a story about four teenagers lost at sea that made my heart break

The Well: a retelling of Jack and Jill that tells us the sad truth about what really happened.

If you mind digging through all the bad and so-so stories in this anthology to find the gems then I don’t think you should try reading this. But if you can then I say go for it!

*An advanced copy was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley

Ponies by Kij Johnson: mini short story review

Ponies by Kij Johnson

Short Story

Genre: Fantasy, Horror

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Synopsis: If you want to be friends with TheOtherGirls, you’re going to have to give something up; this is the way it’s always been, as long as there have been Ponies.

My Thoughts: This review is going to be very short as I just want to get the word out about this fantastic story. I read this short story thinking it would be a My Little Pony fan fiction. I was very very very wrong. I should have looked at the cover illustration more closely. This short story does have colorful ponies with wings and horns but it is very disturbing. After reading this I only had one thing to say: “What the heck did I just read?”

After clearing my head of the colorful bloody ponies I could find the message in the story very easily. This story is a metaphor for what lengths children-and adults- will go to in order to fit in and most of the time it is not even worth it.

The Diviners by Libba Bray: review

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)Title: The Diviners

Author: Libba Bray

Series: The Diviners #1

Genre: YA Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Fantasy, Horror

Publisher: Little, Brown Books

Publish Date: September 18, 2012

Synopsis: Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”
 When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

I loved this book so much!

After reading The Diviners I had only one thought: I need the next book. Now. The Diviners is a story full of creepiness, awesome characters, and beautiful writing. This book enraptured me immediately. I am certain that The Diviners is a book that will keep you reading until the last word.

Evie O’Neill is a very unique character. She craves attention and will do almost anything to be in the spotlight. She can be selfish at times but she does care greatly for the people she loves. Evie was a very…loud character. Not only is she a flapper that craves attention and the spotlight but she is also a very strong character.  She is not a character you will forget anytime soon with the loudness of her personality. Mabel’s quiet and obedient personality contrasts greatly to Evie’s personality. Mabel does not play a terribly big part of the story but I loved her all the same. She was a very real character to me. Jericho and Sam are Evie’s love interest. Yes, this book has a love triangle but it was done so well that I did not mind it at all. It never got in the way of the story and I did find myself enjoying the love triangle to an extent. Jericho and Sam are both likeable male characters. Sam was especially entertaining as he flirted with Evie in very silly ways. Sam also has his own little story: he is trying to find his mother. I hope his story plays a bigger part in the next books. Jericho I do not love as much as Sam but he was a very good character nevertheless. I sympathized with him a lot and he was a gentleman. Memphis and Theta who are also Diviners did not play a big part in this book but I have a feeling we will be spending more time with them in the later installments. Naughty John is probably the most scary character I have ever read in a YA book. At first I thought he was funny because of his name but after learning about him I started to fear him. A lot. Whenever Naughty John’s name was mentioned in the book my heart started pounding.

Diviners are people with a special gift such as reading someone’s past by touching an object they own, being able to get people to not notice you, and healing people with the touch of you hands. The idea of a special group of people is not the most original idea but the mystery Bray was able to put behind the Diviners and their powers kept me reading all way to the end. I was totally engrossed in the mystery of the murders, Naughty John, and the Diviners. One very minor flaw this book has is that I thought that the ending dragged on a little too much. The resolution just went on and on and one. I started to get a little bit bored.

The writing was magnificent! Libba Bray wrote about old-time New York with such detail! I imagined myself walking about the streets with Evie and Mabel having a grand old-time. You could tell Bray spent a lot of time on research. The descriptions on the surroundings were beautiful and clear. The way the author was able to write about a character’s emotions made them seem even more real. Bray’s writing is certainly something to admire!

The Diviners is a awesome and beautiful book. The characters, writing, and story are exquisite and endearing. Reading this book is not something to pass up.

I give The Diviners 4.5 out of 5 Stars