Gizzy’s Halloween Treat!

gizzy_dracula (2)Happy Halloween, fellow bookworms! In honor of my most favorite holiday, I bring you a roundup of incredibly spooky reads for a blustery, or in my case muggy, Halloween night!

Last October I rounded up a handful of nostalgic Halloween reads, but this year, I’m much more in the mood for balls-to-the-wall frightening tales of blood-sucking fiends, demons and nightly visitors from the great beyond. Here are a few deliciously creepy books that are sure to keep you glued to the page way past the midnight hour.  Pleasant nightmares…and pay no attention to the scratching on the window. I’m sure it’s just the wind….

The Shining by Stephen King
11588From Goodreads: Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

 Ghost Story by Peter Straub 51Y3oJ8duSLFrom Goodreads: For four aging men in the terror-stricken town of Milburn, New York, an act inadvertently carried out in their youth has come back to haunt them. Now they are about to learn what happens to those who believe they can bury the past — and get away with murder. Peter Straub’s classic bestseller is a work of “superb horror” (The Washington Post Book World) that, like any good ghost story, stands the test of time — and conjures our darkest fears and nightmares.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
153025From Goodreads: Aging death-metal rock legend Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals…a used hangman’s noose…a snuff film. But nothing he possesses is as unique or as dreadful as his latest purchase off the Internet: a one-of-a-kind curiosity that arrives at his door in a black heart-shaped box…a musty dead man’s suit still inhabited by the spirit of its late owner. And now everywhere Judas Coyne goes, the old man is there—watching, waiting, dangling a razor blade on a chain from his bony hand.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
179780From Goodreads: Four decades after it first shook the nation, then the world, William Peter Blatty’s thrilling masterwork of faith and demonic possession returns in an even more powerful form. Raw and profane, shocking and blood-chilling, it remains a modern parable of good and evil and perhaps the most terrifying novel ever written.

The Right Hand of Evil by John Saul
6573From Goodreads: When the Conways move into their ancestral home in Louisiana after the death of an estranged aunt, it is with the promise of a new beginning. But the house has a life of its own. Abandoned for the last forty years, surrounded by thick trees and a stifling sense of melancholy, the sprawling Victorian house seems to swallow up the sunlight. Deep within the cold cellar and etched into the very walls is a long, dark history of the Conway name—a grim bloodline poisoned by suicide, strange disappearances, voodoo rituals, and rumors of murder. But the family knows nothing of the soul-shattering secrets that snake through generations of their past. They do not know that terror awaits them. For with each generation of the Conways comes a hellish day of reckoning. . . .

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
293101From Goodreads: In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the property – complete with boathouse and swimming pool – and the price had been too good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror…

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
11279From Goodreads: In the summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, five 12-year-old boys forge the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. An ancient, sinister evil lurks in the dark, and when a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the deepest night, the people know it marks the beginning of terror. Now Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a fraternal war of blood against an arcane abomination.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
5413From Goodreads: Something strange is going on in Jerusalem’s Lot … but no one dares to talk about it. By day, ‘Salem’s Lot is a typical modest New England town; but when the sun goes down, evil roams the earth. The devilishly sweet insistent laughter of a child can be heard echoing through the fields, and the presence of silent looming spirits can be felt lurking right outside your window. Stephen King brings his gruesome imagination to life in this tale of spine tingling horror.

What’s your favorite scary story? Post a comment and tell me all the gory details!

The Friday Five: Pretty When She Dies by Rhiannon Frater

In honor of the coolest day of the week, I bring you The Friday Five. Every Friday I will ask the same five questions to myself, or any other willing participant! All my fellow book lovers are welcome to join in on the fun.

5966254From the publisher: Amaliya wakes under the forest floor, disoriented, famished and confused. She digs out of the shallow grave and realizes she is hungry… … in a new, horrific, unimaginable way… Sating her great hunger, she discovers that she is now a vampire, the bloodthirsty creature of legend. She has no choice but to flee from her old life and travels across Texas. Her new hunger spurs her to leave a wake of death and blood behind her as she struggles with her new nature. All the while, her creator is watching. He is ancient, he is powerful, and what’s worse is that he’s a necromancer. He has the power to force the dead to do his bidding. Amaliya realizes she is but a pawn in a twisted game, and her only hope for survival is to seek out one of her own kind. But if Amaliya finds another vampire, will it mean her salvation… or her death?

Why did you choose this book? The Bookish Brunette gave it a crowned rating, so I knew it was worth a read. Plus the cover is really gruesome!

Where did the author go right? Or if it’s a turkey, what went wrong? What really set this book apart from the rest is that the author went old-school, meaning these aren’t your happy, friendly vampires that sustain themselves on animal blood. Ooooh no – they prey on humans, and sometimes it gets downright messy.  Just when I thought I was burned out on vampires, she brought me back into the fray with this spellbinding tale of bloodlust, romance and adventure. I love that the vampires abhor mirrors, and that they can’t cross over a threshold uninvited. This gothic throwback is a welcome departure from a lot of the urban fantasy crap I’ve been reading lately.  Oh and did I mention zombies are involved? Think Buffy meets The Walking Dead meets Anne Rice. In case you’re wondering, that’s the trifecta of blood-sucking awesomness!

On a side note, I would also like to mention that I REALLY appreciated the Austin infusion. Clearly this Texas woman loves her home state – and it shows in her descriptions of the rugged Hill Country landscape and Austin’s eclectic nightlife. She even mentions the gingerbread pancakes at Kirby Lane, which is pretty much the yummiest breakfast ever.

Did anything bug you about the book? The fact that it had to end kind of bugged me. Other than that, everything about the book – the plot threads, the characters, the romance – is spot on!

Would you read another book by this author? Absolutely, positively 100 percent YES! I’m already moving on to Pretty When She Kills.

How would you sum up the book in three words? Bloody, intense, fun.   

Awake at Dawn by C.C. Hunter

10800916There’s a reason why C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series is on the best-selling lists. Her main character is living every teenage girl’s fantasy. Tall, blond and gorgeous, she’s the prettiest – and most mysterious – girl at Camp Shadow Falls. Two of the camp’s hottest boys are chasing after her – plus she’s got the coolest best friends a girl could ever ask for.  Oh – and did I mention that a side-effect of her hidden super-powers is growing an extra cup-size over night? So not fair…the only things that sprouted on my teenage body overnight were pimples.

If you’re not familiar with the Shadow Falls series, here’s the scoop: Kylie is a camper at Shadow Falls, a place where teenage fairies, vamps, werewolves, shapeshifters and witches can learn how to hone their supernatural powers. They can do some really cool stuff like reading each other’s brain waves, shifting into four-legged beasts, and communing with ghosts..

Unlike her fellow campers, Kylie’s supernatural identity is a total mystery. Desperate for answers, she hires a PI to look into her ancestral past. And as her powers begin to develop, she comes up with more questions than answers. What kind of preternatural species can talk to dead people, run at warp speed, and grow taller and more boobalicious overnight? No one – not even the camp counselors – seems to know.

In this second installment, Kylie is plagued by a new ghost who insists that someone she loves is on the cusp of death. It would be helpful if the blood-drenched spirit could give her more details. But like everything else, Kylie must figure it out on her own. And if that’s not enough, she’s facing some serious boy drama. Lucas, a gorgeous werewolf with smoldering blue eyes, inexplicably skipped town with the world’s bitchiest she-wolf. She wants more than anything to write him off completely, but his love letters and dream-scaping invasions keep her hanging on.

Wouldn't Jared Padalecki make a great Derek?!?

Wouldn’t Jared Padalecki make a great Derek?!?

And then there’s Derek. Don’t let the half-fairy status fool you; this guy is no sissy with sparkly wings. He’s big, buff and completely smitten with Kylie. I have to say that the shower scene is one of the hottest romantic moments I’ve encountered in paranormal teen lit. With his brown shaggy hair, chiseled features and barrel chest, I kept picturing a half-naked, dripping wet Jared Padelecki. Supernatural fans, you know who I’m talking about! Kylie must have some crazy superpowers to walk away from…shall I say…a very promising opportunity.

Considering the formula of YA paranormal love triangles, I’m willing to bet she’s going to end up with the mysterious bad boy, but oh how I wish she could just be with Derek. He’s sweet, romantic and oh-so-very perfect! If the author really wants to give her readers a plot twist, she should make Kylie choose the nice guy in the end.

Aside from the love triangle, Kylie is also helping her friends deal with some serious problems. Miranda is crying into her pillow every night over a bad breakup. Della fears the death angels will make her atone for the sins of her past. And Sara, Kylie’s mortal BFF back home, is no longer returning her phone calls. Aye yay yay – teenage life is tough!

The plot thickens when the prophetic ghost gets more and more demanding. Soon someone Kylie loves will die – and she only has a short window of time to stop it from happening. And if that’s not enough, she’s also being stalked by a rogue vampire who is out killing mortals on the streets.

There’s a lot going on in this book, but the author does a fine job weaving the plot threads into a cohesive story. With every chapter she hits me with a cliffhanger, leaving me with no other option but to tear through the pages to get some answers. Warning: if you have weekend plans or chores to tackle, DO NOT read this book. I took this thing with me on the plane, and it was torture having to put it away when I had to make a connecting flight! All in all, this is one of the best paranormal series out there. If you’re looking for a good character-driven novel filled with plot twists, romance and mystery, give Shadow Falls a try!

Tricks, Treats and a Roundup of Halloween Nostalgia

Here’s a photo of me looking particularly fiendish in my Freddy Krueger getup

Now that we’re in the thick of the Halloween season, it’s time to dust off those old books that gave me nightmares back when vampires were scary and werewolves were blood-thirsty fiends. Let’s face it, the YA “horror” genre ain’t what it used to be. Sure, glittery vampires and lovelorn ghosts are amusing, but do they give us goosebumps? Eh, not so much. So this year, I’m revisiting some old titles that set those little hairs on the back of my neck on edge when I was a mere sprig of a girl. Here’s a sampling of some of my most favorite Halloweenie reads from the days of yore.

Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Here’s an oldie but goodie. Back in seventh grade, I clearly remember reading this thing from cover to cover – in between classes, on the school bus, in detention, and under the sheets with a nightlight.  That was the year when I realized that I didn’t have to deal with reality. Thanks to this author, I hit the pause button on junior high life and immersed myself in an alternate world of spooks, haunted houses and dreamy ghost boys. Like all her other novels, Richie Tankersley Cusick uses her tried-and-true formula: Girl moves into a haunted house under tragic circumstances. Girl crushes on cute, mysterious boy. Girl discovers dark secrets about her new home. Girl and boy team up  to conquer evil. Throw in a spooky backyard cemetery and a demonic stalker, and you’ve got yourself a fun little Gothic ghost tale for a dark and stormy night!

Beware by R.L. Stine

How could I leave out R.L. Stine – the great master of YA macabre? I remember that fateful day at the mall bookstore when I begged my dad to buy me this book. Considering my dad’s a total sucker, it didn’t take too much to get him to relent. Oh how I miss those days when I’d spend an afternoon at the mall with my dad eating corndogs and buying books. Come to think of it, whatever happened to mall book stores? Don’t mallrats read anymore? But I digress…this is a fun little compilation of R.L. Stine’s favorite short stories by an impressive assortment of literary greats – from Bram Stoker to Shel Silverstein to Ray Bradbury. My favorite, of course, is Ray Bradbury’s “The Black Ferris,” a spine-tingling story about an evil carnival that “came to town like an October wind, like a dark bat flying over a cold lake, bones rattling in the night, mourning, sighing, whispering up the tents in the dark rain…”

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

Remember that kid at the slumber party who insisted on telling scary stories and playing Bloody Mary? I was that girl. Yep, I was to blame for that ubiquitous sissy who cried for her mommy in the middle of the night. I was responsible for the “Mad Molly” nightmares that kept all the girls shivering in their bunks at summer camp. All of those morbid stories were spawned by Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Even to this day, I will not show up at a campsite without this trusty collection of dark and spooky tales. Some are silly and downright hokey, but a few stories still chill me to the bone. The story about “Harold,” a demonic scarecrow with a thirst for human blood, always gives me the creeps! But what scares me the most about this book are the morbid illustrations. It’s hard to believe those images of bloody hands and impaled scarecrows would cut it in the children’s section. But hey, I’m not going to complain! I turned out perfectly normal…right?

The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

Forget the WB show and its complicated plotlines. Seriously guys, after the third season I was so done with the tangled web of ancient legacies, vampire/werewolf hybrids and traitorous vampire hunters. Miss one episode and you’re totally lost. If it wasn’t for the eye candy, I doubt I would have made it past the second season. But don’t fret, you can still get all the enjoyment out of the Vampire Diaries without the whiney younger brother and convoluted subplots by reading L.J. Smith’s trilogy. If you’re looking for an action-packed vampire love triangle with intricate plot threads, you should pick up something more contemporary. But if you’re in the mood for a good old-fashioned vampire love story with lots of teeny angst, give this series a shot.

Review: Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, No. 1)

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of sci-fi, dystopian fantasy or anything involving star-crossed fairies. When I first read the dustcover of Soulless, I was immediately turned off by the whole steampunk thing. But it was on sale for $5, so why not give it a try?  And wouldn’t you know, I was immediately sucked into Alexia Trabotti’s world of vampires, werewolves, dirigibles and mad scientists!

Although fanged and furry creatures of the night coexist with humans in this odd realm of Victorian London, many people (scientists especially) are weary of their supernatural powers. That’s why Alexia must keep her soullessness under wraps. Known as a “preternatural,” she has the unique ability to rid a supernatural being of its powers with just one touch. It’s bad enough she’s a spinster with an unsightly Mediterranean complexion, let alone a lack of human essence! Plus her wisecracking comments are typically frowned upon in polite London society.

The story begins when Alexia accidentally kills a rogue vampire with her trusty brass parasol at the Queen’s ball. When Lord Maccon, a gorgeous Scottish alpha werewolf, is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate, he comes up with more questions than answers. What’s behind the random vampire attacks? Why are vampires disappearing from their hives? All signs point to Alexia, but Lord Maccon is convinced of her innocence and soon grows a fondness for her ballsy attitude and curvaceous physique.

There are many things I love about this book – whip-smart dialogue, screwball comedy,  smoking-hot make out sessions, to name a few. But I really got a kick out of the secondary characters, especially Alexia’s best friend, Ivy, who has a huge collection of hideous hats. Alexia’s zingers about her friend’s ridiculous fashion statements had me laughing out loud! I also love, love, love her vampire sidekick Lord Akeldama. He’s your token gay best friend with impeccable fashion taste and snarky one-liners. The intoxicatingly witty love-hate banter between Alexia and Lord Maccon is also very entertaining. Gail Carriger has clearly mastered the art of dialogue and character development. I can’t wait to delve into the next book to see what’s in store for Alexia and Lord Maccon as their relationship develops!

So my fellow readers, the moral of this story is to try out a new genre! Who knows, you might be missing out on a real treat. After reading the Hunger Games in one sitting, I’m kicking myself for never dabbling into the realm of dystopian fantasy. That review is coming soon!

Short & Sweet Sundays: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

  In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! For more of my “Short & Sweet” reviews, go here. 

The gist: The story centers around Diana Bishop, a history professor and powerful witch who lives in denial of her heritage. While conducting research in Oxford’s world-famous Bodleian Library, she inadvertently calls up “Ashmole 782,” a manuscript believed to contain the secrets of all creation. Coveted for centuries by the underworld of witches, demons and vampires, the secrets within the book could do some serious damage. Soon the supernatural baddies come out of the woodwork to confiscate the book.

Enter Mathew Clairmont, a blood-sucking geneticist and all-round hottie (think Edward Cullen with a Ph.D.). Although witches and vampires are not allowed to comingle, he finds himself bewitched by Diana’s beauty and charms. Unable to resist her tantalizing scent (hmm… sounds like another vampire I know), he swoops in to save her from the evildoers. Their alliance violates an ancient contract, but they forge onward in the hopes of being the first to discover the secrets contained in Ashmole 782.

Thoughts on character development: No matter how hard I tried to like Diana, I just couldn’t. I was turned off from the get-go when she smugly pronounced, “What got me away from Madison was my intellect.” Ick! There’s nothing I loathe more than an intellectual snob! And much like Bella (yep, I went there!) she’s just an empty vessel without the love of her vampire soul mate. The inner feminist in me just wants to scream, “Come on girl, get a life and stop blithering about your undying love!” She’s completely wrapped up in herself and has no interesting quirks, friends or interests – outside of rowing and alchemy research of course.

As for Mathew, he’s the textbook definition of a Harlequin romance hero: overly sensitive, attentive and always ready to put his life at risk to save his ladylove. Basically, he’s a woman’s definition of the perfect man. This is what really irks me about romance novels! Call me crazy, but I like a guy with some typical man-flaws like fear of commitment or belching in public. Take Damon from “The Vampire Diaries” for example. He’s a typical male with a serious attitude problem, but a total softy on the inside. When Elena brings out his inner teddy bear, the romantic tension really sizzles! I’m sorry, but how many of you really got excited about the sweet and loving Stefan? BORING!

In the next book, which involves Mathew and Diana’s first foray into time travel, I hope to see more of Baldwin, Mathew’s bad-boy brother. He’s hot, he’s angry, and he has some serious bloodlust issues, especially for Diana’s magical witch blood. I know love triangles are getting clichéd, but I would really love to see some romance brewing between these two magical creatures!

What I liked: I have to hand it to the author, she has a knack for creating spooky atmosphere. If your pulse flutters at the thought of creepy old libraries, French castles and descents into dark forests by moonlight, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Despite her flaws, which I’m sure she’ll smooth out in her next installment, the author is a truly gifted writer.

What irked me: With proper editing, this mammoth book could have been easily condensed into 300 pages or less. The drawn-out scenes of Diane drinking tea, thinking about drinking tea, rowing down the river and doing yoga really bogged down the story. Oh and don’t even get me started on the excruciatingly long descriptions of DNA analysis – I get it, Deborah, you’re super smart!

Most memorable scene: I hate to sound like such a snoot, but OMG this book could have done without the vampire/witch/demon yoga sessions. I get that the author is a big fan of the new agey healing powers of yoga, but come on! I couldn’t keep a straight face when she so eloquently described the supernatural beings harmoniously practicing yoga in Mathew’s opulent mansion. If this book hit the big screen, I can already see SNL and Jay Leno mocking this ludicrous scene!

My response to the critics: Most of the reviewers claim this first-time novelist blatantly stole from Stephanie Meyer’s and JK Rowling’s playbooks. But is that such a bad thing? Readers LOVE the mystery of Harry Potter’s past, and the star-crossed-lover drama between Edward and Bella. So why not borrow and build upon these intriguing storylines? And might I add that fans of that old TV series “Roswell” can attest to the fact that Stephanie Meyer used that show as a template for her Twilight series.

Will I read the next two installments in this trilogy? Eh…probably. All things considered, this is a solid paranormal thriller. Yes, it dragged quite a bit, but I feel that the story just started to cook with some grease right at the very end. If I want to get fancy with analogies, I’d say this book is the literary equivalent of a Dave Mathews CD. It’s good quality stuff, but I’m not counting down the days until the next album drops. Sure, I own a Dave Mathews CD, but I don’t have it stored in my favorite playlist – and I certainly don’t know all the lyrics by heart.  Anne Rice’s vampire books, however, are right on par with my Dixie Chicks obsession!

This book is best paired with: A hearty glass of wine, a purring cat and a crackling fireplace. If you’re an apartment dweller like me, you should download a virtual fireplace app!

Teaser Tuesdays (1) – Teeth: Vampire Tales

Sometimes it’s fun being a tease! And what better way to spice up a boring ol’ Tuesday than by highlighting a scintillating passage from a spooky book? For my first Teaser Tuesday blurb, I bring you an intriguing little snippet from Jeffrey Ford’s uber-creepy vampire tale  Sit the Dead,  page 212.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here’s how it works:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

 My teaser:

Luke looked through the open doors and down the aisle before him, past the rows of darkened pews, to the altar – white marble, crowded with statues, and holding the candlelit coffin of Gracie.  

He took a deep breath and moved toward the light.

Whoa there…did I just hear a strange noise outside my window? I better double-check those door locks and sleep with my Hello Kitty nightlight tonight!

Short & Sweet Sundays: How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner

Hooray for Sundays! In honor of this blissful day, I bring you a short and sweet review of Penny Warner’s How to Party With a Killer Vampire.

The gist: Presley Parker is an up-and-coming party planner for San Francisco’s A-list community. She’s what I would call the J.B. Fletcher of party planning. Whenever she makes an appearance at a black-tie affair, somebody inevitably drops dead.  This can be bad for business, so she must resolve the mystery before more partygoers are permanently knocked off the guest list! The mystery begins when a parkour athlete is found dead in the local cemetery, which just happens to be the venue for Pressley’s next big shindig. In case you’re not privy to this new-wave sport, it involves bouncing and flipping off of buildings and stairwells with no shoes. Weird, I know. 

Things go from bad to worse when Pressley stumbles upon the body of a party-crashing celebrity reporter at a lavish movie wrap-up party in a spooky graveyard. In true Murder She Wrote fashion, the murder takes place right after a heated argument between a big-time producer and the wannabe Perez Hilton.  Of course the producer is the most obvious suspect, but there’s plenty of shady characters with ample motives to knock off the reporter. Could it be the scandalous Hollywood starlet who’s desperately trying to keep her skeletons in the closet? Did her protective celebrity boyfriend resort to murder to keep their affair a secret? Or is it the crazy gun-toting cemetery groundskeeper? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

The love interest: Now this is interesting, the leading man in this series is an ex-cop turned crime-scene cleaner. Okay, so maybe a man who comes home smelling like entrails isn’t exactly a turn-on, but this guy is H-O-T and he can be downright resourceful when Presley needs to hunt down clues.

Most unique aspects: Although this is a fun and frothy mystery series, the author touches on two heavy-duty issues: ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease.  This is the first time I’ve ever encountered a main character in a chick lit novel with ADHD. Considering that millions of Americans (the Facebook generation especially) struggle to focus on a single topic for longer than a millisecond, ADHD is indeed an interesting element to weave into a story.  

The mother/daughter dynamic in this story is also very touching. Presley’s mother, a former party-planner and Hollywood socialite, has an acute case of Alzheimer’s disease. A big chunk of Presley’s party planning commission goes toward her mother’s ultra-expensive rest home.  Pretty depressing right? Wrong! The mom actually has a nice little life at the old folks’ home, which she considers to be a posh resort. Plus her dear daughter takes her out on “adventures” whenever she’s hosting glitzy red-carpet affairs. The mom makes a great sidekick, even though she tends to wander off when Presley is interrogating suspects.  

Added bonuses: Each chapter opens with a fun little party-planning tip for vampire-infused fiestas. Plus, Pricilla’s mom provides readers with some cool nuggets of information about the history of San Francisco. Here’s my favorite tip:

“Make your next Ladies’ Night a Vampire Party with a romantic twist to celebrate a birthday girl, bachelorette, or bride-to-be. Fill the room with black and red balloons, scented candles, and posters of Edward and Jacob from the Twilight series. Then have a vampire stripper make a surprise appearance.”

This book is best paired with: A champaign cocktail and leopard-printed fuzzy slippers.

Overall: If you like cozy mysteries with a lot of sass, great dialogue and a plot that flies – you’ll love this charming series. Presley is an endearing heroine and her rollicking adventures around San Francisco are entertaining. This is my first Party-Planning Mystery – and it certainly won’t be the last! I’m looking forward to the next book set in California’s wine country!

Under Attack by Hannah Jayne

The dramatic cover, with a leather-clad huntress wielding a smoking gun in one hand and a Taser gun in the other, might suggest this book is about a kick-ass demon warrior on a quest to evicerate the forces of evil.  But don’t be fooled – this book is not what it  appears to be! And for me, that’s a good thing because I’m much more into fun and frothy urban fantasies involving quirky crime-solving sleuths and preternatural hotties. So if you, like me, enjoy characters like Sookie Stackhouse or Stephanie Plum, you’ll really get a kick out of Sophie Lawson, the leading lady in Hanna Jayne’s Underworld Detection Agency series.  

As a human immune to magic, Sophie is somewhat of an anomaly at the Underworld Detection Agency, a beurocratic office that helps paranormal beings blend into San Francisco society.  As the executive assistant to the agency’s director, she uses her magical force shield to her advantage while dealing with disgruntled trolls, vamps, weres and pixies. But after a brush with evil at – where else – Starbucks, she realizes her resistance to magic is no match for Satan’s Spawn.

On a quest to retrieve the Vessel of Souls, a mysterious artifact filled with the souls of the recently departed, Satan’s minion (in the form of Elle Woods) plans to tip the balance and control both worlds. And when she discovers Sophie is the key to finding  the divine vessel, all hell breaks loose – literally!

To save the world from Satan’s wrath – and to avoid dying a slow, painful death – Sophie teams up with her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Alex, and her vampire best friend to find the vessel before it lands in the wrong hands. As they piece together clues, they unearth some dangerous secrets about Sophie’s family. And the closer they get to the vessel, the more they learn about her unusual ability.

As if being stalked and tortured by the devil incarnate isn’t bad enough – Sophie gets the boot from the Underworld Detection Agency after a new micro-managey director takes over. With no other prospects, she ends up working at a re-sale pants shop called People’s Pants. I don’t know what’s worse, having to save the world from an impending apocalypse or working at a store filled with polyester pants and embroidered capris. Ick!

Things really get complicated when Sophie discovers Alex, a fallen angel,  may have an agenda of his own. Should she trust him to use the vessel for good? Or is he just using her in order to restore his fallen wings? You’ll have to read to find out! But you’ll have to wait until it’s released on November 1.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of Hanna Jayne’s new series. Sophie’s sassy first-person narrative is as charming as it is hilarious. She keeps the quips coming without overdoing it.  While the tone is generally light, there is an undercurrent of danger.  If you’re a fan of Molly Harper, Richelle Mead, or Charlaine Harris, you’ll love this new series. My advice: Get it, read it, share it!

Dark Days of Supernatural

 YA supernatural readers – eat your heart out! Last week this lucky book blogger got to meet five fabulous authors at BookPeople’s Dark Days of Supernatural Tour.  Seriously guys, it was like Christmas in June! Each of these dark and lovely ladies gave their fans a sneak peak into their new books, enticing me to break the bank and buy all five of their novels. But alas, I was able to harness enough self-control to buy just one book. Since I’m a sucker for gothic romances, I was torn between Amy Plum’s Die for Me and Tara Hudson’s Hereafter. But After hearing about the love saga between an orphaned teen and a mysterious Parisian bad boy, I had to choose Die for Me! How can you go wrong with a hot paranormal romance in Paris?  

Check out this awesome lineup of authors!

Ellen Schreiber (CRYPTIC CRAVINGS)
 From Goodreads: The morbidly monotonous Dullsville has finally become the most exciting place on earth now that Raven is madly in love with her hot vampire boyfriend Alexander, and a crew of vampires has taken residence in Dullsville’s old mill. Raven discovers Jagger’s plan to open a new club, The Crypt, right here in Dullsville. But is it her dream come true, or her worst nightmare? Raven and Alexander have to figure out what the nefarious vampire has in store for Dullsville’s teen and vampire population. Can Raven convince Jagger to listen to her plans to make the Crypt the morbidly magnificent dance club it could be? Will it be safe for mortals and vampires alike?

Aprilynne Pike (ILLUSIONS)
 From Goodreads: Laurel hasn’t seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.
But just as life is returning to normal, Laurel discovers that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail


Veronica Roth (DIVERGENT)
From Goodreads: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

 Tara Hudson (HEREAFTER)
From Goodreads: Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amy Plum (DIE FOR ME)
From Goodreads: In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity. When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life–and memories–behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent. Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant–an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others.

If you could only pick one, which would you choose?