• Anna Dressed in Blood
    Reviews by Kids!

    Anna Dressed in Blood
    Kendare Blake
    Tom Daugherty Associates, 2011
    320 Pages
    Young Adult


    Guest Review by:
    Kristin Grady
    Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter and killer. He travels all over the world with his witch mom and spirit sniffing cat, looking for the baddest ghosts ever to gain enough experience to go back and kill the ghost who killed his dad. Then he hears about a ghost called Anna Dressed in Blood, and goes to kill her expecting a normal job– but this might be the hardest ghost to kill, even harder than the one that murdered his father. She kills everyone who goes into her house… except for Cas. Will Cas be able to kill her? …Or will her fall for her? Will he be able to save his mom and new friends or will a ghost from his past come to finish an unfinished job?

    This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I love the story, the history, and the chemistry. This book will put you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. I loved all of the ghosts in this book and the psychic friend. I really like how the author explained in detail all of the pasts of the deceased. I really recommend this book to anyone who likes a good scary story and a lot of blood.

    Related Posts:
    Anna Dressed in Blood
    Girl of Nightmares
    Anna Dressed in Blood – Reviews by Kids!



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  • Theodosia and
    the Serpents of Chaos

    Theodosia Serpents
    Theodosia (Book 1)
    and the Serpents of Chaos

    R.L. LaFevers
    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008
    352 Pages
    Middle Grade
    5 Stars
    I have found a new addiction. The Theodosia adventures grabbed me by the shirt collar and dragged me along for a ride through all four books, non-stop!

    Theodosia Throckmorton is an eleven-year-old girl whose parents, Alistair and Henrietta, run the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in a parallel-history Victorian London along with a staff comprised of Nigel Bollingsworth (the 1st Assistant Curator), Clive Fagenbush (the 2nd Assistant Curator), and Edgar Stilton (the very nervous 3rd Assistant Curator).

    Theo’s mother has just returned from an archaeological expedition in The Valley of The Kings in Egypt. At the train station picking her up, Theodosia nabs a pickpocket, Sticky Will, who turns out to be both a friend and a great ally with his skills of stealth. Well, after a few meat pies, anyway. But there is someone else following her mother.

    Theodosia’s brother Henry returns home from boarding school, a destiny which Theo has luckily escaped, though the price is often being forgotten or ignored, missing meals, and sleeping in a sarcophagus in a closet which she calls home.

    We learn that Theo has a special skill; she can sense evil magic and see curses on objects, a useful ability as she discovers many objects from the museum’s dig at the Tomb of Amenamhab (Thutmose III’s Minister of War) imbued with nastiness by the worshipers of Mantu. While Theo is trying to remove one such curse, she is distracted and the curse goes directly into Isis, her cat.

    1st Level Test for a cursed object: I felt as if a parade of icy-footed beetles were marching down my spine.

    2nd Level Test: Wax is very good at absorbing heka, or evil magic.

    3rd Level Test: Moonlight is the only way to make the inscribed curses visible to the human eye.

    Protections: Amulets, Mud from the Nile, Sand from a Pharaoh’s tomb

    When Lord Snowthorpe of The British Museum shows up hoping for a glimpse of one extremely precious artifact, The Heart of Egypt –which they then discover missing– Theo wonders how he had known they had it to begin with. So of course, she tails him back, and eavesdrops on a conversation with Mr. Tetley at The British Museum, who then leaves in a huff.

    Theo and Henry follow the culprit to the Seven Dials, the kind of neighborhood a young Victorian lady should not be frequenting without supervision, and witness a man named Stokes clunk Tetley upside the head. He takes something off his body, but then is himself thumped in turn by three German assailants who stab him. Stokes coughs out– “Get Wigmere at Somerset House.”

    What a jolly good penny-dreadful romp through the back alleys of London!

    The Antiquaries Society that Lord Wigmere heads is only a front for The Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers, a secret society dedicated to protecting the world from evil Egyptian Magic. Theo immediately proves her worth with some quick thinking, curing a man named Danvers who touched a cursed object without knowing the nature of its curse.

    The Germans, under a Count Von Braggenchnot, now have the Heart of Egypt, and Wigmere explains the true peril of it: the Heart of Egypt was removed from the country by a British subject, bringing to bear a curse designed to topple an entire nation. In fact, the removal of the artifact by Theodosia’s mother was entirely orchestrated by a group calling itself The Serpents of Chaos for the purpose of destroying civilization as we know it.

    May your retribution upon these enemies of Thutmose be swift and terrible, may Sekhmet devour their hearts, and Ammit feast on their heads. May all the lands run red with their blood until they return the heart of Egypt to its rightful resting place, and lay it back at your feet, so that Thutmose’s glory will be whole once more.

    Theodosia uses extraordinary resourcefulness to cure her cat and retrieve the Heart of Egypt while keeping the Brotherhood apprised of what is going on. But Wigmere reminds her that the only way to truly remove the curse from her country, which has already begun to degrade in political upheaval and an influenza outbreak, is to return the Heart to the sands of Egypt.

    On her adventure, Theodosia discovers a traitor in their midst as well as an annex to the Tomb of Amenamhab… and an artifact called the Was scepter. Then she must face the Serpents of Chaos alone. Will her wits and magical abilities be enough to save her flu-infected brother’s life and the British Empire?

    I opened [the pouch] and pulled out a tiny wedjat eye hanging on a thin, golden chain. “Oh my,” I said, staring at the gold as it spun round in my hand. It was heavily weighted with good magic and protection. I’d never seen any amulet ooze as much protective power as this one.

    This book is a classic. An intricate web of sub-plots, evil, misdirection, and hope, I was thoroughly absorbed in the action and mystery to the last page. LaFevers brings Victorian London alive and makes museums and archaeology the home of puzzles, spying, and intrigue. Fast-paced noir that will not disappoint.

    Thutmose III

    Thutmose III

    R.L. LaFevers Web Site




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  • Alice in Zombieland

    Alice in Zombieland
    Alice in Zombieland
    White Rabbit Chronicles #1
    By Gena Showalter
    Harlequin, 2013
    416 Pages
    Young Adult
    Guest Review by:
    Kristin Grady
    Alice never believed her father when he said that the monsters were real, but now she knows she should have. She knows that if they had only stayed home, she wouldn’t have seen the monsters. She wouldnt have watched her family die, wouldn’t have seen the monsters eat her mother and father.

    Now she lives with her grandma and goes to a new school. She gets dragged into
    the scary group at school, falls for the bad boy, and fights the monsters. Will she be able to save the family she has left or will she lose everything to the dearly departed? Will she find out who is sending the white rabbit to warn her?

    I have to say that I have not read the original Alice In Wonderland, so I can’t really compare, but this book was amazing! I really loved the way it was written. It was kind of hard to figure out which modern character was portraying what original Alice character. The book was a little scary at times, the horror equaled by both suspense and romance. The story of her family’s past and her impending future was great, and I cant wait to read the second book, Though the Zombieglass. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a new twist on zombies and loves Alice In Wonderland.



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  • Gravediggers: Terror Cove

    Gravediggers 2Gravediggers:
    Terror Cove

    By Christopher Krovatin
    HarperCollins, 2013
    368 Pages
    Mid-Grade (9-12)
    Kendra, Ian, and PJ are back in their Gravedigger glory as they take on an entire island of the undead. Cursed land tracing back to the shipwreck of The Alabaster and before has Warden Jeniveve and her protégé Josefina maintaining the zombie populace when the three investigators show up.

    This is the second book in the Gravediggers series, preceded by Mountain of Bones, but you can catch up the backstory easily. Since the dawn of man, there has been a symbiotic relationship between Wardens, who learn magic to bind and control the unrest caused by evil deeds and death on a massive scale, and the Gravediggers, who are born with both the power to communicate with animals and the innate knowledge of how to put down any zombie menace.

    The kids and their mentor Warden O’dea win a trip to Puerto Rico, and circumstances arrange themselves so that the group finds their way out to Isla Hambrienta just as a propelled rocket takes out the zemi buoy, a seal that is holding back a wave of the undead. Is the orchestration of events due to the Gravediggers special abilities to find themselves where they need to be, or is someone guiding them right where he wants them to be?

    The first chapter is pretty slow. But this is forgivable, because the rest of the book is one long action sequence of jungle adventure, zombie hordes, mad science, para-military weaponry, and voodoo.

    After the magical seal is blown to smithereens and O’dea is lost at sea, the Gravediggers become lost on zombie island (does that sound like a Scooby-Doo movie?) The bigger problem is that Ian, the jock, the tough-guy –who has never seen actual zombie combat– finds himself freezing up when confronted by the re-animated tourist corpses from the shipwreck. To top it off, all of the sigils that contain the undead below the waters of the cove have been defaced. (There is a silly scene where monkeys save them from certain doom, but I will just pretend that it didn’t really happen.)

    They find their way to a compound built by boy-millionaire Danny Melee, creator of Total Wateland, Blood Bucket and the Diabolicum series of video games. He schmoozes Kendra with his nerdy research, but the boys begin to notice holes in his story. The research Danny is doing for a new game is a bit over-the-top given all the military-type security and top-level scientists. But I mean, he couldn’t possibly be planning to create a LARPS-style first-person shooter by infecting a limited population of the world, right?

    There’s a click, and the needle jabs into his neck and plunges its contents into him. He convulses hard… and then his head falls forward and he lets out a long, wheezing breath.

    After a few seconds, Ms. Redfield announces, “Subject One is deceased.”

    We learn a bit more about the mythology of Krovatin’s world in this installment of the Gravediggers series. The infection here (what is in other zombie pantheons called the Solanum infection or T-virus or the Rage virus,) is actually caused by a fungal infestation concentrated in the spinal column. Unlike movie zombies, these infected cannot be killed by a head-shot, and they ooze black filth rather than splatter blood. In a zombie book like this one, plausible originality is worth the whole ride. Krovatin covers new ground while staying firmly planted in the genre and keeping the gore and violence to a minimum, a feat of no small skill given the abundance of material in the bookstores.

    There is, of course, an “accident” in the compound, and Jeniveve’s drums must protect the Gravediggers as Josephina helps them learn how to control a Gravedigger skill akin to “the Avatar state” and restore the protections to the island.

    At the end, unexpected numbers of the re-animated create a massive pile-up like that seen in World War Z, only under water. Water zombies are the scariest, because you, the living, can’t move as fast in the water. The zombies have you at a disadvantage because they can stay under indefinitely and they can surprise you out of the darkened murk below and drag you screaming to your doom.

    I have begun to wonder if it is not just the dwellers of this inky environment that are so jarring to us, but the environment itself. Perhaps it is not the fear that these creatures may confront you, but that they will drag you deep into a place so unlike the human world, somewhere suffocating and quiet and crawling with other beings that appear built by a twisted madman.

    For parents and librarians looking for recommendations, this book is for the kids who love zombies but not the over-the-top gore-fest that is stock-in-trade of modern living-dead mythology. It is original and filled with action so reluctant readers won’t get bored. Kids who like this will graduate to Shan’s Zom-B series and Maberry’s Rot and Ruin books. Those who are already there will still enjoy Krovatin’s style as he brings the voodoo back into zombie lore.

    Related Posts:
    Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones



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  • Interview:
    Vivian Vande Velde

    Awake at Midnight welcomes Vivian Vande Velde, author of many children’s and young adult books that deal with magic, curses, witches, and ghosts. She won the Edgar Award for Never Trust a Dead Man, and has appeared on the American Library Association’s list of Best Fiction for Young Adults numerous times, for selections such as Being Dead and Companions of the Night.

    Vivian Vande Velde 2010

    Your horror tends to lean towards fantasy, and even your high-fantasy novels have a taste of horror in them. What is your favorite genre to write in? Do you have a favorite to read?
    Your first question has already thrown me off, Sean, because I don’t consider myself a horror writer. Even when I’m writing a ghost story with a malevolent ghost, I don’t think of it as a horror story. I guess it’s a matter of degree. In most cases, I think that readers are not seriously worried about the fate in store for the majority of my characters. The book I’ve written that I consider to be the darkest —and therefore closest to horror— is All Hallow’s Eve.
    Primarily I consider myself a fantasy author. It’s just that my fantasies veer all over the fantasy board—including talking animals, fairy tales (both fracturing existing fairy tales and writing original stories that use themes and characters from fairy tales, such as princesses, witches, enchantments), also ghost stories, vampire stories, stories involving magical abilities, and some that could almost be considered science fiction (involving time travel, genetic engineering, or set slightly in the future where we can assume a technology one step beyond virtual reality)—but “almost science fiction” because there’s no serious attempt to make the science convincing.
    Mostly I read middle-grade and young adult novels in an attempt to keep current with all the writers I know. I like science fiction, fantasy, mystery, stories not set here and now (though I read some of those, too; they’re just not usually my first choice). The last book for young people I read was Julie Berry’s All the Truth That’s in Me, and the last adult book was the story of Louis Zamperini’s World War II ordeal, told by Laura Hillenbrand in Unbroken.
    Companions Magic Carpet
    What are some of your favorite horror movies?
    Truthfully, I am too much of a coward to watch horror movies. When I was about 12, I talked my mother into letting me stay up to watch Bela Lugosi in Dracula on the late show. Couldn’t sleep well for weeks for fear that Dracula was scaling the outside of our house to peek into my bedroom window. Demanded of my mom: “What were you thinking, letting me watch that?”
    Of course, that didn’t keep me from watching every other vampire, werewolf, monster, or Frankenstein-inspired movie that was on TV in the 60′s.
    These days, I think there’s more than enough horror on the evening news.
    You based There’s a Dead Person Following my Sister Around on the Underground Railroad and the Erie Canal, and “For Love of Him” in the Being Dead collection was set in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY. Do you find that historic landmarks give you stronger inspiration or do you explore them purposely given their educational value?
    Both. There’s something very evocative about writing about a real place. (Dangerous, too, for a writer can sometimes mistakenly believe that her words are creating the same picture and atmosphere in her readers’ minds, when it’s only the writer’s memory at work in her own brain.)
    It’s also fun to set a story in a specific place where readers from that area can recognize the geography.
    But I was certainly aware while writing There’s a Dead Person Following My Sister Around (whose characters —those who are alive— live in the Rochester area in the present day), as well as A Coming Evil (fictional French town in 1940), and the short story “The Witch’s Son” (set in a made-up New York state village in 1776) that there are fewer kids who say, “I want to read a story about the Underground Railroad, or about Jewish and gypsy children hiding out during World War II, or about the Revolutionary War” than there are kids who can be enticed into reading such stories with the promise of ghosts.
    Ghost Hanged ManOn your website, you mention that you often find inspiration in old photographs; tell me about your own collection.
    I’m sometimes asked to lead writing workshops for students—and I’m usually given about 45 minutes to an hour to do it. We need to work quickly, and I’ve found that one shortcut is to provide pictures of potential characters, about whom I’ll ask questions, such as: What do you think this person might be afraid of? Tell me a secret about him—is there something he doesn’t want anybody else to know? Can you think of something about the person that he himself might not be aware of?
    I don’t want to use pictures of anybody the young writers are likely to know—such as actors, who have their own stories associated with them, both in the tabloids and in the roles they’ve played—and I don’t want to have the writers making up stories about my relatives. I discovered www.timetales.com which has pictures people have found, perhaps in a photo album forgotten or abandoned when someone moved out of a house, or left behind as a bookmark in a returned library book, or as trash blowing across someone’s lawn. I’ve also bought pictures at flea markets or antique stores.
    These are not pictures of oddities such as Ransom Riggs has used in his book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. These are simply people who have what I consider to be interesting faces. I try to include a wide variety of types of people (varying in age from toddlers to grandparents, male and female, people who look of different ethnic types, posed formal portraits from the dawn of the photographic age and informal snapshots that someone could have taken earlier today) so that workshop participants can select a subject who interests them.
    www.timetales.com started in the Netherlands, and many of the pictures from that site were found in Europe. I look at the happy family groupings that seem to date from the 1940’s, and know the people in them could have had no idea how their lives were about to be disrupted by World War II. Did some of these pictures end up lost because the families fled from their homes–or because they didn’t flee in time to avoid Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers?
    75 mother and children
    How can a writer not be intrigued: Who is this woman standing in the boat? 72 woman in boat
    What’s going on with these two men and the young woman holding the rifle? 92 a woman, 2 guys, and a gun
    Why was a picture of this young man placed at the foot of a tree?
    169 picture of guy in tree
    A number of your stories, including User Unfriendly and the recent Deadly Pink, draw on modern technology. As an author, how do you approach the difficulty in keeping a story that involves computers from becoming dated?
    Vagueness is the best defense. In the short story “Curses, Inc.” I went into way too much detail, so that readers can tell my character is definitely using a dial-up modem, which is unfortunate because the story didn’t need that. And, of course, many of my stories otherwise set in current times are a bit dated because the characters don’t have cell phones.
    Technology is such an ingrained part of everyday life, do you think it can be omitted from a modern day story in which it does not play a central role or is it now impossible to ignore?
    You can’t ignore the pervasiveness of cell phones and the ability they give us to both contact others and to take pictures. There’s also access to the internet, DNA testing, tracking people through the GPS in their phones—all of which prevent certain plot twists that were perfectly fine just a short while ago (all right, all right: within my lifetime, without my having to be specific about exactly how old I am!).
    On the other hand, this does not impact books already written. Readers can fall in love with Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles even though we have known for a good long time that there was never a civilization on Mars.
    Being DeadWhat goes into creating characters we can empathize with but who will also knowingly be placed in a situation drenched with horror?
    This is a problem for all authors, no matter what genre. Story is about conflict and overcoming obstacles. Say I’ve written a story about a beautiful princess who is kind and healthy and happy, and she has a loving family and lots of friends, and she lives in a just and prosperous kingdom that is at peace with all its neighbors, and she has a brave and handsome suitor she loves and of whom everyone approves… Have I put you to sleep yet? I’m putting myself to sleep. We might envy that princess’s blissful life—but we don’t want to read about her. We want one or both of her parents to die so that she’s on her own; we want her to be accused of something she didn’t do and be exiled, imprisoned, or sentenced to death; we want an infestation of wicked witches, dragons, or sea monsters to threaten her home; we want her to be betrothed to a beast. And the funny thing is that the more we like her and the more we’re squirming to see
    her in such an awful situation– the better we’ll like
    her story.
    As far as an author killing off characters, if we’ve made the characters unlikable so that the reader won’t feel bad at his death, what’s the point? This happens a lot in TV mysteries as well as in teen slasher movies: The victim has been unpleasant and abusive to all the people around him—which makes for many suspects, but also leaves the impression that only mean, ugly people get killed.
    Books for younger readers are based much more in the imagination than the average best-seller. Do you feel there is a level of intensity that is too frightening for certain age groups? How do you judge that boundary in your own writing?
    You’ve asked yet another question without an easy answer. I was once a judge for a writing contest for kids in grades 1 – 8 that was sponsored by a local book store. Because the contest happened to take place in October, quite a few of the kids were in a Halloween frame of mind and many of them (well, not so much the 1st and 2nd graders, but definitely the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders) wrote spooky stories. Some of them included gruesome details no author would ever put into books for kids that age to read, including at least one decapitated mother whose headless corpse then comes after her kid. Were the kids who wrote those stories little ghouls? Well, maybe. But the thing is that since they’d written those stories themselves, the stories had little power—the kids knew they were made up. A book written and published by an adult and found in a book store or library would seem much more real and permanent and therefore disturbing.
    As for what is appropriate for what age, there is no single answer, which is why one parent will read with her child a book that another parent decides is off-limits for hers.
    (A good clue to how intense a book might be is for a concerned parent or librarian to note the age of the main character. Too many parents say, “Oh, my child is an excellent reader,” and let that child read books meant for older readers—then complain about the content. )
    Vande Velde All Hallows Eve 13 StoriesDo you think authors and editors can be counted on to “self-regulate,” or should there be some form of oversight? What would you think of a ratings system for books?
    I am in general opposed to letting other people (especially a committee) do my thinking for me. Every single book in the world has something in it that someone would find objectionable. (“This story has a family celebrating by eating pizza and cookies and ice cream. The eating of junk food to satisfy emotional needs can lead to a lifetime of food abuse, and this book encourages that.” Or: “This is a story about a kid who wants a dog, and at first his parents say no, but then they give in. Some families absolutely can’t have pets because of allergies or restrictions in their lease. Don’t you realize this book makes those kids feel their parents don’t truly love them?” Or: “In this book, the kid tries very hard and succeeds. That doesn’t always happen, you know. You’re making my kid feel like a loser.”)
    Authors need to write stories that feel true to them. Editors can be counted on to try to make the story accessible to the biggest number of readers so that more copies can be sold. (Book publishing is a business.) It’s up to individual parents to decide whether a particular book is right of their own kids. I am very much in favor of parents reading some of their kids’ books with them. And discussing. (“Wow, did that ending take you completely by surprise?” Or: “I wonder what I would have done in that situation, given that I don’t have convenient superpowers…” Or: “Do you think there’s such a thing as a gene that makes someone evil?”)
    What’s in the works? Do you have any irons in the fire that we can look forward to seeing soon?
    I don’t know how soon you can look forward to seeing it, but the last project that I just sent off to my agent is a novel tentatively called Mouse Brother. It’s about two brothers, princes, 12-year-old Aldrys and 13-year-old Kelan, who encounter a witch who turns Kelan into a mouse. Eventually the spell is reversed, but by then Kelan has spent so long as a mouse that he has difficulty readjusting to being human– and it is Aldrys who needs to take on the role of protector and caregiver. Can Aldrys bring his brother back before their father, the king, disowns him? And before the princess to whom he is to be betrothed to seal a political alliance catches on and calls off both the betrothal and the alliance?
    Now You See It

    Related Posts: Curses, Inc.


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