Blog Tour and Review: Grunge Gods and Graveyards by Kimberly G. Giarratano

Grunge Gods and Graveyards Book Cover Grunge Gods and Graveyards
Kimberly G. Giarratano

Parted by death. Tethered by love.

Lainey Bloom’s high school senior year is a complete disaster. The popular clique, led by mean girl Wynter Woods, bullies her constantly. The principal threatens not to let her graduate with the class of 1997 unless she completes a major research project. And everyone blames her for the death of Wynter’s boyfriend, Danny Obregon.

Danny, a gorgeous musician, stole Lainey’s heart when he stole a kiss at a concert. But a week later, he was run down on a dangerous stretch of road. When he dies in her arms, she fears she’ll never know if he really would have broken up with Wynter to be with her.

Then his ghost shows up, begging her to solve his murder. Horrified by the dismal fate that awaits him if he never crosses over, Lainey seeks the dark truth amidst small town secrets, family strife, and divided loyalties. But every step she takes toward discovering what really happened the night Danny died pulls her further away from the beautiful boy she can never touch again.

Review

When I was a kid, I used to like hanging out in graveyards (I was a weird child – what can I say?). I would spend hours walking up and down the the rows, reading the tombstones and wondering about the people buried there. Thinking about those people and the lives they’d left behind always gave me a feeling of wistfulness; how could someone be there one day and gone the next? What business had they left unfinished? Who was remembering and missing them?

 These are some of the questions that Giarratano focuses on in Grunge Gods and Graveyards. The book tells the story of Lainey Bloom and Danny Obregon, two teenagers whose burgeoning romance is abruptly cut short when Danny is killed in a hit and run accident. After the accident, vicious rumors spread through the town, painting Danny as an arsonist and Lainey as an obsessed, love-crazed girl who literally chased Danny into the path of an oncoming car. When Danny’s restless spirit returns to Ash seeking closure, Lainey determines to help him get to the bottom of the events surrounding his death, hoping to clear both of their names and help Danny get the closure he needs to cross over and be at peace.

Grunge Gods and Graveyards can be classified as a mystery novel, but I was much more interested in watching the interactions between Lainey and Danny than I was in the whodunnit aspect. One of the tragedies of Danny’s untimely death is that he died just as he and Lainey had decided to give their relationship a shot. Their romance ended before it could truly begin, before they could discover what they might have been together.

After Danny’s ghost returns, he and Lainey attempt to pick up where they left off. As you can imagine, though, it’s no easy task to carry on a relationship where one party is alive and the other is deceased. For one thing, Lainey can’t confide in anyone, can’t talk about Danny (or to him when they’re in public) without people thinking she’s crazy. Danny wants more for Lainey than a life of isolation with no one but a ghost for company, but Lainey can’t imagine going on without him.

In addition to their emotional challenges, Danny and Lainey also have physical obstacles to their relationship. Danny hasn’t quite mastered his ghostly abilities, meaning that he and Lainey usually can’t touch one another. When they are able to touch, though, look out – these scenes are hot enough to make you sizzle!

Danny is easily the highlight of this novel. I loved everything about his character, with the exception of his poor taste in dating bitchy Wynter Woods prior to hooking up with Lainey. He seems so real, not just in the sense that his character is believable (though that is the case), but in the sense that he seems like a genuine, caring, laid-back guy who’s easy to be around and who will always make you smile.  I also appreciate that Danny stands out from the host of other popular kings-of-high-school in YA literature. He’s a musician, not a jock, and he’s Mexican, which sets him apart from the rest of his white-bread town.

As much as I enjoyed Danny’s character, I felt there were some inconsistencies in the characterization of some of the book’s other players. For example, Lainey’s father bounces back and forth between sympathetic father and ruthless dictator, and her best friend abruptly switches from Most Understanding Friend in the World to Cold, Unforgiving Jerk in the span of a few pages.

I also was a little skeptical of the number of antagonists in the novel. Just about everyone in Lainey’s life, from her family and friends to her classmates and the entire administration of her high school, seems to be conspiring against her. I understand people being turned off by her erratic behavior, but it was a bit implausible for the entire community to be out to get her.

Still, don’t let this turn you off from the book. Giarratano’s smooth writing style and Danny and Lainey’s charmingly bittersweet love story more than make up from any rough spots. Grunge Gods and Graveyards is definitely worth a read!

A free copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Grunge Gods and Graveyards is available for purchase at: AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play, iBooks, and Kobo.

About the AuthorPhoto of Grunge Gods and Graveyards author Kimberly G. Giarratano

Kimberly G. Giarratano, a forever Jersey girl, now lives in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and small children. A former teacher and YA librarian, Kimberly adores Etsy, Jon Stewart, The Afghan Whigs, ’90s nostalgia, and (of course) everything YA. She also speaks Spanish, but is woefully out of practice.

Kimberly always dreamed of being a published author. Her other dream is to live in Key West, Florida where she can write in a small studio, just like Hemingway.

You can visit her blog at kimberlyggiarratano.com or tweet her @KGGiarratano.

Visit Other Stops on the Grunge Gods and Graveyards Tour:

7/7 ZigZag Timeline

7/10 The Caffeinated Diva

7/10 Big Al’s Books & Pals

7/12 Cubicle Blindness Book Reviews

7/14 The Gal in the Blue Mask

7/15 The Gal in the Blue Mask

7/16 Big Al’s Books & Pals

7/16 Pandora’s Books

7/17 Laurie’s Thoughts & Reviews

7/17 The Story Goes…

7/18 Observation Desk

7/20 Mama’s Reading Break

7/20 Elizabeth Corrigan, Author

7/20  The IndieView

7/21 The Story Goes…

7/22 Book Lovers Life

7/23 Wag the Fox

7/25 Manuscripts Burn

7/25 KBoards

Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures Book Cover Beautiful Creatures
Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Review:

It took me longer than it should have to get through Beautiful Creatures. I’d been looking forward to reading the book ever since I saw the trailer for the movie, but the novel turned out to be quite a letdown.

Don’t get me wrong – this is far from the worst book I’ve ever read, and there are some aspects of this novel that are praiseworthy. For example, I got a kick out of Ethan’s ancient, eccentric great-aunts, Mercy, Grace, and Prudence. They were always good for a laugh. I also appreciated that Ethan, despite being a popular jock, is a character capable of thinking for himself rather than letting his peers determine his actions for him.

Regardless of the bright spots mentioned above, though, I just wasn’t feeling Beautiful Creatures. One major problem was the romance between Ethan and Lena. I was originally planning to write that as “the romance that develops between Ethan and Lena,” but I realized that was inaccurate. The romance doesn’t develop at all, which is the problem; it simply appears and doesn’t seem to grow or change or improve in any way.

There seems to be no basis for Lena and Ethan’s attraction to one another. Ethan goes on and on in the book about how wonderful Lena is and how drawn he feels to her, insisting that they share a fated and unbreakable connection, but there is no real depth there. I felt no spark between them and wasn’t emotionally invested in their relationship. I was bored and didn’t feel excited in any way.

Another reason I couldn’t give this book a better rating is that the writing is just plain bad. This is especially the case in the scenes that take place during the Civil War (the book is set mainly in the present, but there are a few scenes that flash back to the past). The dialogue in these scenes sounds very stilted and unnatural, as if the authors are trying too hard to sound historically authentic. On top of that, what is actually said in that dialogue is simply absurd.

In one scene, for instance, a woman is zapped by a lightning bolt (don’t ask). She acts as if this is no big deal, and when her companion begins panicking and shouting that the woman’s eyes are changing color, her untroubled response is, “If there’s something wrong with my eyes, I’m sure it was because I was struck by lightning.” C’mon, really?

I’m still interested in seeing the film adaptation of Beautiful Creatures, but only because I don’t see how it could be any worse than the book. I definitely don’t recommend this to anyone.

Review: Black City by Elizabeth Richards

Black City Book Cover Black City
Elizabeth Richards

In the aftermath of a brutal and bloody war, in the still-smoldering Black City, sixteen-year-olds Natalie Buchanan and Ash Fisher do the unthinkable – they fall in love. Natalie, a human and the daughter of a government official, is still reeling from her father’s murder by a crazed Darkling, upending her entire life. So how can she now be falling for Ash, a brooding half-blood Darkling boy? Natalie’s heart betrays everything she’s ever believed with one magnetic beat, forcing her to choose between her family and the boy she loves.

Ash tries desperately to deny his feelings for Natalie. She is a Sentry brat, after all, the very Sentry who would love nothing more than to see all Darklings totally eradicated from the United Sentry States. For now, they’ve settled for banishing all Darklings to the wrong side of a ghetto wall. Despite being half-human and being allowed to live on the human side, Ash is still scorned everywhere he goes, always wondering what it would be like on the other side of the wall with his own kind. Then Natalie steps into his life, a calming force, and he, too, has to choose. But choosing Natalie could get them both killed.

Review:

I really enjoyed Black City, but I feel like I shouldn’t have.  It has some major flaws and can be a bit absurd at times (especially the last third of the book), yet I just couldn’t put it down.

The thing about Black City is that the action never stops. This is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, it kept me from getting bored, grabbing my attention from the very beginning and racing ahead so quickly that I found it hard to keep up at times. On the other hand, the very fact that you can’t keep up makes the book overwhelming. Richards packs her book with so many twists, turns, and “oh my!” moments that the story comes off as a tad sensational. To demonstrate, my thoughts while reading went a little like this: “Wait, did he just…did she just….wow, didn’t see that coming! Or that! Or that! Is this really happening right now? What if…oh my. Oh my! OK, really? This is getting a bit silly. OK, I’m taking a break. Really, I’m going to take a break. Right after this…oh my! OH MY!”

I wish that were an exaggeration. I really do.

There’s almost too much going on at once. Forbidden love, revolution, epidemics, family secrets, drugs, parallels to the Holocaust and the U.S. civil rights movements – it’s a lot to take in. There are times when it feels like Richards is going for the shock and awe factor rather than allowing the plot to follow a more natural, believable course. I found myself cringing every now and then at the ludicrous turn of events.

That being said, I can’t deny the fact that I really did have like reading Black City. There are two reasons for this – the romance and the fascinating customs of the vampires, or Darklings as they are called in this story.

Many of the reviews I’ve read of Black City accuse Richards of creating an insta-romance between Natalie and Ash, but I actually don’t think the attraction between them is that sudden or far-fetched. The two have spent their young lives essentially isolated, Natalie because she is the daughter of a high-ranking governmental official and Ash because he is a half-breed, neither fully human nor fully Darkling. As a result, they are independent, lonely, and curious about the areas of life with which they have little experience. It’s no wonder that they’re so intrigued by one another after their first meeting. Despite initial distrust and even a degree of dislike, they can’t help feeling drawn to one another by the very fact that they are so dissimilar; they’re attracted by each other’s exoticism. Heck, I would’ve felt the same way if I were in their shoes. Ash is mysterious and sexy (I’m always a sucker for the bad boys) and Natalie possesses tremendous courage and strength of spirit. She starts off a bit spoiled and naïve but experiences a great deal of growth throughout the novel, making it easy to see why Ash falls for her.

Romance isn’t the only appealing part of Dark City.  As I mentioned earlier, there are many parallels between the treatment of the Darklings and the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, as well as of blacks during the U.S. civil rights movement. This initially struck me as a risky move on Richards’ part, and I’m still not sure I’m entirely comfortable with the idea of comparing the situation of blood-sucking fantasy creatures with the very real, very horrific plight of real people throughout history. Still, the themes of prejudice, segregation, and injustice do make Richards’ story more thought-provoking and add a degree of depth to the novel.

Darklings are treated as second-class citizens at best and animals at worst.  Many have been relocated to concentration camps in the wilderness, and those who are fortunate enough to escape the relocation are forced to live in squalid ghettos with inadequate food supplies and few rights. The only Darklings living outside of the ghettos and concentration camps are those who work as servants to human families, and in order to do so they must wear identification bracelets and undergo the surgical removal of their fangs.

The Darklings’ culture and physiology is even more interesting than their political situation. Authors of vampire fiction are often quite creative when deciding which attributes to bestow upon their bloodsuckers, and Richards is no exception. Soul sharing, blood mating, and production of a drug-like venom are just a few of the interesting traits that Darklings possess, and reading about these things makes for a very cool experience.

All in all, Black City captured my attention and didn’t let it go. For that reason, I recommend giving this book a try, flaws and all.