The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy

In 1888 New England, young orphan Will Henry serves as an apprentice to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a scientist who practices the secret practice of monstrumology, or “the study of life forms generally malevolent to humans and not recognized by science as actual organisms, specifically those considered products of myth and folklore.” In this series opener, Will and his master are on the trail of a hidden pod of Anthropophagi, a race of muscular albino headless monsters who wear their over-sized obsidian eyes on their shoulders, their shark-tooth filled mouths on their stomachs, and their tiny brains in their crotch. Though they originated in Africa, somehow these horrific beasts have managed to cross the pond into the New England states, and are now running amok in the countryside, tearing off heads and sucking down the entrails of their human victims while they still draw breath. Will and Dr. Warthrop don’t only have to find a way to stop them, they must also solve the mystery of how and why they got there in the first place to prevent others from coming—and breeding—and EVOLVING. Friends, I can barely contain my morbid delight at having discovered this delightfully gruesome book! Yancy’s bloody tale, written in a delicious Victorian gothic style, is just gory and disturbing as the early Stephen King I devoured as a teen while still being a cracking good yarn between explicit scenes of dismemberment and disembowelment that leave nothing (and I mean NOTHING) to the imagination. When not running for his life from headless freaks trying to open one of his major arteries, soulful Will Henry contemplates the meaning of life, death, and his complicated feelings about his single-minded caretaker, making this a much deeper read than your average run of the mill horror pulp. But violent and bloodthirsty it is, and if Goosebumps and Coraline are more your speed, then this graphic gore-fest is not for you. I can’t even give you an excerpt here, just in case you come back and blame me for your nightmares. (And even though I haven’t slept very well the past couple of nights, I just CAN’T WAIT to read the next one!) This is YA horror at it’s stomach-churning finest, heading further down the dark path that Lauren Myracle paved with the creepy Bliss. Go ahead and read it—if you dare!

Devil’s Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

devil's kissYou think your after school job sucks? Try being fifteen-year-old Billi SanGreal for a day. After facing down mean girls in the cafeteria and sleeping through most of her classes, Billi has to go home to her London flat, don some chain mail, and head out into the dark to stake some undead with her hard bitten dad. See, Billi is the daughter of one of the last remaining members of the fabled Knights Templar, a mysterious society of Christian crusaders dating back to the 1100’s. Originally a monastic order of impoverished knights who ferried pilgrims back and forth to the Holy Land, the rag-tag modern day Order defends humanity against the supernatural forces of darkness, including vampires, werewolves and the occasional fallen angel. In spite of being a pretty smooth hand with a sword, Billi is sick of cleaning blood off her jeans and landing in detention for late homework because her driven, distant father thinks decapitating demons is more important than long division. Plus, her half Pakistani & Muslim heritage make her feel like a square peg in a round hole in the traditionally Christian fighting force. Tired of the politics and pain that come from being a Templar, Billi tries to leave the Order, but finds herself sucked back in when she discovers that her lapse in judgment concerning a tall, dark and handsome maniacal stranger may have resulted in the Tenth Plague being released on the greater UK. Equally distracting is the fact that her childhood friend Kay has returned from Oracle training in Jerusalem and somehow managed to turn into a total hottie while he was gone. Now Billi has to find a way to mend her relationship with her forbidding father, figure out if Kay is the Templar for her and somehow stop the Angel of Death from frying all of the world’s firstborn. It’s a tall order, but if anyone can do it, Billi can. Move over, Buffy Summers. Billi SanGreal eats vampires for breakfast. What else ya got? This creepy, cheesetastic gore-fest mixes history, fantasy and horror in a compulsively page turning way that will have you screaming for a sequel long before you hit the final chapter. (And yes, there is one coming.) Did I roll my eyes (okay, more than a few times) over some of the over-the-top bits? Sure. But Billi’s showdowns with various versions of The Unholy are truly terrifying and the book’s fighting sequences frightfully well choreographed. This is a must-read for The Da Vinci Code and Buffy fans alike. And don’t blame me if you stay up all night poring over the pages. I warned you–debut author Sarwat Chadda‘s story of the first female Templar is hopelessly addicting.

Hold Still by Nina LaCour

hold still
“My best friend is dead, and I could have saved her.” Caitlin was devastated when her BFF Ingrid committed suicide. Now she struggles with overwhelming feelings of guilt, wondering if there was anything she could have done to halt Ingrid’s gradual and largely secret descent into depression and pain. When she finds Ingrid’s last journal hidden in her bedroom, she only allows herself to read one entry at a time, hesitant to sever this last link. Slowly, she becomes aware of the other people who have lost Ingrid too: their favorite photography teacher who now can’t look Caitlin in the eye, the boy Ingrid had a huge crush on who never even had a chance to ask her out, Ingrid’s incredibly sad family. Slowly, she becomes aware of the other people who have lost HER while she’s been grieving for Ingrid: her terrified parents, new girl Dylan who just wants to be her friend, popular boy Taylor who has liked her since third grade. For a while, all Caitlin could do was hold still so she didn’t fall a part. As Ingrid’s journal comes to end, Caitlin is faced with an enormous decision: hold tight to her grief or dare to let go and move on. This powerful debut, rich with themes of renewal, hope and redemption, will resonate with anyone who ever survived losing someone. (1 weepie)