Thursday, December 22, 2022

Book Review: The Twig Man

The Twig Man
by Sana Rasoul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.
While not super scary or creepy to me (an adult), as The Twig Man lacks the atmosphere that gives me shivers, I could definitely see this being quite scary for a 9-11 child. Great story of friendship (had me choking up in the end) and some good morales for younger ones.
Overall not my favourite horror middle grade of the year; but certainly one I would buy and gift to the right child. I am currently thinking a little boy that loves Vecna (yes from Stranger Things) would love the physically described horror of our Twig Man. Most importantly be sure the kid you recommend this one for is pretty tough and maybe doesn’t live next to a deep, dense forest.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Book Review: Across the Green Grass Fields

Across the Green Grass Fields
by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It pains me to give an instalment of this series, and a Seanan McGuire book, such a low rating. Unfortunately I cannot (or will not) lie to myself. Across the Green Grass Grows is by far the weakest of the novellas to date. It feels like McGuire was asked to write another entry point into the series (I get that for marketing purposes) and then not given enough time, or page count, or something to actually flesh the story out. Especially given the ending is abrupt, inconclusive both in the Hooflands and on Earth; and feels like it has achieved nothing.

The best part is that our leading girl was born with XY chromosome and her parents don’t tell her until puberty (thus the catalyst in finding her door). However that is about where that point ends as she has no one to truly compare herself to inside the Hooflands (her door world). One could argue that is good or bad; but either way it’s just (again) very inconclusive in terms of how our leading girl feels about herself, her gender assignment, and/or sexuality. We get a brief paragraph about how she is happy and content with herself at one point but it’s so downplayed it felt like an afterthought adding in because someone realized they should refer back to it.

Overall I am left feeling very meh about this one. I loved the beginning, and the concept of unicorns as dumb and just like cows was sooo cute, but the overall delivery, plot, and character development were very weak. Even the socio-political commentary on the hierarchy of the Hooflands feels diminished compared to what I know McGuire is capable of. I really hope this is a rare, one-off instance and that TOR isn’t messing too much in McGuire’s creative process by giving too much direction or short timelines for publication. I’ve seen it kill other series and writers which is always sad; but I love McGuire (writing in all her aliases) and this series (in particular) so much that I’d be devastated to learn that anyone was mucking around in it besides McGuire herself.

If you are looking for a jumping in point to Wayward Children series you could start here; but I think you’d br much better served to start at book one. Depending on if this world of girl comes back in future books will determine if this is even an instalment that could be skipped over if desired. I won’t be sad if that turns out to be the case. It would be good to just move on and branch out away from Across the Green Grass Grows.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Book Review: His Hideous Heart

His Hideous Heart
by Dahlia Adler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most of the stories in this are amazing!
I read the original Poe story (included in this collection) each time before reading the re-telling. It was an excellent way to experience and evaluate both Poe’s story and the new one.
The story that stuck with me the most is the retelling that takes place at Mardi Gras/Carnival. It felt like revenge/justice in an ironic way that I think Poe would have also loved.

This book includes both the retelling and the Poe originals.
I’ve decided to read the original story/poem first before the retelling and therefore listed them below in the order I read them (not the order they are listed in the book). 

Metzengeragein by Poe
I remember now why Poe and I are rarely friends. While gothic and awesome; his inability to show a story or even tell it without muddling it all up in wording makes me crazy. I know it’s ‘another time periods English’ but I can read Shakespeare better than his stuff somedays.
Here’s hoping Kendare Blake’s retelling brings me some semblance of the real story to light.

She Rode a Horse of Fire by Kendare Blake
inspired by Poe’s story Metzengerstein
Without a doubt Blake’s take on this story is by far more readable, and the use of the tapestry is clever.
Overall I still say meh to this story. I know what Poe was going for in terms of karma coming back to bite you; but just didn’t find either version all that compelling.

Cask of Amontillo by Poe AND
Carnival by Tiffany D. Jackson
inspired by Cask of Amontillo by Poe
I’m confident I’m going to hell. As I took great pleasure (and even kind of laughed) at the cleverness of each character that walls in the other in each story. Jackson uses the cover of the noise of Carnival in a very clever way; and gives satisfaction to anyone bullied in a mere 10 pages.
Enjoyed both these stories immensely.
*After reading all of the Poe and retellings in this anthology I can confidently say this is the best set of stories of them all. I love the revenge being so dark and despicable; while also clever and concise.

The Glittering Death by Caleb Roehrig
inspired by 
The Pit and the Pendulum by Poe
Just wow. I’m slightly shivering after reading this. In my house, safe, my husband and 80lb pit-bull terrier in the room with me, it’s night which might add a bit of creep factor. It’s only as I finish this story I realize how rapt it had my attention.
Certainly as a teen I did not understand the true impossibility of the decision between the pit and the pendulum. I thought that the pit was always the better choice back then. Today i would merely say that both suck equally and as they both end in death then what real difference is there?

The Purloined Letter by Poe
Sure… nothing nefarious or horrific here. Just the argument that hiding in plain site is clever. I’d like to think in todays world our investigators, officers, military, etc. are trained to ensure this doesn’t happen. But people tend to work based on pre-conceived notions far too often…

A Drop of Stolen Ink by Emily Lloyd-Jones
inspired by The Purloined Letter
Really liked the science fiction element of IDs being integrated into your skin. Overall this story suffers from the same thing as Poe’s original; it’s a bit boring. Maybe in its day this story was unique; but now the ‘hidden in plain sight’ concept has been done to death. Just no real pizazz here for me.

The Tell-Tale Heart by Poe
One Poe’s most famous short stories. In a mere 7 pages Poe manages to convince you that the killer was right. Perhaps I’m too jaded by todays media consumption but this feels tame compared with shows like GoT, Witcher, and other fantasy gothic movies like ‘Crimson Peak’.
And of course the last line of this story inspired the title of this anthology.

Happy Days Sweetheart by Stephanie Luehn
inspired by The Tell-Tale Heart
Not a lot to say here; but the complete 360 twist in the end is great. Loved it!

The Raven by Poe
I have no doubt the best part of this poem is the cadence with which Poe constructs his rhymes. It flows off the tongue (even when said in your mind and out loud) and makes you want to continue; even if the Nevermore has you wanting to end.
A classic and truly deserved of being loved, nevermore.

The Raven (remix) by Amanda Lovelace
inspired by The Raven by Poe
Very very clever. Right up the last word. Redacted to select only certain words or letters. Lovelace brilliantly changes the tone of the story using only Poe’s words that were already on the page.

Hop-Frog by Poe
I can’t help but wonder how bullied, belittled, or abused Poe was in his relatively short life. Whether for being: unattractive, often poor or unintelligent remains to be seen. But I surmise as so many of his stories enact revenge.
It may also be he saw injustices of the world and felt empathy and rage because of them. Either way he clearly understood the need to get even.

Channeling by Marilee Nijkamp
inspired by Hop-frog by Poe
Excellent use of the fae and their history of ‘stealing’ or saving unwanted deformed children.

The Oval Portrait by Poe
Feels like a bit of a Dorian Grey homage with the use of the painting. I don’t even know which came first! How embarrassing. Lol.
I gotta say paintings can be both beautiful and haunting. Really liked this one.

The Oval Filter by Lamar Giles 
inspired by Poe’s Oval Portrait
Very clever to incorporate the Poe story into an Instagram modern day based one. Enjoyed how the death of the girlfriend felt very Poe on it own; even without the creepy Instagram/phone activity added in. The creepiness of the phone doing things just heightened the overall gothic, supernatural, and disturbing feel.

The Masque of Red Death by Poe
A bit too flowery and lengthy in its descriptions for me; but the overall message to avoid greed is powerful.

Red by Hillary Monahan
inspired by Poe’s Masque of Red Death
Pretty much the exact same story. The setting is changed; but the descriptions of the rooms, the chimes of the clock, almost all the details are identical. It didn’t feel different enough for me.

Ligeia by Poe
OMG boring. Overly descriptive, takes too long for something interesting to happen, and just not that shocking or big a reveal. The worst Poe one in the collection so far for me.

Lygia by Dahlia Adler
inspired by Ligeia by Poe
Love the lesbians; but just as the original story is too romantic and overdone for my tastes; so is this one. I can’t fault the author as what they had to work with was already brutal. Proof that I love gothic works but without the horror, historical setting, etc; only the romance, it’s not for me.

The Fall of the House of Usher by Poe
A little bit anticlimactic as I’ve read many retellings including Silvia Morena-Garcia’s amazing novel, Mexican Gothic. That said, it is a clever story and adaptable in many ways. I love the biology used. Be it the mess incest makes of lineage, or the fungus that ultimately shadows everyone and thing in the House of Usher. I’m glad to have finally read the original.

The Fall of the Bank of Usher by Fran Wilde
inspired by The Fall of the House of Usher by Poe
Wow!! Brilliant!!
There is no doubt in my mind that Mexican Gothic is still the penultimate retelling of House of Usher. However, Wilde’s short story treatment is just as smart and sharp; and in a totally different way. I can’t say anymore for fear of giving away the idea; but let’s just say it’s a doozy!"

The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Poe
Poe wrote an entire story basically about statistical probability with large numbers (aka: mathematical/scientific proof coincidences don’t exist).
The beginning was painful but the last half flew by as the murders motive, perpetrator, etc. were being revealed. It’s absurd and yet falls into place eloquently. Poe really was a very sharp, astute man.

The Murders in the Rue Apartwlle, Boracay by Rin Chupeco
inspired by The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Poe
One of my most anticipated stories of the book! The trans representation is excellent here (as I would expect from Chupeco); however the overall story doesn’t quite follow Poe’s story the way most of our others have. I don’t mind a different ending; but it just didn’t feel quite right. Super disappointing as I usually enjoy Chupeco's works.

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Book Review: Words in my Hands

The Words in My Hands
by Asphyxia
5 out of 5 stars 

I’m at a loss for words to describe this book. Which is perhaps the truest irony and beauty, all at once, given that The Words in my Hands leading gal is Deaf.
During this book I have learned so many new things! And while knowing a tiny bit of ASL (American Sign Language) I definitely didn’t really appreciate the isolation of being deaf and left out of… well everything. Author Asphyxia describes living Deaf as only someone who has experienced it can. She herself is Deaf.

My husband knows some ASL as he used it as a toddler/child before he could speak, and worked with a lovely Deaf gal who he translated for as often and best as he could. He continues to have interest in sign language. After reading this book we are talking about learning more of it together. This could be helpful for me if I get anxious and need to suddenly leave. I could tell him from afar that I’m either okay and need space; or that I want to leave. In the past we have used signals or code words; but I love the idea of using a real language to do this in the future. And with any luck someone Deaf will see us use ASL and know they can approach us.

The learnings in this story are complex and interwoven. From the Deaf experience and community lessons, to how to build a garden and create compost, to an extremely food scarce future; Asphyxia takes the reader on a journey unlike any other I’ve ever read. A huge part of this is the amazingly beautiful pages in the print novel. This is one of those rare instances where you MUST READ THE BOOK IN PRINT. On an e-reader (I did see what it looks like) or as an audiobook an entire facet of communicating how our lead gal feels and emotes is lost. Without the dark pages of her despair and frustration, the sunny delight of flowery pages, or the intensity of her protest drawings; I truly believe you would miss an entire component of the story, and most importantly, the character progression of our leading gal.

There is a cute little romance in this. While often not my favourite part of most teen novels this one is less annoying and more realistic than most. Asphyxia does a good job of not exaggerating or over doing the romance, despair, lust and possible love at any given time.

I could go on and on about the friendships, other relationships (Deaf and oral), adults to teens, kids to teens, etc that are so well portrayed in The Words in my Hands; but honestly I’ll never do Justice to the beauty and complexity of emotions Asphyxia shares with us as the readers.

Pick this book up. Be amazed and intrigued by it. Learn from it. Consider your own green footprint on the world (and where your food comes from). Consider your methods of communication and what they mean to you. Consider how important community and inclusivity are. Above all else consider that every one of us, regardless of disability, race, sexuality, age, or other minority distinguishing aspects are all people. And people all want to be loved and included every day.

Thank you Asphyxia for sharing this story, your experiences, and pieces of you from within the novel with us, the readers. This is a book I will never be able to forget. A true gem.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Book Review: Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch

Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch
by Rivka Galchen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars... this was okay. I'm not sure why it won so many awards to be honest. It's not amazing. It has a unique narrative style I suppose; and the interviews are well positioned to give details to the story without experiencing each instance inside the core narrative. But overall I was a bit underwhelmed by Every Knows Your Mother is a Witch given how much praise I've heard for it.

I think I expected a bit more horror to be involved. It's possible I've just read too many witch trial books over the years (which could easily be true); or maybe I just wasn't in the mood at the time I read it. I'm not totally sure what it is about this book that didn't hit it for me. It could even be that it got over hyped and I am sooo late to the party that my expectations were far too high. Whatever the reason I can only barely give this four stars.

It's worthy of a read; but if I were to have missed out on it in the end that would not be a tragedy. The unique letter/interview format is what elevates Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch past a banal, meh three star level. I certainly do not understand why it was so hyped and given so many awards. That said, I would check out future books by Rivka Galchen if the plot/story was my thing. It wasn't the writing that was subpar but more that I just didn't care about the story or the characters really. Maybe that is the downfall of the interview script and letter writing used here is that you don't have the voice of a main character(s) or even a narrator to tie it all together.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Monday, November 21, 2022

Book Review: The House of Fortune

The House of Fortune
by Jessie Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good read… but not near as amazing as the first. The gothic, eeriness of the first book, The Miniaturist, is missing here. The last 1/3 of the book didn’t have the same tone as I loved in The Miniaturist. I can’t quite put my finger on it; but something is missing. Maybe Jessie Burton just got a bit softer in the last ten years? And so that is represented in her writing? Maybe there needed to be more death or tragic events? (I know I’m morbid…)
After thinking on this for about a month I can honestly say that my biggest concern is that The House of Fortune was forgettable. Whereas The Miniaturist is will a book, even having read it 10 years ago, that comes to mind and has moments I can remember. This might be one of those times when a sequel was not needed; but the publisher wanted one? Whatever the reason it's a good read. I wouldn't not recommend it, but I would say only if you love The Miniaturist is this one worth picking up.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Friday, November 4, 2022

Book Review: Small Spaces

Small Spaces 
by Katherine Arden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a ride!!! This first in a series by Katherine Arden (Bear and the Nightingale) is crazy good. Easily up there with Lockwood and Co. for spooky, creepy, but still appropriate for middle grade ages.
I read most of this in one night between midnight and 2am. In my very secure home, with my husband sleeping upstairs and my pitbull dog sleeping next to me; and I STILL got shivers. Now that is impressive for a middle grade book!
The best part of this book? It had bullying turned positive, real friendships being mad, grief handled well, AND very little (if arguably any) love interest. I just couldn’t ask for better. Plus the lead girl is a reader and there are lots of random literature Easter eggs and many overt callouts to Alice in Wonderland.

I have had Arden’s adult fantasy series on my to be read print shelf for a couple years. It has just skyrocketed to the top of my pile to read!! If it’s even half as good as this I’ll be happy. Although now my expectations are higher. (Lol)

I’ve got book 2 on hold at the library and already looking at how I secure a few copies of this for Christmas so all the is middle grade kiddos in my life can get scared by it too!! Seriously go read this like right now (it’s currently October as I write this and the perfect time)!

Above all, don’t forget, to stay to small spaces… where THEY can’t reach you. And don’t forget a smiling, kind person isn’t always good…

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Thursday, November 3, 2022

Book Review: What Moves the Dead

What Moves the Dead 
by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most of the time I spent reading What Moves the Dead I could only think of one thing; that it is so similar to Mexican Gothic in its use of fungus/mold as the antagonist. Due to this, I actually had trouble focusing on the actual story T. Kingfisher was telling. Thus I wish that the Authors Note was at the front of the book, instead of the back, as in it Kingfisher admits the similarities to the amazing Mexican Gothic, as well she notes the differences and how a fungus/mold can be dangerous and sentient (if you will) in different ways. I think going in knowing that Kingfisher was aware of Silvia Morena-Garcia’s amazing novel would have helped me enjoy the story more. I’m a bit defensive of fellow Canadians (such as Morena-Garcia) as it’s just a bit tougher for us to get published and gain a huge following as our counterparts to the south and even in the UK.

All that said this is a solid story. I’d say it wasn’t quite as scary as I had hoped for. I didn’t have the shivers too many times and the atmosphere in general just didn’t hold the creepiness I like in a horror story. I think that’s because our leading lady is very pragmatic about the situation (and maybe because I was too fixed on the similarities to Mexican Gothic). Although I did find myself repeating (as I went to bed one night) ‘the dead don’t walk’ as a bit of a mantra and reassurance.

The most interesting part of the entire novel for me is actually not relevant to the main plot, that is Kingfisher’s explanation, early on, of the multiple types of pronouns used in this society. I wish we could adopt something like it for our own!! Instead of just male and female, there is a gender neutral/non-binary pronoun and even a pronoun just for soldiers (regardless of gender). I do wish more was said and explored about a character that would lack gender (literally as it’s not human); but at least the acknowledgement and handling of pronouns was done. That felt like a huge step forward and I can’t wait to tell my non-binary friend about it later today when I see them!

Overall the length felt appropriate, not too short nor too long, to tell the story and get to know the characters. While it wasn’t jump scary or all that chilling for me; What Moves the Dead was certainly well written, the plot organized sufficiently, and the characters real enough. I look forward to reading some of Kingfisher’s past novels (she has two prior) to see if I can enjoy her writing better when I’m not obsessed with defending Mexican Gothic against what I’m reading.
I do really appreciate Kingfisher telling everyone to go read Mexican Gothic however. I too will echo that statement; but I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading What Moves the Dead. Just know that it will feel very reminiscent with the use of mold/fungus as the unusual antagonist of each situation.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Book Review: The Monsters We Defy

The Monsters We Defy
by Leslye Penelope
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The author's note at the end of the book has me amazed at how much of the story (given it's definitely a fantasy novel) is based on true stories. Leslye Penelope has gives the reader a look at African American's lives at a time that most of us white folk (myself included) have little context for. Set in Washington, DC, 1925 at a time of race riots, segregation, and many alive having heard their direct parents stories of time spent as slaves; The Monsters We Defy takes pieces of real history, a true setting, and the disturbing discrimination of the times (much of which is sadly still happening today), throws in a fantasy element; and then takes us on a ride!

Our leading girl's narrative feels so authentic and true. I could feel and hear the distinctly African American culture woven into this book by Penelope at times. Both in the plot, magic, history, setting, and language. As a white Canadian girl I often don't have a good grasp on the difference in tone, slang, etc. that comes with other cultures and POC's communities. I am so grateful to Penelope to allow me some time in this world to experience (if even only a little bit), not only the horrors of segregation and obvious racism, the streets of Washington with our characters (all of whom are African American) battling the forces of evil. Be that in the elemental spirits, the dead 'Over There', or the oppressive and stifling reality of living in white America in 1925. Penelope does this in such a way that it doesn't feel like she is blaming those alive today for the transgressions of the past (for which I am personally grateful); and she adds in a fantasy element that obviously stems from African culture. I loved the way everything was interwoven; but if I stepped back I could see where the fiction and truth collided.

I'm always excited to read Author's Notes as often events or characters are based in truth; and those books are always better. The Monsters We Defy is definitely on the list of excellent books showcasing a fantasy twist, but still rooted in our world, entrenched with our own societal problems. While it's not labelled as 'book 1' I think there is a lot more to happen with these characters and in this timeline. I really hope Penelope plans to carry on and we get to learn more about the coveted ring that dominates the plot, more about how our characters get on without their Charms and Tricks to help (or hinder) them, and a lot more about our leading girl's budding romance with a sexy musician. This is a world that while cruel and mean is not only interesting; but historically pertinent. I was glad to read The Monsters We Defy for both the real and fictional narratives.

If you like YA fantasy that is quick, magical, a touch romantic, and overall gritty then you should definitely pick up The Monsters We Defy.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Book Review: Submerged

by A.M. Deese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As book 2 of a series, readers will know, including myself, going in that there are characters and plot to remember. But I have to say: either my memory is terrible, it’s been far too long since I read book 1, or the prompts in the narrative to remind the reader are poorly implemented in Submerged. It took me until almost halfway through to feel like I had a sense for all our characters, locations, politics, etc. I suspect it’s a bit of all three contributors that led me to really struggle at the beginning. Now in fairness there is a large cast of characters, locations, politics, religions, etc. to contend with here. Yet I often read elaborate fantasy books and do not usually have as much trouble as I had here with A.M. Deese's second offering in the Dance of the Elements series.

Submerged continues immediately following book 1’s cliffhanger and takes no time at all to get ramped up. We are thrown back into the elaborate game of politics, war, and treachery that began in Ignited. Were the characters a bit more developed, and a little less cliché, Submerged could easily move from being in any sort of new adult category to straight-up fantasy. I think what Deese really needs is a strong fantasy editor; perhaps from Orbit or TOR to really nail down some character traits, facts, and world development. I’m not saying this will be Sanderson level quality (who is really?). With a couple rewrites and good editing there truly is a solid story and cast of antagonists and protagonists. These sentiments echo my thoughts on book 1. A really great editor could make this series so much more!

Finally, fair warning, there is an epic cliffhanger here just as there was in book one. As with many middle series books it feels (at times) that the story didn’t progress very far. Although, I do believe there is a resolution of sorts here; even if the cliffhanger makes you revolt a bit with its drive to pull the story into book three. I really enjoyed our two main gals (finally!) meeting one another (not a spoiler, it had to happen eventually for the series to progress), and felt that the romantic interests were tamed down and allowed the politics and plot to stand-out more. This was a huge plus for me as I usually can do with less romantic stuff in the average book marketed such as Submerged has been.

I hope Deese continues to promote and write her book series. Even if a part of me also hopes a bigger fantasy publisher steps in to give Dance of the Elements series a more fantasy texture and elevate it to the level I think it could be.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Book Review: A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poison

A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons
by Kate Khavari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A relatively quick read that includes: mysterious poisons, embezzlement, historical showing of women being looked down upon, university professor culture, and an adorable little love story.
There's nothing too special here per say but if you like simpler mysteries or want something that won't bend your head around twenty times (the way some mysteries do today) this is a good choice.

There is not a lot of the 'thriller' genre here. A few briefly intense moments, including an almost sexual assault attack that left me feeling not only disgusted by the man in question; but also reminded that I am lucky we have any of the supports in place today (even if they are inadequate still) and aren't subject to whatever any man wants like back in the 1920's. Lots of chauvinistic pompous academia comments from men towards our leading lady. I do think it's a good representation of what it was like back then to struggle as a female scientist. And I do like that not all the men are portrayed as awful. There are at least two, probably more like four that have our leading girls best interest at heart and are trying to do what they can to watch out for her. Keeping in mind that "doing what they can" within the confines of respectable society (and that which will protect their own butts and careers) may not seem like much to some; however, it is again what was at least some sort of support back in the day. Our leading lady graciously notes this many times so as to remind the reader that the men of this time and place don't have to do anything for her (sadly).

Overall a good beach read; and a great little break to take between epic novels (if you’re like me and need that). A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons is a quicker read that should satisfy the average reader for a weekend or so. It is also fairly safe to lend out to others and recommend as it's interesting enough (who doesn't like learning about poisons!) without having too many trigger warnings like a WWII historical novel might.
I’ll certainly read the next in the series and would be interested in more starring our leading lady Saffron or other publications by Kate Khavari.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Thursday, September 8, 2022

Book Review: The Echo Wife

The Echo Wife
by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part thriller, part science fiction. If Michael Crichton and Lee Child had a book baby that was just a little bit of each style then it would be The Echo Wife. While immensely readable, fairly compelling, and an overall good read; I did find myself wandering a few times. One chapter would be all encompassing and them the next a bit boring. The pacing is just a touch inconsistent and that put this one down to four stars for me. But that's not to say that Sarah Gailey hasn't written a wonderful book; because they have. Overall I would classify The Echo Wife as accessible to a large group of readers that aren't just dedicated to one genre (not unlike the Da Vinci Code; but story is written a million times better).

Morality of Cloning
Cloning will always be an immensely interesting subject to me, and it will always be fraught with moral ambiguity. If you can recreate your spouse and tweak them just a bit wouldn't you want to? Many people would instinctively say 'yes'. Except that your new spouse isn't the same tissue or matter that they were before; and they are a little less human (perhaps), but very predictable. Gailey brings us this moral and scientific crisis into a home that is fraught with tension over having a baby or not, over obedience, and (to a certain degree) over professional jealously. I can first-hand attest that it's not a good idea to be in the same industry as your partner (especially the same job position). For a time my spouse and I were competing for the exact same jobs in the design industry; it was tolerable (and proved we do love one another by having excitement for one while disappointment for the other) but I wouldn't suggest it to anyone. Plus it's not a financially stable choice as if the industry tanks you are in trouble with two incomes up in the air. So eventually I swapped industries (totally by choice) and almost a decade later we are much more successful and happy. In the long run, don't do exactly the same thing as your spouse unless you are a tight-knit team together; and even then Gailey shows that you need to be very confident in that relationship.

Mental Manipulation
The next piece of The Echo Wife is a bit more complex and might turn some people off of the novel. There is a fairly significant piece of this novel that is about emotional and mental manipulation and abuse. How much will you do to make your spouse happy? And how much should you have to do to retain a relationship? Certainly work is involved in any happy coupling; but you should not fear for your life or well-being at any time. However, in our cloning context, if you know your partner can easily replace you with another iteration does that change things? If definitely gives a power balance unfairly in one direction. And this is what we see first-hand from two different perspectives (both of the abused woman) in The Echo Wife.
It's important to note a couple things here. One, Gailey has first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be trapped in a relationship like this (as per her acknowledgements), and two they do an excellent job of representing the contrasting guilt and responsibility that many individuals are plagued with when they feel they are not upholding their side of a relationship. When that is always going to be untrue and manipulation is when the power balance is one-sided. Now that's not to say that there isn't an argument for when a coupling is not working; but wanting to permanently change or control your spouse is never going to be the answer. Never. And so I caution those with triggers for this type of behavior to be aware that the majority of the book does revolve around two controlling and manipulative relationships.

What is Identity?
Finally the third piece of The Echo Wife is the concept of identity. Gailey brings us into some very complex relationships. That between husband and wife (as discussed above), scientist and subject (clone or not), professional colleagues, and somewhere between all these spaces, friendship. Gailey asks questions about friendship in unbalanced power situations, comradery in professional capacities, and ultimately the final element needed for any relationship: trust. If I were to say that there is one message from The Echo Wife to focus on it's that your own perception of your identity including: where it comes from (internal or external), how you define it (your terms or others), and the importance of it to you (ego or id). Gailey is in a very unique position to discuss this at length, as an expert on the subject, identifying as non-binary. Gailey uses the pronouns they/them and embraced their true identity later in life. It's so encouraging to see someone who has struggled with identity share some of that in fictional characters that can help us (the reader) relate to ourselves. I found myself asking about how I validate myself, who I think I am, and why I think I am that person. These are all very pertinent questions for anyone to ask themselves; especially in today's external focused social media crazed world (where you can formulate an identity online without truly being that person).

I really want to give Gailey's thriller/sci-fi story five stars; and it really was sooo close. I can't quite pinpoint exactly what was missing or not quite there for me but I just didn't feel as compelled to read forward as I wanted to be (or felt I should be). But by no means would I discourage anyone from reading The Echo Wife. In fact this is an easy book to recommend. There is something here for almost everyone. The biggest concern I'd have in recommending this book is that someone may feel triggered by the very personal and emotionally charged mental abuse that is a great focus of this novel.
The Echo Wife is the type of book I will be recommending to my Mother, my friends, my colleagues, and so many others. Not only does it discuss very pertinent issues (such as mental abuse and identity) but it brings some current scientific laws (if you will) into question. I'd recommend picking up The Echo Wife and going on a journey of identity, morality, and reality. What is a living thing? What rights does someone have, and does it matter what that someone is made up of? Be ready to be challenged into considering how you define yourself first (even before you start defining others); and to ask yourself what would you have done given the crisis' presented to our characters (both the 'good' and 'bad' ones).

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Thursday, September 1, 2022

Book Review: The Deep

The Deep
by Rivers Solomon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can honestly say I do not really get what everyone sees as so great about this novella/short story (about 200 pages). I know Rivers Solomon is an amazing writer. Don't take my critique of this story as a criticism towards them. The ideas here are so good and smart; but the execution didn't do it for me. Or maybe it was just the main character I couldn't stand. I'm not sure; but either way I was disappointed.

For the first half of this book I was only mildly intrigued. Which is odd given that it's mermaids with unique backstory and way of narrating their own history. There are definitely overtones here that reference how awful occupation of another race, area, country, etc. can be and certainly comments on colonialism throughout. But at the end of the day I was kind of put off by the constant whining of our leading mermaid. I think Solomon did this on purpose; but I also think it was done a bit unfairly. You see I read 100 pages and think 'gosh this leading mermaid is a diva and annoying'. I then think 'why didn't she do xyz, or abc, or blah blah blah'. Only 20 pages later to find out they did. But it felt like too little, too late to me.

Unlike some novellas I wasn't able to read this in one sitting. Which might, maybe have changed things; but I have to stand by my belief that books need to be read at whatever pace is best for the reader. So arguing it has to be read quickly in one sitting doesn't sit comfortably for me. It just felt like I found out far too late enough about our leading mermaid to understand their frustrations, to recognize their trauma, and to really feel for them. Those that would argue that we should take all traumatic stories on faith would perhaps tell me I am a part of the problem that we don't believe people in real life and look for 'proof' where there may be none except the word of one person. And you may have a good point. I am someone who struggles sometimes to really understand why people make some of the decisions they make. Although I am getting better (I hope) and starting to recognize that fear is a leading factor. All that said, I really think that in fiction we should be providing enough context about a lead character to allow the readers to empathically understand them fairly quickly.

So while the last half of The Deep justifies the first half. I'm still not a huge fan. Although if you need a novella or short story to write an essay or book report on this is a great choice! There are sooo many critical comments and comparisons made to today's world (and our own fraught history) that any number of topics could be pulled out from it. My personal favourite was that the mermaids have no gender. If you know or follow River Solomon you will also appreciate why that is awesome. And also recognize how well it's explained (or not explained) in The Deep.

All that said, the origin of where the ideas for The Deep came from and the evolution they have undergone over the years are AMAZING! Don't miss the afterward as it's got some critical info in it that helps explain some of the story.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Book Review: Land-Water-Sky

Land-Water-Sky / Ndè-Tı-Yat’a
by Katłıà
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonderful! Very accessible even with the language inclusions (which I loved!!) and the stories tie together in the end.
These are not written as ‘old’ stories. Most are very modern with the elements of tradition and creatures of old. I absolutely loved the way it was set-up and written.

I really want to know if the stretch of haunted highway exists up in Northern Canada; and if so where. I legit got shivers each time one of the ladies was driving it.

At the end of the day my only complaint was it was too short! I wanted more!! This is a wonderful step into Indigenous writing in Canada and I hope we see a lot more like it very soon.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Book Review: Just Like Mother

Just Like Mother
by Anne Heltzel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A couple decent twists, some shock gore moments, a bit predictable in places, but ultimately a very readable, quick paced thriller.

The most interesting part is that, like me, the author is childless and nearing the end of (average) childbearing age. So to choose to write about a cult obsessed with motherhood, that reflects my frustrations with how childless women are often treated, represents (perhaps) the psychological struggle many women have these days about having children or not. I really respect Anne Heltzel for trying to find a very overt way of discussing the shunning feeling that many of us childless have had over the years. By adding in the horror and gore the way she has it makes it seem like being so elitist about Motherhood is wrong (which frankly it is). I hope that maybe a few people who have made statements as rudely put like "you aren't truly female until you've had a baby" or "you haven't lived until you've felt the love for your own child"; will have some reflection on how ignorant, elitist, and downright awful their statements are when said to a childless woman or someone transgender. Fertility is not a given for all humans and we should not covet it above all else (especially given that our world is over populated and children die starving each day). Just Like Mother could easily go hand-in-hand with A Handmaiden's Tale and make a wonderful comparison paper/essay about how different, and yet the same, being fertile is treasured over the last 30 years.

For those that had trouble with the gore or concepts in this book I have to say you should stick to your rom-com's then. I found it to be fairly mild in comparison to a lot of horror and fantasy/sci-fi novels I've read over the years. Also eating the placenta is a time honoured tradition in many cultures; so I just don't see that one as being as awful as others do. The forcefulness of the scene is torturous for sure; but the actual consuming (for me) not so much. The ending however... is very psychological and made me kind of want to put the book own like it was a plague that would infect me. Needless to say, the ending is absolutely brilliant. And it's not often I get to say that about a horror novel!

Overall Anne Heltzel has taken what society reveres as a magical treasure, Motherhood and fertility, and turned it on it's side. Showing the reader that anything put to the extreme is bad. That anything coveted above all else creates a cult. It doesn't matter if it starts with the best of intentions; it only matters that it ends with a distinct resolution that coercion and manipulation is truly at the root of all evil.

Finally, I'd like to point out that there are many women, like myself, who are perfectly comfortable with their infertility and happy for their friends to have babies over them. I do not begrudge any of my friends their lovely children, and treasure that they allow me to a part of each child's life. Occasionally I have moments of heartache or regret; but I believe those are more that I didn't meet societal expectations as a woman than anything. Hence why Just Like Mother speaks to me so clearly in it's condemnation of prizing Motherhood above all else. My only ask, of anyone but especially fellow women and mothers, is that you not degrade me (and others) for being unable (or choosing not) to be a mother ourselves. All women have value, all people have value; and we should never ever put one person's biological capacity above another's when it's the luck of the draw that ultimately determines your ability to bear a child or not.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Book Review: Midnight & Moon

Midnight and Moon
by Kelly Cooper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautifully illustrated book about a horse that can't hear and a little girl who can't speak. I love how the disabilities are shown as being difficult but not wholly prohibitive of keeping both our girl and horse from having fulfilled lives.

My only reason for not rating this five stars is I think the average 6-year-old or younger might not understand the ending. Or need some help with it. The idea that you might be able to sense someone you have a special connection with is (possibly) going to be foreign to many small children. If they have been taught any sort of religion it might be easier for them to relate; but those who have not had a religion or spiritualism as a part of their life yet may just need to ask some questions and talk it out with an adult. I would encourage anyone reading this to a little one for the first time to consider how the child reacts and if they maybe need to ask how the little one feels at the end of the story; or if they want to talk about how the girl and horse could sense one another.

I really enjoyed the overall rhythm of Midnight and Moon. The subject matter is softer, and the illustrations are wonderfully beautiful and a bit soft themselves, this makes for a good bedtime reading story. However, Kelly Cooper's book is a bit long for the average bedtime story. So you want to negotiate it as two stories instead of one. Although it's not near as long as Seuss so maybe some parents will find it a reprieve.

Overall this is a gorgeous book that I would happily gift to any young child; but especially to one who has their own disability that they may need help with. A wonderful reminder that your disability makes you special and might actually give you special powers that others lack. Perspective is everything.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Book Review: The Candy House

The Candy House 
by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I kind of wish I had reread Goon Squad first. There are some major character overlaps that I feel maybe I missed things in as it’s been 11 years since I last read Goon Squad.
Like that first book, The Candy House is written from many different character perspectives. One thing that was a bit disappointing is that we never go back to any of same characters once their narrative is over. All our characters are connected in some way (and things come full circle) but I was still sad we didn’t go back to the preteen girl or our tech genius/CEO from the first chapter.

Jennifer Egan does bring in some unconventional storytelling methods in The Candy House. We experience one story entirely through operative statements, and another set of character perspectives from emails sent back and forth. Both are closer to the end of the novel, and so took me by surprise.

Overall this is brilliant writing, as Egan tends to be. But it will not be for everyone. There is a multitude of characters and intertwined stories to keep track of (with no cheat sheets to help), and it’s written at a high literary level. So be prepared to need your dictionary for some of the doctoral characters dialogue.

If you love contemporary writing, want to explore the idea of consciousness uploaded to a ‘cloud’ (of sorts), or just experience some in-depth personalities then I would highly recommend Eagan’s latest novel. If The Candy House wins awards I wouldn’t be surprised. However it’s a bit too obscure at times and hard to follow for me to give it five stars. I also wish there was more said in the blurb about its tie-ins with Good Squad so I’d have known to read book 1 again. Especially given how long ago Good Squad was first published.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Friday, July 29, 2022

Book Review: For the Wolf

For the Wolf 
by Hannah F. Whitten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'll preface this review by saying that I just read A Court of Thorns and Roses, for the first time, only a month before I read For the Wolf. This is a bit unfortunate as their introductory stories are both based on Beauty and the Beast.

Our leading gal is taken by a 'monster' and held 'captive' (sort of). Which, of course, results in them developing feelings for one another. Most would agree that ACOTAR is a pretty amazing read (captivating, quick, and kind of like crack, you just want more!). The opening 300+ pages of Hannah F. Whitten's first book in the Wilderwood series is perhaps the exact opposite. It's fairly boring, predictable, and seems to go on-and-on for no real purpose at times. I'm not sure why we didn't get more character development (besides a bit from our two lead characters) or why there is seemingly no foreshadowing whatsoever. Even the explanations of magic, politics, culture, etc. don't give (or at least not for me) any hints as to what might be coming next. And given how this story twists it seems fairly important to maybe give your readers a sense of what is coming.

But I will say this... that first 300 pages of boredom is worth it! Things really change up and have some excitement to them in the latter half of For The Wolf. Lots of interesting gothic-esque ideas are brought about (although not as gothic and dark as I want, but for your average fantasy reader I'm sure it's just right) and some really interesting dilemmas and situations come up.

Which leaves me to my last pet peeve... you absolutely cannot take a big, and I mean BIG, idea and repurpose it. This faux pas is almost as bad as having a castle in your book named Hogwarts. You can have a magical school castle but it needs a different name at least!
< minor spoiler below >

You cannot put someone into a 'shadow land' and then describe said land as upside-down. Like literally trees are upside-down. Now maybe it's because I just finished watching season 4 of Stranger Things; but I think the show is more than big enough by now to say that you should NOT borrow from it. Or, if your story and description came first; maybe consider tweaking it a bit because as son as I read about upside-down shadow lands all that happens is I feel annoyed that someone would rip the concept right out of Stranger Things. Right or wrong; that is how it comes across to me.

As I do plan to read book 2, I know I will have to get over my annoyance with this. As it does appear our shadow lands will be prominently featured in it. So let this be a warning instead to future publishers and authors; please, please make sure you change something just enough, or at least name it differently so that your readers aren't rolling their eyes at the blatant rip-off. And again, intentional or not, you just can't use something so widely known in pop culture and hope no one notices.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Book Review: Looking for Jane

Looking for Jane by Heather Marshall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, just… wow. This book is absolutely heartbreaking, brilliant, historically accurate, and yet poignantly relevant to todays world.

The below review was written minutes after reading the last page and closing off the book. It is much more emotionally charged than my usual reviews. But because of the subject matter I have chosen to leave it as is.

I can barely find the words to describe the multitude of emotions, feelings, and frustration I have after reading these combined stories. From illegal abortions to adoption practices to lies lived for a lifetime to the excitement of abortion being legalized; Looking for Jane will take you into an account of what life was once life, what life is still like for some, and what life is about to be like for so many American women. The relevancy of this novel cannot be overstated at this point in time.
While I am a childless woman, and will never have a baby of my own (partially because of infertility, and partially by my choice); all I can say is that without a doubt MY BODY is mine. And no one; not the government, the church, other women or men, or even the father should be allowed to use my body for their own means or gains. Nor should they be allowed to decide what does or does not happen with it.
Looking for Jane brings so many poignant pieces of the struggle together that by the end all I can do is still here stunned, breathless, angry, and resolute that abortion MUST remain a woman’s right. It MUST remain our choice what happens to our bodies.

All I can really say to fellow women, supporters of the right to choice, those scared of what the reversal of Roe vs. Wade means for other basic human rights, and any men whom have had to grapple with what the women around them have done: READ THIS BOOK.
While set in (my home country) Canada (and written by a fellow Canadian); it tells the illegal abortion networking stories of all of North America; and the atrocities put on pregnant women when the church was all too involved in ‘health and safety’.

I won’t lie, it’s nearly 3am, I couldn’t put this down in the end; and now I’m riled up with anger, fear (for the future), frustration, and extreme sadness all at once because some people can’t mind their own business and worry about their own lives and how what they do impacts others. So forgive my extreme emotional reaction at this exact moment.

One thing I have always believed, and has just been reinforced for me by Heather Marshall, my body is MINE! Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with it. Especially when the emotional turmoil of said decision will haunt the woman forever. No woman takes abortion lightly. No one. I’ve seen the haunting look in other women’s eyes who made the hard choice, and while I’ve never met someone who regrets their abortion; without a doubt they all hurt from it, even decades later.
If nothing else, Heather Marshall depicts the haunting grief all women feel either for: themselves or their fellow females (be it lovers, family or friends) in a way that I believe will remain with any reader forever.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World 
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF @ 20%
If I have to read one more time about how something is ‘such an Ari thing to say’ or how much Ari loves Dante (and can’t stop thinking about him) or any other insecure (yet mushy at the same time) comment between these two boys I’m going to gag.
I know there’s probably some big conflict that happens and will make me love the boys as I did in book 1. But at 600+ pages I have no patience to get there.
I’m already tired by the self deprecating rhetoric the boys have for themselves as gay men. Their parents are only marginally better. I mean who decides to only love someone because they are your son and not love ALL of them. If you can’t love someone for who and what they are then please don’t pretend it’s acceptable to ignore it. This is the kind of thing my own parents did to my sister and I (both bisexual women) and I absolutely hate it. As though ignoring the elephant in the room is going to make it be okay or disappear? My answer is no.

Sorry but I don’t need anymore queer literature that tries to set-up the premise that members of our community are trash before it builds us back up.
The timeframe of the 80s AIDS epidemic really wasn’t doing it for me. Could be because I just watched the amazing show ‘Pose’… but I felt these two young boys couldn’t understand or even begin to grasp the magnitude of what was happening in their (new to them) community.

I’d rather read a book about older gay men that can give some context and insight into the crisis. I don’t need to see it from a child’s perspective.
Sorry, I know many will be mad about me for this review and for giving up on this book. I’ve just got so many books to get to and knew exactly how this would play out for another 400+ pages. So I say no thanks, and move on. Which is probably for the best because if I read 600+ pages of this type of writing from the first 20% I’d have a very mean and likely ranting review to post. So I’ll save you all that experience and leave it as is.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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Friday, June 24, 2022

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Book 1 in A Court of Thorns and Roses series
by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well I finally read it. And I will admit everyone is right; I'm total trash for A Court of Thorns and Roses. Is this just smutty teen crack? Yes, yes it is.

The Intended Audience
Just like I said with Bridget Kemmerer's series, that is okay, because that is the audience it was written for. Is Sarah J. Maas the most brilliant writer ever? No. That's not to say that she's isn't good at keeping the readers attention, moving the story forward, and creating intrigue. She's in fact excellent at all of those things. Although, I felt her descriptions were a bit lacking in places, and I would have preferred more lore and information about the magic and Fae system in general. But I'm a hard-core fantasy reader at heart and love world-building.

The Ending
The biggest thing that has importance to me in teen stories like this is that the ending isn't cheap. It was clearly set-up right from the beginning; it felt logical, the pieces locked in together and it flowed nicely. I was actually surprised that this book had a real sort of ending given it's a part of a larger series. You could read just this first book and have a complete story without feeling forced to move onto book 2. However that is not me. I will be starting book 2 in the next few days for sure!

The Best Part?
That is the easiest question to answer. And anyone else who also loves this character as much as I do probably gets it... Rhysand. Ohhh Rhysand.
I am a total and complete suck for the bad boy, anti-hero, do good'er villain. The one who might be trying to do covert good; but whose number one priority is keeping the imagine of them as a villain alive. Also, the descriptive, wicked, blue hair. I could imagine Rhysand almost from the moment he enters the room (page?). He's beautiful, sexy, and dangerous. Even at nearly 40-years-old I still appreciate the bad now. And I know 16-year-old me would have been completely obsessed and swooned for Rhysand. I've briefly seen in the past comments about being on a 'team' (gosh I hate that phrase for picking love interests) and if I had to pick I'm team Rhysand. It does not matter what he does in the rest of the series. He can be the worst person ever, I'll still love him. Just as I loved Jamie Lannister (Game of Thrones) a little bit even before he showed some humanity. The ultimate bad boy cannot be beat in my mind.

The Other Characters
As per usual with most books in this genre the character the reader is supposed to love and get all gooey about is not the one I liked much at all. I'm sorry but Tamlin is boring, annoyingly broody, moody, and overall just not that interesting. I do hope he gets a chance to show more of his personality as the series goes on.
Then it's onto our leading girl, I don't hate her. Which is saying a lot as I tend to really have an issue with a lot of female heroines in these types of series for teens. The lead girl in Iron Widow for example is just a horrible bitch, there is no two ways about it. So I'm pleased that I don't totally hate Feyruh, and I do hope that she is given the chance to grow and explore (mostly Rhysand, lol) her personality and feelings further. I'm assuming this growth is what makes the rest of the series interesting.

Sex, sexual tension, and oh look, sex
Finally, let's talk about the sexual nature of these books. These are not middle grade books. I wouldn't even call them young adult. While we often us YA and Teen interchangeably there is perhaps one distinction that should be made. YA generally doesn't have too much sex or implying of sex. Teen is generally that step above it. We often experience characters losing their virginity, experimenting, coming into their own sexually, etc. in teen books. I have no problem at all with a 15-year-old reading this. As I was that age when I was active; so it seems only fair that I at least accept that age is appropriate to read about sex. I would actually go as low as age 13 for this book. BUT I would be hard pressed to say younger. It might depend on the child; however I think most 12 and younger would not enjoy the sexual tension here because it's "icky". Their emotional maturity is just not there yet.
Honestly, given the violence, gore, and other elements of today's TV, movies, and video games; the making-out, lusting, and sex is quite tame. It may be important to point out that, for me, sex is no more taboo than gory. Therefore I am not at all concerned about how this is labelled or marketed the way some have been. Never mind the fact that the title, cover art, and blurb make it pretty clear you're going into a fantasy teen romance novel and those tend to get hot and heavy at some point. Especially as the series moves forward.

I mean what can I say that everyone else hasn't said? Not a lot really. It's as good as people say; IF that is the kind of content you want. I get why some hate it; because they are just not into books like this. And that's okay. But for those of us that do love this romance trash; it's up there with being very compelling to read.
I'd like to add that within 5 pages of reading the riddle I knew the answer. Maas actually gives a tiny tip-off shortly after reciting the riddle that I'm sure most picked up on. And while I was quite certain for the next 100+ pages I knew the answer; it was still exciting to read the solution.

If you like Bridgit Kemmerer, Rin Chupeco, or Tracey Deon (Legendborn), or most big name authors in the fantasy teen realm then I am quite confident you will like this.
If you're an adult that has enjoyed Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita or Mercy series), Anne Bishop, or Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series then I think you'll enjoy this. It's a bit tamer than your adult horror/fantasy scenarios listed; but in the same vein. It keeps up the idea of punishment for punishment sake, and love for love's sake; and ultimately taking punishment to show love.

I'm picking up book 2 tomorrow, because somehow I had book 1, 3 and 4 on my shelf! Weird or what? I can't wait to get further into the pants (I mean mind...) of Rhysand.
Lastly, if you didn't laugh at my joke just now and kind sneered or wrinkled your nose then maybe don't pick this up, it's probably not your cup of tea.

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Friday, June 17, 2022

Book Review: Or What You Will

Or What You Will 
by Jo Walton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m clearly a child of the 90s as all I could think when there is a segment about naming our narrator was Never Ending Story. Which made me giggle and took away any semblance of deep soul searching that might have been happening in this book. Added to that it’s a bit haphazard of a read. I’m sure English lit majors would be happy to tell me how brilliant it is; but for me it was okay. Or what It Will is the type of book I’m liable to forget about by next year. Which is unusual as I have really enjoyed Jo Walton's works in the past.

The biggest thing about this that should have been exciting, but ended up being confusing, was that our narrator is unreliable. Normally an unreliable narrator is the best! You have to read between the lines, get a gist for their bias and preferred outcome. While that is all here and present with our narrator; the reality is that they are not really the main character. The 'author' actually is. The narrator is telling the author's story; and then relating it to his existence. Now this is relevant as the narrator is the muse inside the authors head (more or less) and so does not exist with them. As the story goes on this idea of who exists where and when gets more convoluted. It is not helped by the idea that the narrator needs a name, or when the narrator starts to talk to us, the reader. I wish I like this more. It could be a super cool 'break the third wall' type of literature. But instead it just got a bit haphazard for me.

What I did enjoy however were Walton's tidbits and comments on writing good fiction; especially certain genres. If you are an aspiring writer you could get really great tidbits on what not to do from the discussions the narrator and the author have that we are privy to. If you look closely enough it's possible Walton has actually explained how best to avoid these many pitfalls. I was a bit distracted and less engaged at times (as our narrator was a bit verbose) and so likely missed some great tidbits. This lengthy narration is why I say this book is likely a literary major's dream. There is a lot that could (I think) be unpacked here. Especially about how characters in stories come to life, where ideas are generated from, and in general how people consume stories.

If you want something a bit wild, definitely weird, and certainly introspective on writing then Or What You Will might be for you. If you're looking for a lighter, fun read I would avoid this Walton story. But don't let it have you avoided her work entirely as Jo Walton has some wonderful pieces out there!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Book Review: Magical Animal Vets - Oona the Unicorn

Magical Rescue Vets: Oona the Unicorn 
by Melody Lockhart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Will little girls (and boys possibly) love this story about a new girl to town who makes a friend and then finds out the woods behind her a magical and full of mystical animals? Probably.
Did I personally enjoy it? Not really.
There is no reason why introductory readers like this, a simple book good for readers at a level 3 or 4, shouldn't also be well-written books. That said I know two little girls who read this series around the age of 6 and 7 years old and they thought it was amazing. So what do I know right? For this sole reason I am giving this book a four star review (instead of 3) because I can't argue with the target market's love of it. 

But on the note of what is a bit meh about Oona the Unicorn. It starts with a poorly set-up premise. I'd like to know a bit more about why our lead gal has been moved and a bit more about how she feels about it. She seemed to be taking the move to a new area where she had no friends very well. It seems a bit optimistic by us adults to think that a child would be so easily adaptive to a new home. That said it's not the deal breaker that causes me to drop the rating to four stars.

What I cannot tolerate is silly lines referring to an (albeit mystical) animal that has "an allergy to gravity". Say what?
Why on earth would anyone think it's cute or smart to make up a fake allergy? Children have enough misinformation thrown at them on a daily basis; let's not make it worse by trying to be cute with a new species and making it allergic to something that: it has to encounter on Earth everyday no matter what, is completely false and can't cause an allergy in any living thing I know of on Earth. This is just silly for no real reason. There must be another reason why this animal lays it's nests upside down! I think Melody Lockhart needed to be a little more creative here and a little less ridiculous.

Between magical unicorns and boo-bears that are super cute (yes I'll admit it their spots are adorable) to magical flying carpets and doctors (vets) for magical animals you as the parent/adult/guardian may not love this book. But I know a lot of little girls (and some boys) will! Just throw in some less silly content while you're supplying your children with reading content please. I'm always a fan of Babysitters Club (no idea if new ones are good; but the old ones are!) to keep most of their thoughts on practical, reasonable things. Fantasy and imagination are some of my favourite things in the world; but I do recognize they can be taken too far at times.  Just imagine a child telling their teacher they are "allergic to gravity" and need to go home; feels like that would be one of those embarrassing moments we all want to avoid!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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