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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