Thursday, December 28, 2023

Book Review: The Berry Pickers

The Berry PickersThe Berry Pickers 
by Amanda Peters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent characters. Believable real-life situations and challenges. Wonderful Indigenous representation.
Even thought The Berry Pickers is outside my norm for typical books I select; I still enjoyed it. This is a ‘book club’ like pick (which I usually avoid). As it’s an Indigenous story I wanted to read it. I’m glad I did. There is a lot that can be unpacked here; not least of which is perhaps why parents, children, and teenagers all keep secrets from one another. If everyone could be more honest and ask questions safely (no matter the topic) I think we’d all be better off.
While the overall story lags at times; especially when it’s Norma’s POV. The Berry Pickers is still a good contemporary literature book. It has depth, believability, and you’ll likely want some Kleenex nearby near the end.

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: Jake the Growling Dog

Jake the Growling DogJake the Growling Dog 
by Samantha Shannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a bit of a weird one as it appears to be a republish, under a slightly different name, with updated illustrations and text. Regardless it’s still quite cute. About a dog named Jake (based on a real dog!) who growls and scares everyone around him. Ironically my own pup, a pitbull mix rescue, likes to growl when he plays with other dogs and sometimes they are scared off. So to say I loved the premise would be an understatement.
One section of the story was a bit odd to me. The animal that helps others see Jake for who he is (a sweet pup who wants to play and isn’t scary) is a squirrel. Now I don’t know how much you know about dogs and squirrels but this is an odd choice given most dogs pen-chance for chasing squirrels. It might have been better had our helpful animal been a deer, owl, or an animal Jake would be less
likely to chase and win against? For thus I have knocked down one star as I just find it too implausible for a squirrel to be the one to calm (and help) a dog.
Overall however this is cute! Perfect for a child who looks different from the other children and feels left out.

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: Who Owns the Clouds

Who Owns the Clouds? 
by Mario Brassard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This graphic novel is poignant and sad. No child should ever have to experience any part of war, directly or indirectly.
Unfortunately for me I found this a bit too esoteric. I knew going in what to expect (I thought) but it still felt a bit too intangible. I realize this is partially on purpose; but if you put this in the hands of a teen they probably wouldn’t get it without analysis or discussion with a teacher/adult. Thus for me this is a big downfall.
Not to say that it isn’t a critical subject, as it is. Or that it isn’t a good attempt to convey a difficult subject, as it is. Most importantly, if it works for some then that’s great. It just didn’t resonate for me in the way I was hoping for.

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 20, 2023

Book Review: Starling House

Starling House 
by Alix E. Harrow 
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

”I cross the river and drive to the place where the streetlights stop and the woods turn wild, where the only light is the faint, amber glimmer of a lit window, shining to me through the trees.”

Without a doubt Alix E. Harrow has a magical knack for words. Her descriptions are so rich, alive, and (for Starling House) gothic. The beauty and setting of Starling House cannot be argued. It is absolutely gorgeous. Plus the print edition had little sketch drawings throughout. I listed to about half of this on audio, did a couple chapters on e-reader, but in the end felt that my print copy was the best medium to read this gothic romance. Between the drawings, the ‘old school’ feel of paper and print; it just felt right to read this on a real paper page. That’s not to say the narrator was bad, she wasn’t it was very typical audiobook (in my limited experience).

Getting into the details of the story, the plot here is somewhat simple, but that’s okay as the characters are incredible. I was especially excited about the bi-sexual representation. It was a brief reference, but I’ll take it! Harrow’s two main characters, a man and a woman, are easy to sympathize with. I was rooting for them to be together the whole time. This is truly a gothic romance. The romantic interest here is strong and a heavy presence to the story and plot.

Unfortunately, I do feel compelled to disclose that I didn’t love the ending, or the overall excitement level to this story. I was fine with it being a slow burn to start, but expected a lot more in the end. Yes there is a significant moment, obvious magical set-up, and a fight. All the elements were there but the actual impact to me as the reader was a bit lacking.

That’s not to say Starling House isn’t worth reading, because it is. This is truly a classic gothic romance. Just like what you’d have found in the Penny Dreadfuls of old. I think the difficulty is that todays readers need a bit more from their stories than they did back when gothic literature was at its peak popularity. Perhaps if I’d knowing going in to temper my expectations on a big bang at the end it would have helped? It’s hard to say the story builds at such a slow pace, and so well, that you can’t help but want a big payoff for your patience.

Regardless, if you love gothic fiction this is a must read. If you love a tragic romance this is a must read. If you tend to want big action this may not be the book for you. No matter what I don’t think anyone can argue that Starling House is beautifully written and well worth a spot on my print shelf.

Please note, a copy of the audiobook was provided by TOR through NetGalley; but my print and ebook copies were purchased personally. This is no way impacted my review.”

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Sunday, November 19, 2023

Book Review: The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill

The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill 
by Rowenna Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

”I thought if I just kept on, I’d eventually get somewhere. But if you choose the wrong path, you’re not going to end up where you wanted to go by charging ahead, are you? You have to stop and turn around sometimes, even if it’s not easy.”

The women in The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill are tough and not easily put down. Thank goodness for that as they live in a time of extreme patriarchy and have to fight for every single small gain they get. The characters and premise that Rowena Miller gives us is brilliant.

Miller has a way with words that always captivated me early on. Sadly it didn’t hold throughout the novel. There is a lull about halfway through, about 75 pages, that felt too repetitive and boring. There didn’t seem to be a large need to show every single bargain made at that point. Thus, sadly when we got to the real fairy interactions portion of the novel it had lost its hold on me. I still enjoyed the last portion and the intricate bargaining with the fairies; but not near as much as I felt I should have.

Miller has not written a plethora of books. This is really only her second world (as her debut was a fantasy trilogy) so perhaps the refinement I desire will come in future stories. I would certainly read another novel by Miller, as I do think she has a true talent in writing. It just may be that a more stringent editor is needed to slice out those repetitive sections that do not serve to move the plot forward.

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Friday, October 13, 2023

Book Review: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
by Sidik Fofana
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an interesting 'anthology' of stories. Although it's not really an anthology as the stories all link together somehow. Each story is about or from the point of view of a tenant of the same building. They all share experiences, knowledge, and (in some cases) friendship throughout the entire set of stories.

Overall the stories are very sad. This is a low income building with a lot of barely hanging on, or already two steps into being evicted folks. That's not to say it isn't without its happy moments, as it does have some; but overall do not expect an uplifting set of stories here.

My favourite characters POVs we see include: a single mother with an autistic child and an elderly POC 'Mama' who faces constant, relentless discrimination regarding her skin tone, intelligence, and more. The overall stories themselves are very unique as their POV's are written in the vernacular you would expect from that specific person (yes including the typos of a child). Therefore you can't really get bored as by the time you might be tired of someone's narrative it's time for another one to come into play.

This set of stories does require some patience however. It's not obvious through the first 7 stories that they are actually going to tangibly connect in a meaningful way. It's story 8, the last, that really brings the whole set together. It's well worth the payoff in my opinion! It's a definite tear jerker, and I usually hate those books, so it's a pretty big compliment from me that I thought it was well done. I wouldn't read it again, except maybe for a book club or to discuss with a friend who might benefit from the stories; but I'm glad to have read it this once.

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, October 12, 2023

Book Review: A Garden of Creatures

A Garden of Creatures
by Sheila Heti
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A gem of a book about dying and where we go upon death. This lovely Canadian children’s book has gorgeous illustrations that feel calming. While sometimes sad they are overall loving in the end.
An amazing book to gift any child (or even adult) who has experienced loss recently and is having trouble coping. Or, I would suggest, as a way to prepare children for the idea of death.
I really wish our society was more open about death and my hope is that this lovely gem of a story can help.

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, September 27, 2023

Book Review: The Haunting of Alejandra

The Haunting of Alejandra 
by V. Castro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Readers should be warned this is a horror novel. At first it may not seem as such but by the end there is visceral, gory, graphic events that may make some queasy or uncomfortable.

For another woman this book could rank extremely high. It’s about the female legacy of generational trauma; and how as women we often tend to take on everything that our families suffered, we suffered and that future children may suffer.
I broke this particular strain many years ago. Being unable to carry a child to term, and choosing not to try, have surgery, or adopt; as a childless woman I believe I hold less guilt than many. I am not guilty of what the world will look like for my children; nor do I begrudge anyone for my sacrifices. I think for many women this is reality and so I see a very important place for The Haunting of Alejandra on many women’s shelves.

I loved the Mexican culture entwined into this story. Castro does a wonderful job of telling the story of La Llarona and instead of twisting it to her needs she creates something a bit different. Her use of the drowned woman who took her children with her in the river remains intact while still allowing Castro room to tell Alejandra’s story (along with all the women who came before).

My biggest critique of this novel is that it feels a little too strong on its hatred for men. Yes men kept women down (and in some cases continue to) but to hang every woman’s happiness on the man in her life seems a bit unfair. By the end we get a reprieve of this; but it felt a little too late for me. I can’t condone hating all men. As then my husband would not be the wonderful man he is. Nor would so many other men I have known over the years. Yes history is fraught with awful things and arranged marriages and a lack of purpose for women; but if we begrudge this too much and hang on too tight we won’t be able to break the cycle. I want to believe that we are gaining ground as women to make our own choices.

I would remiss to write a review and not mention the transgender representation here. It snuck up on me and but unsuspecting but felt like the perfect inclusion of how trapped someone can feel inside their own skin. In a way that is what this book is about, or can be for some. Finding yourself and being okay with that self that you find. This comparison and inclusion nearly pushes The Haunting of Alejandra to four stars for me; but alas I cannot ignore the lull I felt and desire to just reach the end by about three quarters of the way through.

All that said I do believe many people, especially women, will really connect with this book. Just because it wasn’t that for me doesn’t mean it won’t be that for you or others. And so while I give it only 3 stars I think if your identity feels far away, you feel trapped in life by marriage, circumstance or otherwise this is the perfect read for you. I hope everyone can find the strength to fight back their demons and be comfortable selecting their own path that gives them some happiness. It may not be perfect; as life never is, but at least it can be yours. The Haunting of Alejandra may help you see those choices and give hope to fight those demons.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Book Review: Night of the Living Queers

Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror DelightNight of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror Delight 
by Shelly Page
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did I just finish these thirteen creepy blue moon stories moments before midnight on the evening of a Blue Supermoon while a thunderstorm starts overhead… yeah not joking, that’s for real what is happening right now.
And I didn’t even try to time it as I didn’t even know about Blue Supermoon until yesterday and I started reading after my hubby went to bed… so yeah are things feeling a little bit creepy right now?! They sure are.

Not unlike the stories in this book. Most are quite queer, quirky, and will make you quiver.

Story #1 - Welcome to the Hotel Paranoia by Vanessa Montalban
A fairly cliche horror story. Only really briefly relevant that the main gal is queer; but that was fine with me.
No real exciting twist or horror here; but the story set a mood that seems appropriate to kick off this anthology.

Story #2 - The Visitor by Kalynn Bayron
Sweet little story about why it’s important to obey the rules.

Story #3 - A Brief Intermission by Sara Farizan
Not really all that scary to me. Just lacked real substance.

Story #4 - Guested by Rebecca Kim Wells
By far the creepiest and best story so far.
Lacks any real ‘queerness’ to it; but I don’t even care because the concept and idea here is brilliant AND the execution is spot on.

Story #5 - Rocky Road with Caramel Drizzle
Finally a story where the gayness of our lead character is a major factor to the overall story.
A very sad, but well written story that rings of the kind of vengeance many likely wish upon those who’ve done them serious harm.

”Playing with the dead seems like a pretty loose interpretation of fun, but what else do I have planned?”

What else indeed…

Story #6 - The Three Phases of Ghost-Hunting by Alex Brown
Adorable, very YA or even MG. Super cute lesbians to round off the package.

Story #7 - Nine Stops by Trang Thanh Tran
This female author is taking the world of horror by storm. If you don’t know her name yet then note it now. She’s gonna be huge!
A clever will story with a twist I can’t help but love. Sadness in this story as well as our lead character copes with grief; but at end of the day it’s the horror you’ll stay for.

Story #8 - Layla Mendoza and the Last House on the Lane
”Nothing feels like home when you are not at home with yourself.”

Wow! A brilliantly written trans story that includes some magic to create hope. This is exactly the kind of story I expected in this anthology and I’m so glad it’s here.

Story #9 - In You To Burn by Em. X. Liu
Inspired by an Asian folktale, this story was overlayed to be modern but keep a direct connection back to its origin. I really liked it and would love to see it expanded into a full story or novel.
(I should confess I adore Liu and so may be biased. lol)

Story #10 - Anna by Shelly Page
Yes!! It might be cliche and mostly predictable but this is the kind of story I expected and hoped for in this anthology. It’s perfect in its trope use, lesbian romance, small children as the evil (sort of) and the blue moon Hallowe’en setting, all the authors have used, ties it all together

Story #11 - Hey There, Demons by Tara Sim
I should be fair and warn you I adore Tara Sim’s works to date. Go read Timekeeper trilogy if you want the sweetest gay teen boys romance ever (plus some cool clock magic!).
So it’s not surprising I enjoyed this story. Very much in Sim‘s vein with more gay teenage boys (and demons added in for flair).

Story #12 - Save Me From Myself by Ayida Shonibar
I’m not familiar with Kali Maa; but damn if I’m not going to ensure I learn more about this demon, god(dess), deity; because this story of wishing things into reality is fascinating. These body swaps are way better than Freaky Friday; and have more consequences.

Story #13 - Knickknack by Ryan Douglass
Creepy, cute, and courageous. What more can you ask for in the thirteenth story of a queer blue moon thriller/horror anthology?
For it to be a Blue Supermoon minutes before midnight as thunder rolls?
Cause that is literally what is happening in my life right now. No word of a lie!!!
Meanwhile my pitbull is scared and freaking, that’s not disturbing me at all… what timing to end a wonderful anthology!

While I received an eARC of this anthology I can honestly say it will be highly recommended to many by me; and will be getting a print copy in my personal library. I struggle to give anthologies 5 stars… as usually there is at least one story I don’t connect with, like here. This is a solid 4.5 stars and right on the topics you’d expect based on the authors included and the blue moon queer horror focus.

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: Good Weather Suicide Cult

Reunion of the Good Weather Suicide Cult 
by Kyle McCord
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this story would make a better screenplay or mini-series than a book. I know the author is trying to be creative with the use of the ‘Netflix docuseries’ descriptive chapters. Unfortunately for me they were a bit too dry; even though they involved the key details of the mass suicide and the formation of the cult (which should have made them the most interesting).

At its core Reunion of the Good Weather Suicide Cult is about being a survivor. About how to cope, come to terms with, and ultimately accept that you were a part of a larger event but in a different way than most. Instead you were the only survivor, or one of the few who saw and now carries the horrific sight in your mind, or someone who got lucky and missed the event by some happenstance of fate or karma.

Personally, I would have liked more of our female cop character who witnessed much of the aftermath of the soccer field mass killings. She was very interesting and her conversations with our lead character were probably the best pages of this book.

Overall, this (Kindle only) novel was fine. It wasn’t a thrilling cult story as I had maybe hoped for; and it didn’t go deep enough into the psyche and characters as a true character study novel needs to. It sat somewhere in-between and thus I give it my mediocre rating of 3 stars.

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, August 22, 2023

Book Review: In the Belly of the Congo

In the Belly of the Congo
by Amy B. Reid (translated)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm waffling between 3 and 4 stars for In the Belly of the Congo. It was good; but not engaging. This could be because it was a translation; something often seems to get lost in the nuances and flow when it's translated to another language (from one to any language, not just English).
There are two POVs, 45 years apart, in this novel. The first one takes up about 70% of the novel and is, unfortunately, lackluster in comparison to the second. In fact it frustrated me that by the end of the novel you could tell the author had intentional written 'down' the first POV so it sounded less educated and made you think a certain way. While this may seem like brilliant writing (and it maybe is at an academic review level); it does not make this an enjoyable book to read, at least for me.
The latter half of the book has an eloquence far above that of the first. With wonderful lines like this:

"A woman who'll teacher her child that no one is a prison of her genes, that life is a far richer adventure and not just an endless trial against the gods and their plots."

Even if the writing was only subpar for me; there is no doubt that In The Belly of the Congo tells a really important historical story that (I'm betting) most don't know. I certainly had no idea that in the World's Fair of 1958 (not that long ago!) there was an 'exhibit' of Congolese natives that was set-up like a zoo. It allowed visitors to the Fair to see the Congolese natives in their "natural form" by setting up a stage with bedding, food, cooking implements, etc. like they might have at home; and then those who had come to 'act' in the event were asked to show their culture.
This might sound like an interesting way, pre-video and Internet to show a culture; but in actual fact it was a cage to the Congolese actors. These people were put on display, for almost no compensation, to allow a bunch of white folks to gain money and notoriety. It's truly disgusting; and this is well conveyed by the end of the novel.

If nothing else I would encourage folks to learn about this awful exploitation; even if you don't chose to read the book.

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, August 21, 2023

Book Review: The Rose Code

The Rose Code
by Kate Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An amazing journey, portrayed via multiple POV’s real-life people, in real-life situations, during a real-life war. From the female codebreakers, to the harassed men, to Prince Phillip (yes that Philip that married Queen Elizabeth II); The Rose Code has the kind of human characters, fictional excitement, and basis in real life that makes it one of the best historical novels I’ve ever read!!
That's all I want to say. Just go read it! 

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Book Review: A Sliver of Darkness

A Sliver of Darkness
by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would it take for me to, one day, give an anthology 5 stars? I honestly don’t know. Especially considering this was one of the best sets of horror short stories I’ve read in a long time!

So much great stuff here. C. J. Tudor really shows that she has range, a crazy imagination, and real staying power (even though she only has 3 full novels under her belt). If you don’t already know about Tudor (where have you been!) and a big thriller horror buff then get on the boat before it gets as big as the Nesbo, King, Hill, Rice cruises are; because that is how big I believe Tudor is destined to be. She’s much of the way there; just not quite at the status of being a household name yet.

I am immediately going to be purchasing her novels for my horror buff husband and myself to read. I can’t believe I waited this long to be on the Tudor ship.

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 18, 2023

Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter

The Bone Shard Daughter
by Andrea Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing!! An absolute tour de force. This book is incredible.
My time taken to read it is only because I decided to savour it and read many books in-between. I’ll be onto the second book immediately and do not intend to take near as long to devour it.
The plot, the magic, the characters, the beasts; all of it is just so well throughout, written, and intricately put together. Andrea Stewart has given us a new world of magic with characters to adore and intrigue in how to rebuild a fallen Empire. I cannot say enough good things about this series.
At the end of the day if you love fantasy then this is a MUST READ book. I truly hope the series continues on just as strong. I expect in ten years for this series to be listed alongside other pinnacles of achievement in fantasy like Wheel of Time, Game of Thrones, Broken Empire, and more.

What tickles me even more is that a women wrote it!! Proof that we don’t need old white men to write all our fantasy. In fact anyone can write this genre successfully. I cannot wait to continue on with Bone Shard series; but also for all of Stewart’s future stories. I’m sure she has many to tell and I am here for them all.

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Book Review: Wolfish

by Christiane M. Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the most surprising middle grade book I’ve read since The Girl Who Drank the Moon. It’s so well written, the story is so well crafted, and it’s not written down to a middle grade level. Instead it just feels like a story that anyone, of any age, could enjoy.
I don’t know the myth Wolfish is based on, so to me the story, characters, etc. were all new. Each character is their own with eccentricities and personality unique to them. I really appreciate the work Christiane M. Andrew’s put into each of her core characters.
This story is so much more than the illustrations and cover do justice. I’d put it as sophisticated enough to entertain and give pause to any one of any age. Not unlike the appeal of books like Harry Potter, Little Prince or Percy Jackson. Universal stories that everyone can appreciate.

The writing and story itself can be interpreted at so many levels. For a child it might tell a story of family, for a teen it might teach appreciating life for what it is, and for an adult it might cause reflection on decisions and overall life goals. It’s truly wondrous how Andrew’s has brought so many ideals together and given the narrative a familiar, beautifully lyrical tone (without being obnoxious or too flower-y). Oh the songs!! I want this to be a movie or tv show just so someone can put the amazing songs to real music. I can almost hear in my head what they might sound like; that’s how well cadenced the lyrics are.

Honestly I could go on and on about so many aspects of Wolfish. From the divinity of the oracle, the suffering of the children, the emphasis on food, and the focus on created family (not bloodlines) Andrew’s has considered every aspect of this story and enhanced it in so many ways. And none of that even begins to touch on the morals and lessons about: helping others, doing right whenever possible (or finding a compromise), and ultimately loving life in a way that it takes so many of us far too long to realize and understand. Do yourself, a friend, a child, really anyone, a favour and read Wolfish. Then gift it, buy it, and love it. Share it with everyone. It’s the kind of book I would gift to anyone at any time. I’m confident enough you will enjoy it that if I had any kind of ‘clout’ (or cash, lol) I’d make it a guaranteed good read.

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, June 14, 2023

Book Review: The Boy on the Bridge

The Boy on the Bridge 
by M.R. Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It sucks when a follow-up to a strong book is not nearly as good. The first book in this series, The Girl with all the Gifts, is infinitely better. I almost wonder if this book even needed to be written or if it wasn’t a decision to do so just to generate more income off the first book (which was also made into a movie, I have not seen yet).
The Boy on the Bridge spends the first half repeating discoveries we already know from the first book. Yawn. It’s also really annoying that I don’t really feel like the ‘on the bridge’ part of the title is even relevant or a factor in the book. Why not name it something more related to the story?

Additionally the characters are just not as likeable or relatable. They are just lacking in general. Unlike in the first book I honestly didn’t care too much about any of the deaths or outcomes for most of our core characters. There are also a fair few of them (and some seem very similar to one another) which doesn’t really help the cause.

I’m just not convinced this sequel adds much to this world and overall narrative; with two exceptions:
1) it confirms a number of things we thought to be true at end of book 1,
2) it’s ending is significant and an interesting choice by Carey.

I don’t want to give anything away at all but this only gets three stars for it’s ending. Otherwise it would be lucky to get two from me. The ending is interesting, unique, and definitely makes you think. As someone who tends to hate endings (especially of dystopian or mystery books) this is significant for me and so vaults it into the four star territory.
On that note, make sure you read this series in order so you have the context of book one, and because it’s a much better read.

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: Funeral Songs for Dying Girls

Funeral Songs for Dying Girls 
by Cherie Dimaline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Contemporary teen fiction. Coming of age story. It makes me cringe to even think of reading a book with this description; never mind finish it! Lol. But the reality is the added ghost element and a lonely motherless teen who lives on the grounds of a graveyard convinced me that I should read it. Add in that Cherie DiMaline is indigenous herself (as is her main character) and has won many awards; I figured what the heck let’s read it.

Am I glad I read it? Yes.
Would I recommend it? Maybe. For a struggling teen, someone trying to cope with loneliness or anyone whose just lost a loved one this could be a very comforting and cathartic read.
For me, in my current state it was just okay. I see the allure of it and why everyone is ranting and raving about its impact. Alas the reality is that this moment in my life doesn’t need this book. But I’m glad it exists for those who do need it at any given moment.

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 Woman in the Library

The Woman in the Library 
by Sulari Gentill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story within a story, within another story (in a way). This is a cleverly constructed murder mystery with many overlapping elements that make you think.
Our main POV is quite relatable and realistic; although I’d argue that the others are missing something. But remember I’m a fantasy reader at heart and so expect a lot out of characters that murder mystery stories don’t tend to have. That said this story predicates on the characters personalities and motives quite heavily; so I’d have liked them to feel a bit more ‘real’.
All that to say that the characters lack of realness may also be intentional… confused yet? Yeah me too. Lol. I don’t want to give much away but let’s just say our characters are very fictional.

I enjoyed this and really was taken for the ride up to the last page. The last page irritates me and brings this down to a four-star book. It was completely unnecessary to add in the last couple lines like the author did. I don’t really understand the motive or thought behind it except to create more to talk about in a book club…?
It feels messy, unnecessary, and (for me) took away from the brilliance of the storytelling up to that final moment.
Now again I’m not a big murder mystery, thriller reader. So this is outside my wheelhouse and comfort zone. I liked it; but can’t understand the ending. If the ending was meant to be like the movie Inception, where everyone argues what the final moment is or says; then I suppose I could maybe accept it. For me it didn’t really feel that way. Maybe it’s supposed to take us full circle? I didn’t get that from it personally; but if others do then I can respect that.

If you rarely pickup mysteries I’d say this one is unique enough to be worth reading. If your a lover of the genre this is a must read. Not only for its unique set-up and style; but because it really is a great example of taking a typical genre and stepping it up. Poor last line or not, I cannot deny this is quite the little story and yes I will be recommending it to almost everyone I talk to. But I still refuse to give it five stars… I’ll be mulling this ending for some time I think…

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Book Review: In The Clouds

In the Clouds 
by Elly MacKay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A cute imaginative take on a child flying on a bird to be amoungst the clouds. We learn about different kinds of cloud and the precipitation they release; all while enjoying the beautiful, simple artwork of illustrator and writer Elly McKay.

Canadian, McKay, does a great job of creating a book without too many words for a great bedtime story length. It’s soft pastel like colours are soothing and even when it gets a bit dark, in the stork we are comforted. An excellent purchase for any child; while it stars a little girl, I see no reason why that should matter and find this appropriate for all genders, religions, races, and backgrounds.

The best page might be at the end of the story. Kids have written in questions about clouds and McKay answers them in very simple, yet scientific, terms. Additionally if you (or your child) want to learn more about clouds McKay includes a short bibliography to get you started.

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, May 26, 2023

Book Review: Where Darkness Blooms

Where Darkness Blooms
by Andrea Hannah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wouldn’t say this is an original concept; but the writing is quite good. Most of our characters (of which we have quite a few) are well put together and have distinct personalities. We have a queer lesbian relationship; as well as couple straight ones. So Where Darkness Blooms checks off my queer representation box.
What is a bit odd here is the obvious men versus women dynamic. Make it a weird evil curse or presence on the land all you want; when the men are targeting only women it sends a message. This oddly skewed message is why I drop this rating down to four stars. I didn’t like that all the men were pretty awful and (seemingly) unredeemable. Whereas the women were given passes for doing some equally awful things. One could argue the girls did some of those things to save themselves; but it still sticks out to me as gender disparity.

One of the major points to the novel is one I want to see more authors tackle (especially in teen books). The idea that our caregivers, parents, important adults, etc. in our lives are not perfect. They are going to make mistakes, and it’s vital that we allow forgiveness for these errors. I’m still personally struggling with this from my own childhood. At 40 years old there are still moments i begrudge adults for; even when I know how hard it was at the time and how difficult a situation we were all in. And yet, somehow it feels easy to blame the adults of our childhood doesn’t it?
Andrea Hannah doesn’t go super deep into this idea; but she does graze it at the end and it just reinforced for me how much we need more literature that focuses on this concept. We must allow for errors as we are all human.

Overall this is a decent read. Certainly teens are likely to enjoy it and most adult readers of YA. If you’re hoping for ground breaking horror you are likely to be disappointed; but it’s grim enough that I wouldn’t remove the horror tag for Where Darkness Blooms. I’d definitely be game to read more by Andrea Hannah in the future.

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, May 15, 2023

Book Review: White as Witching

White as Witching
by Katherine Buel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a tough book to review. There is massive potential to it. Katherine Buel gives us a great twist on the classic Snow White story, with Ruby Red (her sister) included. I really wanted to know the characters better and have more world building more. Unfortunately White as Witching focuses mainly on plot, and includes some internal turmoil that Snow White encounters with herself. But overall it's just not enough.

I really can confidently say this; as I'm currently reading The Bone Shard Daughter which is rich in plot, world building, magical descriptions, characterizations, and so much more! It's top notch writing; and thus really brings into stark contrast what is lacking by Buel as I read them one after the other. The good thing about that is that I think Buel has real potential. The plot is interesting, the attempt to get to know Snow White and her feelings is there; and the world building seems to have a basis that will work.

Buel needs to really focus in on what motivates her characters, give them more dimension, better dialogue (which is commonly a struggle for authors in fantasy it seems), and just bring the overall writing up a notch. It might not ever be at the high fantasy level; and that's okay if it stays in the romantic new adult or teen zones. However just because it's a book that doesn't necessarily go into the fantasy section (and stays more romantic) doesn't mean it can't be written at the level that will give more detail and satisfaction to the reader.

If I had to currently describe White as Witching I'd say the whole story is flat, pedantic, formulated, and (honestly) boring. BUT I give this three stars because I can see the potential in Kathrine Buel's story telling. I truly hope she keeps working on her writing and brings us future stories. The talent is there, it just needs some more time and work to get it to a four or even five star review level. /

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, March 26, 2023

Book Review: The Paris Orphan

The Paris Orphan 
by Natasha Lester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s good, but not as good as Paris Seamstress. I found the marketing on the cover to be a bit misleading as the story is not really about the orphan (she’s obviously in it), but the focus is on a photojournalist/model who goes into the war zone. Based on a real person. Natasha Lester really brings to life the fear, love, and casualness that war brings in so many different ways.

There’s a fair bit of romance in this one. Luckily our two main men for our leading ladies (one in 1940s and one in 2000s) are very chivalrous, kind gentlemen. There’s some mildly racy scenes but nothing erotic or over the top. Certainly less explicit than your average Nora Roberts novel. I actually liked the romantic build-up in both timelines. It felt genuine, realistic, and the intimacy of each relationship is defined early on (not in the bedroom).

There’s perhaps too much going on in the end. It felt rushed, anticlimactic (even though we learn all the twists and shockers of the connections between everyone). I was happy to be done with it, sadly. I don’t think I’d read it again; but I’m happy to have read it this time. For sure Paris Seamstress is a more engaging novel; but it’s also safer. The war area danger is a lot higher in The Paris Orphan, and Lester touches (very poignantly) on what war can do to a person. Especially when one sees the indignities of the concentration camps. Lester doesn’t try to sugar coat it or gloss over it like some historical fiction. I commend her for that, 100%. Although it does make it a heavier book. But then again, it’s a historical WWII story it should feel harsh, unfair, unjust, and (at times) downright evil. There is hope (of course) and Lester’s incorporation of singing hymns and other true stories from the front are most endearing.

There was a distinct moment at the end I really disliked. And for that reason this is only four stars for me. I vehemently detest cop-out endings. Just randomly doing certain things makes the ending ‘too easy’ or just doesn’t do justice to the story and the characters. I’m very disappointed that Lester took, what I see, as an easy out of the complex emotions and set-up she spent almost 400 pages setting up and commuting to.
Overall it’s good; but I know Lester can do better. With some of these heavy hitter authors I just have higher expectations of what they will deliver. That all said, I’ll still crave and be sure to read everything Natasha Lester publishes. I’m not turned off, just a little disappointed.

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Friday, March 24, 2023

Book Review: The Dead and the Dark

The Dead and the Dark
by Courtney Gould
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Rounded-up as the queer representation is excellent.
Queer ghost hunters. Need I say more?
Okay I guess I can also tell you about The Dead and the Dark...

Let me first be clear, I really like Courtney Gould's delivery in most areas. I would definitely read another book by her and certainly wouldn't want my review, that has some not so good moments in it to, to deter someone from giving this newer author a try.

Overall, The Dead and the Dark is quite different. A bit of a whodunnit mystery, with some teen romance (bi, lesbian, and gay representation) thrown in, add a spooky (but not scary) premise, some missing (or dead?) teens, a small town of relatively one-dimensional people; and you pretty much have most of what this story entails. The Dead and the Dark is overall a good read. I didn’t think it was amazing, or anything too special necessarily; but it’s a solid read. Overall, for me, it lagged a bit in the middle, mostly when it was Ashley’s point of view (I wish they’d focused more on her attraction to both boys and girls, instead it just being an unsaid fact; I need more bi-representation!!). Our other lead gal, daughter to two gay married ghost hunters; is far more interesting. I felt empathy for her situation with her Dads, the awkwardness, the constant travel (no real home base), and the lack of real friends she has because of the transient life of her Dads travelling ghost hunting TV show.

If the premise or representation intrigued you then I’d say this is worth a read. If you're only mildly interested then I wouldn't don't read it; as it is good. But maybe don't put it at the top of your list? In fairness, someone I really trust (who is a good 10+ years younger than me, non-binary) really, really enjoyed it. So this could be one of those times (sad sigh) where I have to admit that my age is perhaps getting in the way of connecting with a YA book. Thus, I want folks to try this one out; and why I will definitely pick-up another book by Gould. This is after all a debut novel and there is always room to grow.

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 Girl the Sea Gave Back

The Girl the Sea Gave Back 
by Adrienne Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars, maybe 4... I'm rounding up to 4 stars because the first book is SOOO good. While Adrienne Young does a fine job in The Girl The Sea Gave Back it just lacks something that Sky in the Deep had. It's a very similar premise in that we have a warrior girl whose just existing and trying to get by. Young gives us a lot more battle, fighting descriptions, and overall bloodiness in this one. I'm not sure it really adds anything to the plot or characterization; but if you like that sort of thing then it's there for you. For those that are less keen on it, you can absolutely skim the fighting descriptions in 90% of the instances (not that I condone that; just saying you can get by them without too much detailed thought or reading).

There are some intriguing discussions about fate, destiny, and love. While our characters are all caught up in it and obsessed (to a point) about if their future lover is already set, or if their death is pre-determined; I didn't feel like there was anything really new or special added to this discussion here. Young doesn't really give much of a different perspective on destiny or fate than we've been given in a lot of other books (YA or not). Although I have to remind myself that YA books today are written for teens today; and those teens are unlikely to read the same books I grew up on. So perhaps it's not fair to say there is nothing new here given that a pre-teen (in particular) would likely have a lot of thought and wonder come out of reading this story.

I wish I could give you more of what I think is really here for substance. The reality is that I was quite underwhelmed. Maybe I went in with too high of expectations after Sky in the Deep? Perhaps Sea Gave Back languished too long at the top of my prioritized TBR without being the 'next actual pick'. I'm not sure. All I know is that I felt like it could have been better.

I was given an eARC of this book via NetGalley; but also purchased a print copy for my own library prior to reading it. Therefore you can be assured this is an unbiased review as I still spent my own income on it.

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Book Review: Into the Forest

Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga (Anthology)
by Lindy Ryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While this is an interesting set of stories about Baba Yaga; it's not really all that great in the end. There are a few diamonds in the rough; but mostly a lot of chicken legs that just don't hold the house up in the end.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend it; unless you are obsessed with Baba Yaga stories; in which case this is a must read. Likely there are better compilations of stories out there that focus on Yaga (although they may not be translated into English...). I'd like to see a lot more of this type of cultural anthology put together; just with better material overall.
The afterword really sums it up. As a culture and people we’ve gotten soft. Baba Yaga is THE icon of feminism horror and yet we’ve downgraded her to a mere witch because it’s nicer or easier to take. Not unlike how Disney changed significant fairy tale plot points to be more amiable and ‘appropriate for children’. I still think we need to be more honest and thoughtful with what we teach and hold onto. The false idea of a Princess carried by a Prince into the sunset is a future mental health disorder waiting to happen (or in progress). As it sets an unreasonable expectation for how great life is. Whereas a witch that can or cannot chose to be wonderful or evil, pretty or ugly, and everything in-between is much more reflective of what humans are really like. Setting this expectation early on in children would probably save many a lot of grief in their teens and adult years. Let's face it no one is just a princess or just an evil witch. We're all the shades of grey in-between; just like Baba Yaga is.

Here are my notes on each of the stories within:

Dinner Plans with Baba Yaga, By Stephanie M. Wytovich

A short but sweet poem.
It’s definitely been too soon since watching Monster: the Dahmer Story on Netflix. I can’t handle eating children references right now; metaphors or not.
I am going to have to remind myself that the power of Baba Yaga is partially in her ability to strike fear in children; the fear of being eaten by her.

Last Tour into the Hungering Moonlight by Gwendolyn Kiste
Where might one find Baba Yaga amongst the suburbs, math homework, and Amazon deliveries. Kiste brings us the answer.

The Story of a House by Yi Izzy YuMM
This is a cute story about how a little chick is chosen to be the legs/bottom half of Baba Yaga’s famous house. It’s both a bit brutal and also a bit comforting. Our baby chick has to prove he’s the right one for the house and I love the open ending. Maybe one day I’ll find the house (not likely in Canada however, lol).

Of Moonlight and Moss by Sara Tantlinger
Best ending ever!!
I can't say anything else for fear of spoiling it all.

Wormwood by Lindz McLeodM
Crimes require punishment. To take something requires that you give something back in equal measure.
Very good and easy to understand portrays of Baba Yaga here. Really like this one.

Mama Yaga by Christina Sng
Love the use of Hansel and Gretel here. Many may not realize that the witch in it was traditionally a version of Baba Yaga.

Flood Zone by Donna Lynch
Love getting more into the (controversial) mythos that Baba Yaga eats children. Really well written and great plot movement.
Can you tell some time passed since I started this anthology? (lol) For now, I've doing better with the whole eating issue... for now. Cannibals are just one of my realistic fears that haunt me sometimes and I just don't think I will ever get past it.

The Peddler’s Promise by Catherine McCarthy
Oh young boys and their greed. I do appreciate, in a dark sort of way, that none of the girls in the village of fall prey to Baba Yaga’s tricks and false promises.

The Space Between the Trees by Jo Kaplan
The world is cruel. We must all snatch whatever opportunities we have, however unpleasant they may seem. Harsh outlook; but for a witches daughter probably a smart one.
This is one of my favourites so far. It's got a great moral or understanding to it and feels like a genuine portrayal of what Baba Yaga was once meant to stand for... that women will always fight harder to the top; and so sometimes you have to use what you have to your advantage. If the playing field were level and equal then this would not be necessary. I don't see that ideal coming into fruition in my lifetime.

Birds of a Feather by Monique Snyman
A slightly longer story than most of the short snippets in this anthology so far. I loved the use of the typical horror movie set-up and how those iconic events then lead to finding Baba Yaga, and (of course) vengeance.

Water Like Broken Glass by Carina Bissett
Decent queer representation which I'm pleasantly surprised by as the area of the world in which Baba Yaga originated remains (largely) intolerant even today. Sad but true that there are still some places that us queer folk cannot be open and safe from persecution by the law and government (never mind the people around us).
Not sure this one felt quite like a Yaga story to me; but it wasn’t bad by any means.

Herald the Knight by Mercedes M. Yardley
Baba Yaga has a lover. Sort of… well put together tale but also a bit weird. Didn't really feel like a Baba Yaga story in the sense of most of the others.

All Bitterness Burned Away by Jill Baguchinaky
Really like that Baba Yaga didn’t know the truth here but had to trust the children to tell her. Very clever.

A Trail of Feathers, A Trail of BloodM
While I am a (born as) woman who adores itty bitty babies. Yet the idea of having one is absolutely horrifying to me. The whole process is just icky… which I suppose makes me lucky as I’m infertile. Although it has been suggested to me that my revulsion for pregnancy and birthing in general could be my brains defensive mechanism to protect me from being upset about being infertile.
Regardless of the reason, because of my immediate dislike of birthing, it’s unfair for me to rate this story as it's primary topic, and outcome, is birthing a baby.

Baba Yaga Learns to Shave, Gets her Period, and Comes into Her Own by Jess Hageman
Seriously this title is longer than the story! It’s really more of a prose poem (if you will). In its essence it’s about how it's okay to be a woman. Not super impressed with this quick one.

Fair Trade by Jacqueline West
One of my fave stories so far!! It’s got all kinds of weirdness, some creepiness factors, and in general makes you think. I don’t want to give too much away as the genius is in the not knowing. Definitely an author I will need to look into more as this was such a well written story.

Stork Bites by EV Knight
Umm… just no. Sorry but I'm a NO to making abortion seem like a nightmare. I'm a NO to deals involving babies. Just a NO overall on this one.

Where the Horizon Meets the Sky by RJ Joseph
A wonderful reminder to be careful what you wish for. Just like with the Western Rumpelstiltskin, as with Baba Yaga, you must be very specific of what you want; erstwhile you get what you want in a way you hadn’t conceived of.

Baba Gaga in Repose by Heather Miller
This is one of those stories you might right for a grade school English class. From the first person ‘you’ perspective that is supposed to make the reader feel like they are the participant making decisions. Ultimately it ends up being overly descriptive and boring. Yes you might get an A on the assignment but you haven’t written much anyone really wants to read. I'm sad that the second last story is one of the weakest of the lot.

Shadow and Branch, Ghost Fruit Among the Lillabies by Saba Syed Razvi
Another very artsy prose that tells no story at all. It attempts to evoke a mood and feeling towards Baba Yaga but lacks substance. Not really not all that interesting. It's one pro is that it as super short.

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, February 14, 2023

Book Review: For the Throne

For the Throne
by Hannah F. Whitten
Book 2 in Wilderwood Duology
 My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First, book two and Neve’s story are leaps and bounds better than book one and Red’s primary narrative.

Two, I’m shocked that Orbit didn’t force this into a trilogy instead of a duology. I was tickled to find a huge climactic point about 70% of the way through the book! Those kinds of surprises are always nice to see; and in this case could easily have been the splitting point for a third volume (and a chance to capitalize more). But leaving this as a duology is such a nice change of pace; and feels more appropriate as For the Wolf is Red’s story; and For the Throne is Neve’s.

Three, I take back all my criticisms about the end of book one. I was wrong Hannah Whitten knew where she was headed and she killed it taking us deep into the Shadowlands, into the psyche of Old Gods and Kings; and shared the reality that we are all good and evil. Sometimes one of these at specific moments; but often both sides are affecting our persona’s, decisions, and beliefs simultaneously.

Fourth, the absolute best part of this series is that it embraces the idea that few are just ‘good’. And just because you are ‘good’ (in general) doesn’t mean your choices will reflect that. As a choice between awful and terrible doesn’t end in a good outcome. So often we are given bad choices to start with; and so we must live with having made them, even when we had to way out.

And finally, Solmir. Oh how I love thee. Oh how the tortured, brooding soul is always my favourite. From my teen days of Angel and Spike to now, at 40 years old, I have not lost my love of a tortured, weeping soul and how I bleed, cry, and despair alongside them. These characters always speak to me the most, men or women, and I always come out, from stories where they are well written, knowing that many more people in the world than I ever seem to notice hold some darkness inside of them, just as I do.

Thank you Hannah Whitten for sharing these souls (and soulless) with us and for acknowledging that good comes in many forms, and redemption is always possible.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
That said, I already have this book on my wish list when it comes out in paperback. This series is definitely being added to my home print library!

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Monday, February 13, 2023

Book Review: The Cloisters

The Cloisters
by Katy Hays
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, yes and yes! Brilliant ending! Great levels of historical education, mystery, murder, lying, elitism of academia, questions about fate/destiny and so much more! If you are looking for a happy go lucky book this is not it. Although it’s also not grim dark or gory; it’s just a bit nasty how everyone treats everyone else and there is certainly no loyalty, trust or genuine relationship (of any kind) building. I believe The Cloisters would make a great movie!

The Location
My favourite part of all is that I got to learn about a wicked cool place in NYC that I am stoked to visit when I one day end up there. The Cloisters sound absolutely divine! Historical artifacts, poisonous plants, old old books, and more! I'm tickled to add this location to my top 5 must see places when I visit NYC for the first time. It's exactly the kind of setting that makes you think of intrigue, murder, occultism, and (the overall theme of this book) fate. I can only imagine how cool it is to sit next to a belladonna plant and know that you could consume a couple berries and be in dire peril. Yes I know I'm a bit twisted. (lol)
As an aside: I live in Canada, far from NYC, haven't studied Renaissance history, and never been that far East in USA; so not knowing about this place is not unusual. I bet most people who aren't in this realm of academia, obsessed with the time period, or aren't visitors or residents of NYC know about The Cloisters.

The Tarot Deck
I now, desperately, want someone to make a replica of the 1500s tarot deck described here. I really adored the notes at the back of the book describing and explaining each of the cards according to our leading gal, Ann. It was interesting to see Katy Hays link-up, creating takes or spins, the major arcana to other Greek and Roman references, many we all know so well. This unique deck sounds divine. And yes I checked, it's fictional.
As someone who has studied a bit of Tarot, owns way too many decks, most of which have never even been used (I just love the artwork) I can definitely say that the appeal of the mysticism and occult surrounding the use of the Tarot (as more than a card game) is definitely intriguing. Although I can't help but remind myself that it was created and set-up by humans, so it can only really tell us as much as we already know about ourselves and possible universal outcomes. Thus, (perhaps) limiting it's potential as a true fortune teller. Either way, it's gorgeous and I love the symbolism inherent in so many different interpretations.

Research & Academia
There is no doubt in my mind The Cloisters was well researched and that the author was well educated (she’s got a fancy PhD). I really appreciated that Hays showed the nepotism, favouritism, and elitism of the academia world. Having a best friend who got her PhD I have seen it (almost) first hand and can guarantee you it is nasty and definitely not about who is the best, smartest, or most talented in their field. Instead it’s about who plays the social suck-up game smartest, and I hate that. It was refreshing to see someone from that realm of academia put it on paper and admit to the cliques that happen and how competency is not the only consideration when it comes to placing people on projects, at locations, or into teaching positions.

I adored and appreciated the development and progression of our leading gal Ann. She goes from a bit naïve and very quiet (but self-aware) to really taking control. A girl outside her element in the bustling city of New York suddenly finds out, not only how hard it is to live in NYC, but also how much stronger she is than she thought. By the books end we've seen Ann's personality completely change (whether for good or bad I'll leave up to you to decide after you read it!). The introspects that are given into why we cling to certain friendships or people are certainly interesting. The idea of proximity being the first, can't be friends with someone if you don't know them. And the second being that circumstances and isolation can make certain friendships or romances seem natural and perfect from where someone stands; but from the outside it can be clear that someone is taking advantage of someone else. It can be so hard to see the webs woven when you're stuck in the middle. I loved how Hays shows this and really brings Ann and the reader around to a viewpoint that starts to change so many preconceived notions from earlier in the story.

This was a really fun book for me. It was dark at times, had just enough romance to be acceptable (I was so glad this wasn't overdone), and really emphasized the complexity of 'who gets credit when' paradigm that exists in academia. I'm betting, after reading this, the next time you read about someone discovering something historically significant you'll wonder whose shoulders they were standing on! You might also wonder who in your life has caught you in their scheming web. Although I would remind readers that most of the time people are better than what is seen here.
Ultimately, there is a long list of topics that could be discussed out of this book, but I believe the one Hays most wants us to consider is this: Do destiny and fate exist? And if they do are they set in stone, or can they be changed?
I'd highly recommend letting Hays take you on a rollicking adventure (if nothing else) that will have you flipping the pages quickly in anticipation of learning all the secrets entwined within The Cloisters.

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, January 13, 2023

Book Review: A Song Below Water

A Song Below Water 
by Bethany C. Morrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a hidden gem!!! A Song Below Water may start out a bit slow; with very heavy focus on racism, BLM, prejudice, cop supremacy, and so much more (sadly) relevant in today’s society. Bethany Morrow has done something really cool here though. Instead of just putting us in our own cruel world, she puts us in a world of literal mythological creatures. From gargoyles, sirens, sprites, and so much more; this story is a plethora of interesting creatures (monsters?) to not only bond with, but relate to. Any given teenager is likely to find some part of our leading POC girls and their challenges. Be it their looks, friendships, parental challenges, boyfriends, etc. There’s only one thing missing, which I can overlook given how unique this story is, queer representation would have made this nearly perfect for me.

Morrow writes her Own Voices story, in her unique world that is exactly like ours; and yet nothing like it. I listened to most of this book on audio (my third audiobook of the year; it’s working!!) and the narrator was good enough. Not amazing but certainly kept things moving and gave just enough intonation change to know if it was Tavia or Effie’s chapter (even without the chapter name indicating whose POV it is).

Ultimately, I want to spoil the ending sooo much because it’s absolutely amazing. The twist here is foreshadowed; but I bet very few figure it out. I had it sorted just before the reveal; and looking back I realize I should have known given how much I LOVE the creature that ultimately holds the reader hostage at the climax.

Just read it! But do read it to the end. Even if you get a bit disenchanted halfway through; trust me the ending is absolutely worth it. At least 2-3 twists happen and so you’re bound to be (pleasantly, I hope)surprised by one of them. As a final note: this is a teen book and so I expect it to read like a teen book (which it does). If you’re looking for high fantasy, complex romance, or something more than a typical teen book then I’d recommend finding something else. I give this 5 stars and love it for being exactly what it is; a unique, well represented, uniquely fantastical teen book.

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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