Sunday, June 30, 2024

Book Review: Jonny Appleseed

Jonny Appleseed 
by Joshua Whitehead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book should be mandatory Grade 12 reading for Canadian teens (or anyone in a colonized country). Perhaps then more of them would be empathetic to the Indigenous, and understand how damn good they likely have it.
Crude, honest, ugly, and yet beautiful and endearing… nothing is pulled back in Joshua Whitehead’s story of a Two-Spirit Indigenous boy who ends up off the reserve selling his body to make ends meet. Whitehead portrays both the awfulness, and some of the lightness of our lead teen’s existence.
Jonny Appleseed has a clever set-up where we get a past story, then a current piece of the present. The present story is over 2-3 days as Jonny tries to make enough money to go home for a funeral service.
With short chapters, realistic dialogue, and hard hitting descriptions this is a story everyone should read. If only to remind you that it could always be worse, it is worse for so many, and that homophobia and racism are the stupidest, non-sensical human constructs ever.

I’m so proud this is a Canadian book, and will be placing this print copy in my personal library knowing it should be in everyone’s library as it’s the kind of book that only comes along once in a generation. This is the Anne Frank, Go Ask Alice for today, and everyone should read it.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Book Review: A Haunted Girl

A Haunted Girl 
by Ethan Sacks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this set-up, the mental health representation, the scary ghosts, and the honesty of the plot and emotions. I have one protest, the ending is so dissatisfying! Yes I know it’s setup so we want to read the next issue; but as a trade (how I read these issues #1-3) it’s less fun to have it cliffhanger as it did. Ironically that cliffhanger could be considered an ending (from the perspective of a short story meant to leave options open) so my criticism may feel misplaced. What I know is getting to the end I was just so annoyed to realize that was the last page!!

I read this on my new Kobo Colour Libre so I didn’t get the full impact of the colours (as all colours are muted on this ereader, but better than black and white)! I did pull a couple single issues from my comic collection of this series just to see the art in its full glory and I must say it’s really wonderful! Just minimal enough to give a spooky aura but detailed enough on all the ghosts; and at the moments it really matters. You have to watch some of the subtleties in the art to get the full story. There are little hints to what is happening that you could miss. So be sure to read and look at the art so you get the full experience.

Check this one out if you want a good, accurate representation of depression (seems weird to say that but you know what I mean), some intense ghosts, a (perhaps!) twist ending, but maybe be sure to have the next issue ready to go so you can keep enjoying this intriguing world. Note: the ebook version I read had issues #1-3.

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, June 9, 2024

BOOK REVIEW: The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories

The Road to Woop Woop, and Other Stories 
by Eugen Bacon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m going to try very hard to be fair here. This is about 3.5 stars for me. I love clever, quirky, and twisty short stories with last line reveals. None of these are that kind. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good; because they are. Overall this is a decent collection of stories with paranormal, fairy tale, or existential spins. Worth a read.

It’s also note worthy as it is written by an Australian woman of colour. Certainly a minority not often found in writing circles. I would absolutely read more from Eugen Bacon in the future. In fact a couple of the stories in here, I think, need desperately to be made into longer stories. They have a lot of potential and could easily be fleshed out to be more than how they were presented here.

I know it’s always a fine line between word count and content and it’s certainly not always the right decision; but at least two stories have that quality. In between each of the stories are little snippets of tales that seemed to be native to Australia and like the type of tale you might tell to a child. I really adored these, and the illustrations were lovely!! They broke up the larger stories nicely, and in some cases setup a feel for the next story. This showed that the order of the stories was very intentional and I do appreciate that kind of effort being put in to make the reader feel immersed; even when each story is its own.

Certainly worth a pickup and read; and an author to watch 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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Thursday, June 6, 2024

BOOK REVIEW: What Feasts at Night

What Feasts at Night 
by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do you follow-up a clever horror story that owes its roots to Edgar Allen Poe? T. Kingfisher will (perhaps) tell you that you go to a simpler horror format. More of a fairy tale type horror that brilliantly integrates PTSD with the myth. I cannot over state how smart I think What Feasts at Night is in its use of PTSD to both explain, justify, and debunk the story. On each page turn near the end you can argue that, our lead character, Easton and his PTSD is both fuelling, debunking, and creating the horror story. That is the kind of creepiness I like!

For book two we have our leading man back and side appearances by other known characters from book 1; but really it is Easton’s show. I would probably call this more of a 1.5 in the series book. Although not as long as book 1 (a novella) it felt much shorter to me. Whether that was due to the excellent writing or the pacing being a bit faster I’m not sure.

My biggest disappointment here was that it felt as though the characters from book 1, besides Easton, were just there because readers would like seeing them again. I’m not convinced we needed them; and in fact, it might have been scarier if we didn’t have anyone with Easton who had experienced Usher house and was used to bizarre happenings. A little more isolation with the cabin caretaker and widow homemaker might have been just the extra spice this needed to make it a five star book.

I felt the narrator on the audiobook (which I gave up on after like 15 minutes and returned to my ebook) sounds far too young to be the voice of Easton. Not that they aren’t a good narrator, as they are; but Easton is a war-torn soldier whose been around thus for his narrator to sound like they are a youngin’ just didn’t work for me. I wanted a deeper, more masculine voice (I know bad me on the stereotypes, but come on war torn soldier!). That’s not to say that Easton needs this narrator (as Kingfisher’s writing is more than good enough!); it’s just my image of him is a certain way and it didn’t match up with the narration. That’s okay, to each their own when it comes to how a character might sound. Plus audiobooks are still a struggle for me sometimes so I’ll always happily return to my e/print copy.

All that said, I enjoyed visiting these characters again and will certainly follow along in reading this series (as I hope there is more to come). Kingfisher continues to prove she is at the top of her game and I cannot wait for more stories from her, in any genre, that I can gobble up in a day or two.

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, June 2, 2024

Book Review: A Botanical Daughter

A Botanical Daughter 
by Noah Medlock
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first three quarters of The Botanical Daughter is beautifully written with a rich gothic feel. We meet our closeted gay men and feel the sorrow at how close a secret their relationship must be kept. As we progress into getting to know our other main character, and leading lady, we realize she too has the calling of ‘forbidden love’ (ugh, hate to call it that but it’s the right terminology for the day) and has been hurt. Throughout the first sections of the book we meet the plant entities (in various forms) and create a bond with the botanical character that surprised me. I loved it and felt it was just an innocent in all everything, even in some of its more horrific moments.

There are clever messages of love is love embedded into the narrative, both blatant and subtle; even making myself (a bisexual woman) wonder if there is a limit to love being love. For the record, the answer is no. Love is always beautiful and always correct. When love becomes obsession or greed it is different; but in its rawest form love is never wrong, by any definition. Noah Medlock does a beautiful job of expressing and showing this sentiment that in different ways and creates a truly safe space for sexuality and identity of any/all kinds (even for a plant).

Moving through the story we have some bloody moments, of retribution and revenge, that are all very gothic and satisfying. It’s all wonderful! Then we reach a point, around the last 100 pages, in which things start to unravel a bit. The pacing felt lost, the outcomes were disjointed, and lacked common sense. For a very smart story, with very clever characters, to suddenly feel less intelligent hurt. Additionally the plot choices continued forward in ways I did not expect that just didn’t satisfy my gothic/horror desires. I have come up with three distinctly different ways to close off this novel that would have been more gothic, satisfying for the reader, and still have held to the final message of the story.

Thus the final conclusion was, for me, very unsatisfying. Not necessarily because of the events but more so that the gothic overtones are played down, there is a lack of scientific discussion to talk about what the future might hold based on the ending (where some horror could have been injected), and in general I just had trouble focusing (and started wanting to just be done with the book). I would have ended the story a bit sooner with a more open ended ending that would have fit the gothic romance feel quite well. Or if taken to where it was I would have at least given some scientific questions for the reader to ponder about the implications of the final state of things. Sadly we get neither of these and therefore I just can’t give this a higher rating.

All that said, for a debut author, this is amazingly well written up to that last 100 pages. It does have an odd pacing at times, but that kind of fits with our quirky men and the unpredictable nature of plants growing. Sometimes they grow quick, other times slow. I would still recommend A Botanical Daughter as a good gothic read; but I would warn the potential reader to brace themselves for an ending that may not be as satisfying as one might have hoped for. I will however watch for future stories by Medlock as I think all the right foundation is there, it’s just the final execution (admittedly always the hardest part of any horror novel) that suffered here. In a different story, and with some different feedback I think Medlock could deliver us the kind of LGBTQ+ gothic romance that most readers will be craving by the end of The Botanical Daughter.

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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