Book Review – The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan

The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales

The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Kirsty Logan’s fairytales are at the same time familiar and also completely raw and new. Some familiar stories are told through the opposite perspective. Some new stories are familiar in the ways that emotions can only ever be.
The style reminds me a bit of Francesca Lia Block’s Rose and the Beast, though Logan’s fairytales are much more relatable. They feel like they could be real, even though the reader knows that the threshold is opaque.

I recommend this collection to those who want a fairytale that ends in unexpected ways.



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Book Review – Chronic by D.A. Powell

Chronic

Chronic by D.A. Powell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read this collection for my thesis on reception of Vergil’s Eclogues in 21st century poetry. The last two poems “Corydon & Alexis” and “Corydon & Alexis, Redux” take after Vergil the most, being Powell’s own version of Eclogue 2. Most of the poems in this collection describe Powell’s experience with the AIDS crisis and his experience with disease and love. The last two poems combine all of these themes together. More than this, though, Powell writes about what does and doesn’t last and endure. Very relevant to today’s world whose days, due to the dangers of climate change, are numbered. What lasts is the tradition of humanity, saved in texts like these.



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Book Review – Pages & Co.: Tilly and the Book Wanderers by Anna James

Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co. #1)

Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Pages & Co. is one of the coziest books I have ever read, and has been a perfect Autumn read. It is about a girl named Tilly, whose grandparents own a bookshop called Pages & Co. She is the most avid of readers, and soon finds out that she, along with her grandparents and others, has the ability to wander in and out of books. This ability sets Tilly off on an adventure in which she makes new friends and discovers new mysteries.

Pages & Co. brought me right back to my childhood, with Tilly meeting such characters as Alice and Anne Shirley. I think at some point we all have wished that our favorite characters would come to life – Anna James makes this a reality for Tilly and has us as readers share in that wonderful experience. Tilly’s story, as well, is very much like a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, with each book being another rabbit hole for Tilly. I now want to go read Alice and become even more immersed in Tilly’s adventures.

My only issue with this book is that some of the plot devices are gone through too quickly and I feel need more explanation. Perhaps this will be remedied in the next books.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to sit down with a cup of tea and go on an adventure.





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Book Review – The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I don’t know why I never picked up The Golden Compass before, but I really should have, because this book is brilliant.

Such a wonderful, in-depth story with complex characters (even the very background characters were as complex as the protagonists!), I could not put it down, save for the times when academia made me.
Pullman is a wonderful storyteller, and knows how to make readers keep asking questions. In addition, Pullman uses description in a remarkable way, especially during scenes of fights and intense drama, using description styles which directly reference those used by the ancient poet Vergil in his epic, the Aeneid.

The character of Lyra is someone whom all adventurers should like to be: curious, headstrong, having a clear sense of fairness, and full of love for her friends. And the daemons, the souls of the human characters, let readers in on a side of humanity rarely seen in everyday life.

I cannot recommend this book enough to those who love adventure and a sense of discovery.



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Book Review – The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I love ghost stories, especially those that border on the gothic. What I consider to be a good ghost story is when the writer takes the mundane and colors it with tiny traces of the supernatural, just enough to make the reader feel uneasy. Edith Wharton is among such writers, writing with such frankness as to lull the reader into a false sense of security. She even seems to add a sort of game for her readers. Going into each of her stories I knew there would be a ghost somewhere, but the fun and mystery is to speculate who the ghost is going to be and where. It could be the old gardener, a woman who died in the house long ago, it could even be the master of the house! After that it’s just a matter of how we the readers and the protagonists of each story choose to deal with the ghost presented to them.

I recommend this book to all who are ready for the spookiest season of the year, and who want some fun and games with the supernatural.




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Thoughts on The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson (and thoughts on Shirley Jackson in general)

Today I have just added The Missing Girl to my ever-growing collection of Shirley Jackson stories. If you do not know yet, Shirley Jackson is my favorite author. Now that is not to say that she has written my favorite book (that is Tolkien). Rather, I have loved all her work consistently, and the genre she writes in is my favorite: horror/thriller/downright odd. The three stories in The Missing Girl are no exception to my love of Shirley Jackson’s work.

Most of you have probably watched the recent show “The Haunting of Hill House”, based on Jackson’s book of the same name. The book is wonderfully spooky and psychologically compelling, dealing with the main character Eleanor’s neuroses about herself and how she fits into the world, and ultimately how she fits into the scheme of Hill House itself.
Shirley Jackson takes a mundane world and turns it upside down. Often her stories center on a female main character living a normal life – whether as a wife, a secretary, an old woman living alone in her house, friendly to all her neighbors (remember that these books were written from around the 40s to te 60s). These characters step out of their normal routine by doing something that wouldn’t seem abnormal – going on an errand, sending a letter, visiting a friend, getting away for the weekend – and she meets the abnormal on the way, getting lost in some way on the journey. Similar plots happen in the three stories of The Missing Girl.

(Spoilers ahead)

In the first story, “The Missing Girl”, a 13 year old girl goes missing from a summer camp. Her roommate didn’t think anything of it at the time because the girl said she would go out. When the camp realizes she is missing they do what people normally do when someone goes missing: they search. However, as the search goes on longer, the camp and the girl’s family start to realize that the girl may not have ever actually attended the camp as she was supposed to. At the end, the question becomes, did the girl ever exist in the first place?

In the second story, “Journey with a Lady”, a young boy travels on a train alone, when a lady sits down on the train next to him. It turns out she is running from the law. The boy at first does not want anything to do with the lady, but when he finds out she is a fugitive and why, he spends time with her, giving her a sense of normalcy and life before she has to turn herself in.

The last story, “Nightmare”, lives up to its title. A secretary, Miss Morgan is tasked by her boss to deliver a package to someone across town. Along the way she sees advertisements for people to find a “Miss X”, who coincidentally (or perhaps not so much) looks exactly like Miss Morgan. After hours of trying to escape the advertisements and people following her, knowing she looks like their “Miss X”, she succumbs to this new role into which the world has put her. And ultimately, she is very happy with the change.

One of the key points in Jackson’s writings is the stepping over the threshold into a different reality. Sometimes the reality is better than the old one, as with Miss Morgan. Other times it leads to loss and confusion, dealings with supernatural beings, or otherwise, death as in Eleanor’s case. The liminality of these stories makes the reader (i.e. myself) feel so wonderfully uneasy, and has them wondering what threshold they have yet to cross, or what supernatural and odd aspects of life are waiting for them in a version of their own realities.

Book Review-The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have not been into a book as much as I have been into The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon for a long time. In this novel, 9-year-old Trisha strays from the path and gets lost in the woods, encountering challenges the woods brings her, whether real or not.

As a lover of survival video games, this novel was utterly compelling. The way King writes Trisha’s character has the reader relating to her so much that it’s almost as if the reader and Trisha are one in the decisions that she makes, the fears that she feels, and wondering constantly if this whole thing isn’t just in her head. In the end, both the reader and Trisha find out that the difference between reality and dreams does not matter when you are lost.
The visual descriptions that King provides are so vivid I could imagine myself right in the forest with Trisha.

A big theme in this book is decisions. Not only the decisions Trisha must make during her long trek in the woods, but also the decisions of those who have lost and are looking for her: her mother’s and brother’s decisions of being so stubborn that they push Trisha away; her father’s decision to manipulate in his own way; and so on. It is a wonderful take on humanity – decisions are what define us, make us selfish like Trisha’s parents, or even point us further away from our goals, like Trisha strayed from the path in the woods. In the end, we must make the decisions that will make us stronger, and Trisha does just this.

Overall, I have struggled to put down The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon throughout my read of it. I recommend this novel to anyone who feels lost, and who wants a good thriller.



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Book Review-Garden of Ravens by Krystal Jane Ruin

Garden of Ravens

Garden of Ravens by Krystal Jane Ruin

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I reviewed this collection for NetGalley.

I went into Garden of Ravens thinking I was going to get a clever collection of poems that uses themes of folklore and fairytale. After all, as the description says, it is a” collection of dark poetry that journeys through folklore, twisted tales, mental breakdowns, and depression”.

What there actually was of folklore was very little, and I would not call the use of these references clever. There were references to Little Red Riding Hood, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Macbeth, Greek Myths, and a few others; I can see how they were trying to be used, in a way of feminism and representation of abuse. However, all these references did was add a small amount of intellect to an otherwise depressing collection. All in all the folklore themes really were not very important to this collection, which is disappointing.

Most of the collection is about heartbreak and it is very clear that the author needs therapy. It is in the same style and theme as the poems of Rupi Kaur. I understand why it sells, it directly evokes a lot of emotions that people feel when they are unlucky in love. However, the constancy of that theme makes the collection (and others like it) very oppressive and, again, not clever. There was no cleverness in the meter or words used; there were sometimes rhyme schemes but that felt like using rhyme scheme for the sake of rhyme scheme and not for any particular poetic purpose.

Some of the poems, also, were quite creepy. Not horror/folktale creepy, but as if the author is a stalker creepy. I honestly wonder why the publisher thought this collection was a good idea. The themes are good, but the execution is just plain awful and shows no careful or artistic thought. I would not recommend this to anyone.





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Book Review-The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I did not know what to expect when I first picked up The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. I sort of assumed that it would be different entries on all sorts of flora and fauna found in prehistoric Earth. But, as Isabel Greenberg says on the back cover, “this book is not a real encyclopedia”. Instead it is a story about the adventures of a storyteller and the stories that he tells and learns as he meets all sorts of people.
The stories, interwoven, going deeper and deeper (you could call it story-ception) are definitely based on known myths and folktales, and tales from the Torah, though Greenberg has, through her ingenius world-building of her Early Earth, given these stories a unique flavor.

The art is charming, very simple, and mostly monochrome, illustrating well the stories that take place in cold lands, and also making it so that it is the stories the reader focuses on, with the illustrations as the supplementary medium.

As a lover of folklore, this has been the perfect book for me. I recommend this to those who love stories, whether you listen to or tell them.



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Book Review- The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

The Waking Forest

The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I will start this review by saying that I did not finish this book. I had many problems with the way it was written. First, Wees has written the characters in such a way that you cannot connect with them at all. We see everyone through the eyes of the main character Rhea, her mom and dad barely known to us, and her sisters either mean, insane, or just plain boring, and all for no reason.

Second, there was literally no point to the story, no premise. Wees introduces the story of a family who possibly deals with dreams, maybe magic, but also does not seem totally accepting of Rhea’s “visions” (which I think are, personally, just dreams, though I couldn’t say because Wees never actually describes them). Then there are the chapters involving a witch, whom I am assuming is supposed to be a past life of Rhea. However, I am halfway through the book and the plot seems to not be moving forward very much.

Suffice to say, I am quite disappointed. Wees had a good idea for this book but did not execute it well. She could have done so much more. And I understand that this is a first novel (and honestly it’s not bad for a first novel), but she can do much better.
There will be people who like this book, especially younger people. This book, however, is not at all for me.



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