Crazy in Poughkeepsie by Daniel Pinkwater is a charming and silly slice-of-life adventure story, in which our narrator, Mick, a guru from New Jersey, his brother, and two friends embark on an adventure around the city of Poughkeepsie.
I received an advanced e-copy of this book from Tachyon Publications, and it could not have come at a better time! I have been loving middle grade adventure stories lately, and this book gave me exactly what I wanted. I only wish it was longer, but that just means I now need to read Pinkwater’s other books!
There are many things I liked about this book, but for now I want to talk about the top three things I really liked about it.
First, are the characters. All of them are slightly crazy, but all of them are also super likeable. At first you think the guru from New Jersey is going to be a fraud and a layabout. But, it turns out the guru is a very wise and silly layabout, that does and teaches Mick, his new pupil, very good things. And Mick himself is skeptical about all this at first, but goes along with it and finds that he enjoys the guru’s various adventures.
Then we have Vern and Molly. I especially want to know more about Molly and the Dwergs (I think that is what they are called) – I really liked how Pinkwater compared them to the fae, although they are much less vengeful.
That is the second thing I want to talk about: the folklore. I really loved how Pinkwater took Poughkeepsie – a city not known for being very exciting – and laid out a whole network of folklore. Besides the Dwergs and the guru, there are ghosts and their specific rules, and people who just seem to know about the mysteries of the world, from circus performers to traveling hobos. The folklore is fascinating, and I like that it was found right under our narrator’s nose!
And the third thing, which is not as prominent as the first two: the absolutely Jewish feel to the story. Now, this may be just because I am Jewish myself, but I saw the Jewish cultural references everywhere, from the language they used (quite a bit of Yiddish), to the names of the characters (you just KNOW a guru with a name like Smythe-Finkel from New Jersey is going to be Jewish). Also pretty sure Mick’s family is Jewish too, with their Kosher Kibble company. I just love it – the nods at Jewish culture were very subtle, but I rather enjoyed it when I noticed it.
Overall, Crazy in Poughkeepsie is a delightful book. It is a simple story with tiny bits of adventure all around, but I think that’s what many of us, me included, need often right now. I recommend this book to those who want a quiet adventure and a bit of funkiness in their lives.
Thanks again to Tachyon Publishing for sending me Crazy in Poughkeepsie!
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I picked up Wintering at the very right time in my life. Not only is it majorly winter here in Winnipeg (-20 degrees and snow), but I am also dealing with my own, personal winter. Katherine May tells anecdotes from her own winters, and how they did ever resonate with me. Just reading stories about someone who also struggles with winters, metaphorical and real, and is learning to embrace it, really validated what I am going through also. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a little help through their winters.
A few things I really liked about this book:
I loved how it was presented as short little stories, either of parts of May’s life, or of stories and information that May has interpreted and incorporated into her life. As the reader, I could find something in each story, or there would be one particular story that touched me and that I can go back to in times of need.
I loved May’s descriptions of physical winter, in her home in England, in Iceland, in the Arctic. In addition, I loved how she felt so awed and energized by the cold and the winter sights. It reminds me that I need to embrace these aspects of winter now that I myself am living in a very cold place.
I really don’t have anything negative to say about this book. It was a wonderful memoir. It felt like a warm hug and a hot cup of tea. It is a true comfort.
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I am so, so happy that the first book I finished for 2022 was The Bewitching of Aveline Jones! I have been waiting to read this book after I read The Haunting of Aveline Jones last year, and just like that first book, this wonderful sequel did not disappoint.
In this book, Hickes brings back Aveline and her friend Harold into another dark and haunting mystery. However, instead of just an angry ghost to contend with, they have to deal with witches too. Now that was a great combination of paranormal plots!
As usual, I loved the haunting and paranormal elements that Hickes wrote. I also loved the folklore elements that he brought into this sequel – about the witches of England and the ways people used to ward against them (some of which I had only heard about recently from the Lore Podcast!). There are other elements of folklore that are included that I cannot mention (spoilers), but every single bit of folklore adds wonderful things to the story.
As always, I loved Aveline as a character. She reminds me so much of myself when I was around her age – always eager for the supernatural and the macabre. But The Bewitching of Aveline Jones also shows her ability to be the best of friends, and to be compassionate to those who are in need. She is a wonderful character, and I wish I had known about her when I was her age.
I do wish we had seen a bit more of Mr. Lieberman and Aveline’s aunt, I really enjoyed them in the first book. But this book featured Harold a lot, and I quite enjoyed his part in the story. What a knowledgeable lad!
I can predict that this is already going to be my top book for 2022, it was so good. This book and the first are easily two of my favorite books of all time. What a way to start the year!
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The Blue Fox is a melting pot of a story, taking the lives of different characters and intertwining them together to create a very strange fairy tale.
This really was a strange tale. So strange that honestly I did not understand a lot of what was going on. That is really why I only gave this book 3 stars. I saw the importance of the blue fox in the story, but the other characters’ stories didn’t make a whole lot of sense most of the way through. In fact, it didn’t come together until the very last chapter. I think I would have liked it better if I understood earlier on why each of the stories were important to each other.
That said, it was very much a fairy tale, and we all know how much I love my fairy tales. The language, too, was beautiful, and it kind of makes me want to learn Icelandic just to get the beauty of the original text. I will have to look up foxes in Icelandic lore now, though I know that foxes are often trickster beings in folklore, and it is no different in this tale.
This was a beautiful read, and maybe at some point I will read it again to see if I can make more sense of the stories.
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I feel like I have not needed books so much in a long time as I have needed them this year. It’s been a tough, though happy, year – I’m in a period of transition, and lots of waiting for things to happen. But reading many of the books I did has gotten me through the time. I wanted to share with all of you the books that helped me, the ones I enjoyed so fully and made my heart feel warm.
This year I read 40 books for the GoodReads yearly reading challenge, which is a little more than my normal average of about 20-30 books. I wanted to share with you the ones I loved the most, my top 5 I think, maybe with a special mention or two. Now, the ones I loved the most do not necessarily have a 5-star rating from me – some of them have 4 or 5 stars.
The first one I want to mention is The Haunting of Aveling Jones by Phil Hickes. This was the perfect ghost story for me this year: it had an inquisitive bookworm for a main character, a haunted house, a stormy sea where ghosts and deaths repeat themselves. So spooky and fun, Hickes really found the perfect style and atmosphere for a great haunting tale.
Next is Widdershins from the Wyborne and Griffin mystery series by Jordan Hawk. First, let me just say, what an author! Hawk has written so, so many books, probably hundreds as far as I can tell! In addition, he is a trans author who writes mostly lgbt fiction, and it’s all GOOD from what I have read so far. But I digress. Widdershins, the first book in the Wyborne and Griffin series, is probably one of my favorite mlm romances ever, and definitely one of my favorite paranormal romances ever. My friend and I, who are both classicists (she is an archaeologist and I am a philologist), joke that I am like Wyborne, who is a philologist of ancient languages, and she is like Christine who is an archaeologist. It’s so up my alley, and up the alleys of any classicist and paranormal lover. It’s so well-written and fun as well. I could gush over this book forever, and I know I’m rambling, but it’s just so good!!
I read so much lgbt fiction this year, especially mlm fantasy, and Widdershins was only one of them. I think I read at least 10, but I will only mention a few.
The next one I want to mention is Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey. Not only is the lgbt representation wonderful in this book, but the world-building and characters are absolutely amazing. I also like that she makes the main character grow so much into himself – he’s very unlikeable in the beginning, but grows to be a compassionate and real person. I’m actually kind of afraid to read the rest of the books in this trilogy for fear that they don’t live up to the standard that this one set for me. I am going to read them at some point though!
The last lgbt book I want to mention that I absolutely loved was Seven Tears At High Tide by C.B. Lee. Not only does this story have folklore, the sea, and good lgbt representation (bi characters!), but it is such a wholesome and sweet story, I found myself tearing up multiple times just because the story was so lovely. I love going back and rereading sections of the book that have our two protagonists together being cute. I really want to check out C.B. Lee’s other books. I know she (pretty sure she) has written an lgbt Treasure Island retelling, which sounds really intriguing.
And last, but not least, is the most recent book I’ve read, In The Company Of Witches by Auralee Wallace. This is just the coziest book ever. It has everything I could want in a book: mystery, cute towns with b&bs, witches and magic, ghosts, and just the most loving, if not totally crazy, family. This is a book you read cozied up under a blanket with a hot drink on a cold evening. I really need more books like this.
I just want to list some honorable mentions for books I really enjoyed this year, without getting into detail about them – just know I loved them a lot, and you all should very much check them out.
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann
The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell
The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (This one actually got me through the beginning of winter in Winnipeg)
The Hobbits of Tolkien by David Day
Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
And those are all the books I loved this year! I can’t wait to find out what next year will bring, both in terms of books and in terms of where my life is headed. I’m hoping the transitional periods end soon, but until then, I have many books on my tbr to keep me occupied!
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, a happy New Year, and a good start to 2022!
In the Company of Witches is about Brynn, who, after the loss of her husband, feels she can no longer do magic. However, when a murder happens right inside her family’s inn, she goes to try to solve the mystery of who committed the crime to clear her family’s name. During this harrowing experience, she realizes that maybe she can reconnect with her magic.
I loved this book, pure and simple. It has everything I could want in a story: mystery, magic, witches, ghosts, a loving family in a small town. The writing style is simple, but Wallace really brings each character and place to life with those simple words. I could imagine being in the small town and interacting with everyone that Brynn interacted with.
My favorite part, I think, was that even though they were all a little bit crazy in their own ways, Brynn’s family, the Warrens, were so loving to each other and tried to be supportive when they could. Even the animals, Dog the crow and Faustus the cat, lent their support where they could. That plus the witches and ghosts is everything I could ever want in life, and Wallace portrayed this family so, so well. Also, it brought back some nostalgia as it reminded me a bit of Sabrina the Teenaged Witch (from the 90s)!
The mystery was fun as well. You really could not be sure who did what in terms of the crimes committed, and that kept me on the edge of my seat. A whole family is involved, well, technically two families, and secrets are kept everywhere.
I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants a little magic and mystery in their life. What a great book to end my reading challenge on this year!
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I’ve never read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and honestly, I hadn’t planned to. However, when I watched a BookTube video that featured this book as a collection of short fairytales geared towards the odd and peculiar, how could I resist? I love short stories and I love fairy and folktales.
Each of these stories was marvelous and weird, and encouraged their readers to be as peculiar as they were. I think my favorite of the stories, very predictably so, was The Woman Who Befriended Ghosts. the story is basically what the title says it is, though our protagonist has some trouble with these ghosts, as all they want to do is haunt and scare rather than be friends with her. And honestly, if that isn’t me in a story, I don’t know what is.
I won’t go into too much more detail about the other stories, but that I thought they were very clever, especially that cannibal story. Whew!
Anyone who loves Neil Gaiman stories will love these as well. One question I have for myself is, do I now want to read Miss Perigrine’s Peculiar Children? I really don’t know. It never interested me so much – I’d rather the short, weird stories any day. But maybe I will give the full series a try at some point.
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I cannot believe how long it’s taken me to read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I grew up with the Disney version, which definitely creeped me out as a kid (in a good way), and I watched the tv show (the recent one where Brom is the headless horseman). I was not prepared for how much better the original story was!
Firstly, the characters are so much worse than in any adaptation I’ve seen, and it is marvelous. If Ichabod Crane was alive today, he’d totally be an antivaxxer and use healing crystals. Brom is so much more of an asshole, but honestly he and Katrina Van Tassel truly deserve each other.
What I loved most, though, were the elements of folklore presented in this story. I’d heard of similar legends in many parts of the United States – the ghost of a grey or white woman wailing in the woods or a graveyard; witches in the woods and their ghosts; the ghosts of soldiers trying to find one missing body part or another. These are common stories, but the way Irving told them through the reception of the superstitious Ichabod Crane, made the legends come to life in dark and fastastical ways.
Now (kind of spoilers here but also not cause most know this story), it is very likely that Ichabod’s demise at the hands of the headless horseman were actually carried out by Brom and his friends, but it couldn’t be proved. And, truly, isn’t that how legends are born? Through speculation and superstition.
I really enjoyed this story, and it was very nice to listen to on audiobook – I listened to the narration of Anthony Heald, who did a fantastic job. It really is a story to listen to with a warm drink and under a cozy blanket, and maybe even in front of a fire on a chilly autumn night.
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Beautiful Darkness is a hard book to summarize, as there is so much going on in it, but I will do my best! Aurora is a girl who wants to marry her prince. But when a catastrophe strands her and many other little people in the wilderness, it is up to them to work together to survive. However, whether they will truly work together in harmony would remain to be seen.
I truly loved this book. First because the art is so gorgeous, I could just sit for hours perusing these beautiful illustrations. The characters are drawn such that you would think that this is a book for children, but it is deceiving, making the atmosphere of the story very unsettling.
Second, because of the themes. Picture Alice in Wonderland meets Thumbelina meets Lord of the Flies and you have Beautiful Darkness. And with all of those, there is the underlying question of what happens when we die. All of the little people, Aurora included, are forced out of the body of a dead girl, supposedly the real, human form of Aurora. The question is, do all of our little quirks, our many little personality traits survive after death? They do in this book, as little people with strong personalities, though often not for very long. Aurora, as the main consciousness of this girl, does.
There are some graphic images and themes in this book, so do remember that before going in to read it. However I absolutely recommend this book, for the art, the whimsy, and the dark realities that folk tales bring to everyday life.
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The Lost Spells is a beautiful book of poems and illustrations. I don’t have an elaborate review to give this book, but I will make these key points:
-The illustrations by Jackie Morris were so beautiful, I want to go back through the book so I can look at them more closely.
-The poems are wonderful works of wordplay, yet seemingly simple, which adds to their charm. I haven’t read Macfarlane’s other works (though I have heard they are also good), but he is a great poet.
-I read this book at the perfect time: it is wonderful to read and peruse on a cold, Winter’s day, cozied up under a blanket.
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