Book Review – Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs

Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs


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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Book Review – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving



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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Book Review – Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann, Kerascoet, and Helge Dascher (translator)

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann



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 by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane


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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Book Review – The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell

The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell



The Faerie Hounds of York is a story about a man, Loxley, who is under a faerie curse. He is found in a faerie ring by Thorncress, a man who is no stranger to faerie himself. They go on a journey to find the lift for the curse, and on the way, develop feelings for one another.

This was such a beautiful book. The way Powell writes the characters, who are so gentle with each other; the way they write the atmosphere, both earthly and unearthly, tethering it to the natural world, and even the weather. Absolutely gorgeous.

I have been searching for a while for a book that was like Emily Tesh’s Silver in the Wood, and The Faerie Hounds of York definitely filled that space for me. This book, however, added more about faerie folklore and about Faerie itself, which makes this book doubly wonderful for me. And the way Powell portrays the powers of Faerie is stunning – they write Faerie as an extension of death, which very much captures the folklore elements that definitely should be in a faerie story. It is cold and harsh, but oh so enticing – this is the atmosphere of The Faerie Hounds of York.

I really have nothing bad to say about this book. It was a lovely, if sad, read, though even the sadness had a loving feel to it. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a tender, desperate love story, and who want to read about a Faerie land that pulls you in sharply.



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Book Review – Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee

Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee



Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee is about Kevin, a teenager living in Southern California, who just wants to be happy and know love. When he makes a wish after crying seven tears into the Sea, he gets more than he bargained for when a selkie named Morgan declares that he is in love with him.

This was such a wholesome and heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching at times too; to say that I cried many times would be putting it mildly. I am happy to say that I don’t have a single negative thing to say about this story. So, I will focus on my favorite aspects of the book.

I loved the way the romance between Kevin and Morgan was written. It was simple, honest, and so tender – that in itself was enough to make me cry, happily of course.

I loved the relationship of the two boys to their families. They were definitely the way children are with their parents, but it felt so healthy and full of love. And the siblings reminded me of how I am with my own sister. The portrayals of siblings were so delightful.

I liked the way Lee wrote about bisexuality and how Kevin dealt with coming out, but also showing how bisexuality looks in normal life, as when Kevin struggles to date like any awkward teen. I don’t see a lot of books with bisexual characters, which is a shame, but this one was done so well.

And finally, I loved the folklore. Selkies are one of my favorite creatures in mythology. I grew up watching The Secret of Roan Inish and reading tales of selkies. I loved this modern portrayal of this mythological creature, how Lee incorporated migratory patterns of seals, the marine biology aspects, the little old wives tales of the sea that people still think of today.

This whole story feels like a tale you’d tell sitting by a fire, or listening to the sea. It’s such a sweet story, and fills my heart with joy. And, being from Southern California myself, it made me long for the sea. I recommend this book to those who long for the sea and want something lovely for their hearts.




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Book Review and Discussion – Horrid by Katrina Leno

Horrid by Katrina Leno

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Horrid



I will be doing a separate discussion of this book after the review.


Horrid was a book I started reading after being told it was like Gilmore Girls, but dark and scary. And honestly? That’s a pretty good assessment of this book. You get the close mother-daughter relationship, with a shady history with the grandparents and other family. There is even a deep, dark, secret that everyone knows, though, as opposed to Gilmore Girls, our main character, Jane, is not as privy to these secrets as she would like to be. Basically take Gilmore Girls and Jane Eyre and you have Horrid.

I immediately loved Horrid when I started reading it (actually listened to it on audiobook, which was pretty amazing). The writing is gorgeous, and I fell in love with the characters. Leno wrote the supporting characters so well, I almost want a book with just them in it. And the atmosphere of the old house that Jane and her mother move into was perfectly spooky and haunting.

I really did love this book, up until I reached the end, which, I feel was very much ruined by the direction the author decided to take with Jane. I won’t spoil that – that will be in my lengthier discussion on my blog – but I am disappointed because it was such a good book, right up until the disappointing last scene. And this is why I can only give it three stars. That and the fact that the story needed more ghosts (but I always believe stories need more ghosts).

I can honestly recommend most of this book, just be aware that the ending is not what you would expect.

Discussion (for those who have read the book or don’t mind spoilers)

As I said above, I really liked this story, up until the last scene, where Jane gives in to the ghost of her dead sister. The story was going so well, and Jane was actually having a pretty good life: good relationship with her mother, new friends (I loved Suzy and Will, favorite characters hands down), new job at a bookstore (which is totally my dream). The only thing that’s weird in her life is that her family has a shady past and there’s a secret the town knows.

And when she finds out the secret, all of a sudden she decides her life is terrible? I don’t think so. I hate that Leno wrote Jane’s character this way in the end. It was like she changed her whole personality for no reason. And so abruptly too!! Jane is a very nice person, and not bad at making friends. She has no idea about her dead sister, but when her dead sister just suddenly appears and tells her that everyone is terrible, Jane believes it? That’s not at all believable to me. To say I was absolutely shocked that Leno ended Janes character that way is an understatement. And when Ruth, her mother, tells her the truth about her sister, Jane is so uncharacteristically unfeeling.

I really loved this book before the ending. I even liked the subtle haunting, but honestly the ghost of Jemima Rose ruined the whole thing. So it was a disappointment, though I still like the first half of the book. I guess if you did want to compare it to Gilmore Girls again, Jane and Rory having character changes aren’t that far off? Though I would argue that Rory was kind of insufferable the whole time, while Jane abruptly became insufferable.

Sorry, I do know that was a bit rambly, but I have strong feelings about this book! I welcome any and all messages/comments about my discussion and opinions. Did you agree with me, or did you like the ending? Did it make sense to you?

Cheers!


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Book Review – The Ghost of Mackey House by R.A. Johnson

The Ghost of Mackey House by R. A. Johnson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Ghost of Mackey House by R. A. Johnson



I received an early copy of this book as a Reedsy Reviewer. This review was originally posted on Reedsy (link below)

I started The Ghost of Mackey House thinking this story was going to center around this B&B, Mackey House, and the ghost that was in it, with the history surrounding it as its dark and mysterious backdrop. Unfortunately, for me personally, this was not the case.

Books with a haunted house are usually very heavy with atmosphere. The Ghost of Mackey House feels like it has very little atmosphere, likely because the story is so character-driven. The characters spend so little time actually experiencing Mackey House that the haunting atmosphere just isn’t there. I like in-depth characters a lot, but not when the integrity of the plot is put aside for character exposition and backstory. This sort of exposition takes up most of the book – we don’t get much of the ghostly atmosphere and plotline until two-thirds into the story, and so I was very uninvested for that much of the book.

I won’t get too into the characters themselves – overall, they weren’t bad, and I think if I was more prepared for an almost entirely character-based story, I would have enjoyed it more. I do wish, however, that I was able to empathize with the characters more. I think if they were written in such a way that I truly felt for them, they could have been excellent characters.

I don’t think this book needed to be as long as it was. I think a lot of the story relied on characters’ backstories to fill the wordcount, and thus made the story feel slightly incoherent and muddled. I think this book could have been great if it was shorter, almost a novella, and if it took place more inside the titular Mackey House. However, I do think the story, as written, could make a very cool videogame. In terms of the characters and the history, it really reminded me of games like Silent Hill or Resident Evil (if you were to make it more horror-based).

While The Ghost of Mackey House was not for me, I do want to end this review with some positives. When the story does pick up, in the later half of the book, the plot was a lot more compelling and I became really eager to find out what happened in the end. And, if you are someone who likes more character-focused storytelling, I will say the background characters are very fun, and I would read the book again just for them.

*Link to the Reedsy Review: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/the…



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Book Review – The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs


The House with a Clock in it’s Walls is about Lewis, who goes to stay with his uncle Jonathan in his big and mysterious house. There, Lewis finds that there are magical mysteries hiding in the shadows, and that his uncle, and others he meets, are also of a magical and mysterious nature.

I thought it was a fun story! I liked the characters a lot, and the atmosphere was properly spooky. At first I was a bit skeptical of the plot point where the dead come back to life – I was hoping it would just be ghosts! But it ended up working pretty well. The mystery of the clock was very intriguing, though it ended up being a bit less mysterious than I had hoped.

The ending felt very anticlimactic, though I think I probably would have thought so less ten or more years ago. I think, though, that Lewis deserved an anticlimactic, peaceful ending. However, I know that he will have more adventures in the John Bellairs books I plan to read next.



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Book Review – Drowned Country by Emily Tesh

Drowned Country by Emily Tesh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Drowned Country by Emily Tesh



Drowned Country is Emily Tesh’s sequel to the wonderful Silver in the Wood. This book takes place two years after the first book, and Silver and Tobias are no longer together (but they want to be). Silver, the new Green Man of the Wood, is asked by his mother and Tobias to help find a missing girl. Silver is forced to contend with himself when not only put into supernatural danger, but also when in close proximity once again to his love.

This sequel was just as wonderful as the first book. The imagery in Tesh’s writing continues to make me feel a sense of wonder and magic that lies in the world itself. All of the nature imagery is so beautifully written, I can’t get enough! And the imagery in the fairy realm that they go to is so stark, I could feel the loneliness that the characters project onto the place and vice versa. So poignant and keen.

We get the story in Silver’s perspective this time (the first book was mostly in Tobias’). I like that you’re not supposed to like Silver all that much, especially in the beginning. But he learns and grows as he realizes not only the extent of his powers, but also where he stands in relation to the rest of the world. Tobias is just as stoic as before, though we do get to see more glimpses of his humanity than in the first, as he is now simply a man.

I really wish there were more books in this series, as I would devour them all! The book takes place in Spring, but I think it was the perfect read for a day in early Autumn.
I recommend this duology to those who want to marvel at the world, to those who see more than most in the woods.




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