In this third installment of the Aveline Jones series, our protagonist, Aveline, and her friend Harold travel to Scarbury to find clues about the disappearance of Avenline’s uncle. When they go through his house and his things, though, they find the mystery to his disappearance more supernatural than expected.
As with the other two of this series, I absolutely adored this book. I don’t know that there are any negative opinions I have about this book, so I will focus on the many positives!
First, the way that Hickes writes makes you feel like you are seeing things through the whimsical perspective of a child, which is the perspective I always wish to have, especially when reading about whimsical subject matters. It’s always reminded me a bit of Coraline, or even Alice in Wonderland, where the child hero(es) must make sense of the fantasy world, learn its rules and its dangers, in order to escape.
Next are the elements of folklore. In the first two books, we see the folklore behind ghosts and witches (two of my favorite folkloric subjects). However, this latest book has covered my absolute favorite piece of folklore:
(SPOILERS BEGIN HERE)
Faeries! Hickes does a fantastic job at describing the more traditional folklore of faeries, even making them as creepy and dangerous as they ought to be. He describes how they are associated with the dead, which is something a lot of books either touch on only briefly or don’t mention at all. And, to me, that is what makes faerie so fascinating and terrific (the scary version of the word), the fact that everything about the faeries is either dead or artificial. One of the best faerie books I have read in a while!
(SPOILERS END HERE)
And lastly, of course, is Aveline herself. She is so headstrong and determined to find her uncle, and to solve every mystery that comes her way. But, most importantly I think, is that she is a fierce friend. I’ve probably said that multiple times in my other Aveline reviews, but it’s true! And you need good friends with you if you are to battle the elements of the supernatural.
What a fabulous book to start the new year with, and perfect for the winter and cold season! I look forward to the next book eagerly!
D (A Tale of Two Worlds is about a girl, Dhikilo, who lives in Cawber-on-Sands with her adoptive parents, and goes to school where no one knows anything about Somaliland. One day, Dhikilo finds that all of the Ds are disappearing from words. After much confusion, she finds her old (and apparently immortal) history teacher, who sends her off on a journey (accompanied by a Sphinx named Nelly Robinson) to rescue all of the Ds.
I really liked the premise for this book – a book with a language mystery? Sign me up! It was also hyped up a lot by many book people online, and Neil Gaiman has a blurb on the book. So yes, this book was very appealing to me.
However, this novel sadly did not live up to my hyped-up expectations. Not that I didn’t enjoy the novel, but I felt as though there were things missing.
Some things I didn’t like:
1. The story did not provide any interesting reason for the letter D in particular to have disappeared. Sure it made using words harder for the characters, and it made some D-words disappear, but it didn’t go deeper into “why D?”. I wanted to know, why did the villain hate D? Would it have more of an impact on Dhikilo’s existence? I understand that this would make the story more complicated, but I really wanted those answers.
2. We did not get to know the characters well enough. We know Dhikilo and Nelly very well by the end of the story, which is good. However, we barely get to know Professor Dodderfield, who seems to be pretty important to the story. His role seems very unfulfilled, though. With Dodderfield, and a lot of the other characters, it feels like Dhikilo hasn’t made any real relationships in this story. It all seems to depend on Dhikilo and her position in the world (i.e. how much of an outsider she seems to be), though that theme isn’t developed nearly enough either.
Some things I liked:
1. The writing is beautiful. While the story itself was, at times, unsatisfying, the writing made reading this novel worthwhile. I would very much like to read Michel Faber’s other works now that I know what a beautiful and descriptive writing style he has. It is very much in the style of Gaiman, Anna James, and others who write similar stories.
2. I loved the imagery and the language. I think my favorite part of the story was when the Ds were missing, and I loved how Faber played with words with all of the Ds gone. Made for some challenging, but at times punny reading. I also loved the fantasy world of Liminus (also that it’s named “Liminus”, from the Latin/Greek limen meaning “threshold”). I do wish there was more lore or background with regards to Liminus in this story, and especially regarding the sinister and ever-shifting hotel, Bleak House.
Overall, the writing was gorgeous, but the story and themes were a bit disappointing. I don’t know that I would read this book again, but, as I mentioned, I do want to check out some of Michel Faber’s other works.
When I first heard of Piranesi, I only heard that it was a philosophical twist on the paintings of the real Piranesi. Ergo, I was sure the book would be fantastic, but I had no idea what I was getting into. Turns out, this was a wonderfully mind-boggling book that took the paintings of Piranesi and transformed them into a world within worlds. I won’t go into too much description, not only to save you from spoilers, but because the plot is very difficult to describe.
What I will talk about is Susanna Clarke’s imagery, which is always on point. If you’ve read her other works (such as Strange and Norrell), then you will know that Clarke is a master of imagery and description. In Piranesi, she describes long, vaulted halls filled with statuary – not only how it looks, but how it feels and sounds to the protagonist (also named Piranesi). Clarke also describes the halls in such a way that you could see yourself becoming mad, forgetting anything but these long and labyrinthine halls – a key point in the plot of this book. We don’t know whether these worlds of Piranesi are real. They could be in the mind of the protagonist, or in the mind of his enemy. What matters is that they feel real.
This is one of those books that I consider to be peak academia. The protagonist views the halls as a means of scientific discovery, recording his findings and hypotheses in journals, which is the format of the novel itself. There is, again, the madness that comes with such discoveries, and which we often find in rather exaggerated academic settings. However, Clarke writes this madness so well, so that we do not think that the protagonist is mad at all. In fact, we end up sympathizing with the protagonist, knowing that he is in the right (even if he has taken leave of many of his senses).
I absolutely loved this novel. It’s probably one of my favorite academia novels, and one of my favorite sci-fi. I love sci-fi novels that are subtle, that try to immerse you slowly, and Piranesi does such a good job of that. If you’re looking for something great in the academia genre, but also has elements of sci-fi and fantasy, this is the book for you.
Also apologies that this review is so late – I was in the middle of grading exams and that takes up a lot of brain space.
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston is about Tolly, a boy who goes to stay with his great-grandmother in the castle-like home Green Knowe, or Green Noah. There, Tolly not only finds a kindred spirit in his great-grandmother, but also in the animals, and actual spirits that reside at Green Noah.
This was such a lovely read, one I know my childhood self would have loved too. I discovered this book when I was reading Wintering by Katherine May. May said that this was a favorite ghost story that she liked to read during the winter months, and so of course I had to read it too. I wouldn’t necessarily call this book a ghost story – the spirits in this book didn’t feel negative or haunting in any way. Rather, I would call this a child’s adventure with a gothic feel. Actually, it sort of reads like The Turn of the Screw but with a lot more adventure and positivity. I very much enjoyed The Turn of the Screw, and I think that, plus the sense of adventure, was why I very much enjoyed Green Knowe.
Tolly is my ideal type of kid: imaginative, playing pretend, with a sense of adventure, and a love of ghosts-that-might-be-friends. He is akin to many of my other favorite literary characters: Aveline Jones, Tilly from Pages & Co., the narrator from The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Hilda, and many others. His great-grandmother has this sort of spirit and personality as well, and I so want to be like her as I grow through my life.
This book is simply written, but the imagination within is so alive with adventure and stories. I did also like the parts where Tolly’s great-grandmother told him stories by the fire – it made the whole thing so very cozy, especially now in the last of the winter months.
I recommend this book to those who want a quiet and cozy adventure in a gothic setting to bring them back to their childhood.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.