Categories
Fantasy Fiction

Fairy Tale by Stephen King (Book Thoughts)

Happy Friday everyone! The last book I finished in 2022 was Fairy Tale by Stephen King.  Reading a book in December that came out in September is quite an achievement for me… and …well, I found it to be a perfectly average portal fantasy so this will be a pretty short post

I’ll say my only possible original thought first: I read half of the UK and half of the US versions and I’m glad they didn’t try to translate the UK text into Brit-Speak.  The text and art is the same & only the cover changed (darn those pretty UK covers)! I just never think books translate well between the two dialects 🤷‍♀️

Anyway, let’s take a look at the book then I’ll share a few quick thoughts.


Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: Fairy Tale
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, 2022
  • Length: 608 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of King, Fairy Tale retellings, dark fairy tales, and dog lovers
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was seven, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. When Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and her aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.

Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world


My thoughts:

For once I really do not have strong feelings one way or another about a King novel.  I love stories about stories and the more the better.  While he certainly pulled in a ton of traditional dark fairy tales (not the Disney versions 😅) and wound them all into a solid coming of age story, I just don’t think he did anything new or exciting here.

It’s a steady story with solid King prose. He pulls enough from The Dark Tower to make me wonder if the castle is the same one – probably.  King loves to pull all his stories together and it’s my favorite part of the reading experience now to see what he is going to bring in from his own books and what other authors he’s going to call on. Hello Mr Lovecraft 👋

As I said, it’s 600 pages of solid story that just never really grabbed me except where the old dog was concerned.   I have mixed feelings about portal fantasies at the best of times but King salvaged it with interesting world building and keeping my mind engaged with puzzles.

I like the themes he tackles too, from alcoholism to grieving parental loss, examining your own actions, and seeing how far someone is willing to go.

If you like portal fantasies and coming of age stories, gray heroes, curses and twisted tellings, if you’ve ever felt loyal to a dog and wondered what you would do to turn back the clock… I’d say check out Fairy Tale 

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Fiction

Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski (thoughts)

“Tiny snail assholes” and the savior’s balls, Bukowski had me at hello

One of the many things I’ve been trying to do over the past few years is expand my reading horizons.  I’ve got a fantastic reading list of international writers, past and present, who are brilliant and not necessarily all well known… and then I also just want to read off my shelves.

I compromised by ending 2022 with Notes of a Dirty Old Man, a collection of newspaper stories by Charles Bukowski. Funny enough it was originally compiled by an erotica loving imprint called Essex House, and is now published by beat generation enthusiasts & San Fran publishing gurus, City Lights Publishing.

Ahh I love all the history there, the web of ties between the publishers and beat generation writers, the crazy lifestyles, just something the average person can’t fathom. Bukowski was never to my knowledge grouped with that lot but he was tied up with the same publishers, knew the authors, and he had opinions 😅

About the collection itself, I found the eclectic mix of fiction and nonfiction a little jarring.  I’m spoiled and used to sections and titles in short story collections now, so we know how it’s organized, but this seems like total hodgepodge or possibly chronological by publication date. I‘m not really sure why it was compiled at all (way back in 1969) unless Essex House (who published a lot of erotica) was looking for the vastest spread of sex stories possible.  Now I know that’s a vast  oversimplification but most of the stories are true, or have true elements! Some are pure fantasy (like a guy with wings playing baseball) while many others happened to some extent, and almost all include some kind of graphic sex (I’m not going there to describe it).

A few stories were sad to me, such as a vivid recounting of how years of beatings and other abuse turns someone into a living but kind of mostly dead person.  It’s an extremely personal look at his life. Alcohol, homelessness, bouncing around various places to live and taking menial jobs, abusive relationships that went both ways, these are the real life parts. Probably/hopefully exaggerated a bit but who really knows, people are crazy.

What’s interesting too is just objectively seeing what he chose to write about once he knew the editor gave precisely zero fucks and let him write whatever he wanted! Remember, everything in the book appeared in an underground newspaper.

That said, back to my note about finding the stories sad: most of the collection is pretty funny.  Bukowski said, at one point or another, that he put the comedy into his writing so that people wouldn’t pity him – and the ironic thing is that it attracted quite a few odd admirers, many of which he writes about. Some of the writing went right over my head and I had no idea what he was talking about. Some got a chuckle. Something about tiny snail assholes had me cracking up, like yeah if you eat something whole you’re eating it’s asshole too 🤣

Of the many columns and blurbs here, there is one about a party and the time Bukowski met Neal Cassady. He took a crazy car ride with Neal driving and John Bryan (who published Cassady’s letter to Kerouac in City Lights (and gave Bukowski the platform in his Open City paper to write the segments contained in Notes of a Dirty Old Man).  

P.S. John Bryan and Jesus’ balls, literally.  What a strange and irreverent road to publishing and more than a bit refreshing in today’s PC era to go back and read these old guys writing *what-the-fck-ever*.

I totally sidetracked there. Anyway, in that particular segment about meeting Cassady and his suicide, there’s quite a dig that shows how Bukowski really felt 😅

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Jack had only written the book, he wasn’t Neal’s mother, just his destructor, deliberate or otherwise 

Oyy ok let’s get this wrapping up, I’m rambling which means I had a lot of thoughts and didn’t know how to frame them. A little bit less gay bar action would have been nice for me personally but I don’t think anyone delicate or easily offended would read Bukowski past his introduction. I’m not worried about discussing the writing here. It’s irreverent in every sense of the world and the title is aptly named. I actually started listening to this book on audio because Will Patton’s voice is everything, but without actual chapter breaks it was too hard to follow.

Overall, I think Bukowski is an interesting character in American literature and I enjoy his short stories in small doses.  He’s a decent tie in for those interested in the beat generation and those looking for irreverence in everything.  Barfly (the movie he wrote about his life) wasn’t bad, I watched it after reading, but then I read that he didn’t like his actor’s portrayal.  I guess the takeaway is that you can see a lot of the stories in the film too. Anyway, give him a shot if you are checking out American short story writers


P.s. if anyone wants sources for anything I was writing about, I can find them for you for further reading. Most of the nonfiction type info is general knowledge or came vaguely summarized from a publisher’s information, or something else Bukowski wrote

Categories
Fiction Literary Fiction Mysteries

The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green (ARC & Book Club thoughts)

Hi all, here’s one of my last reviews of the year coming at you from a frozen, absolutely snowed in Christmas Eve somewhere in Western NY.

Ahhh, so that’s why reading balmy southern Gothic seemed so appealing right now.

My lovely partner Celadon Books sent me an ARC of The Kingdoms of Savannah and included their lovely book club packet for the novel.  Seeing as the ARC came in September (the book was released in July) and was unsolicited, I intended to read it this year but didn’t quite prioritize it.

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Anyway, let’s see the read and then I’ll share some thoughts


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Kingdoms of Savannah
  • Author: George Dawes Green
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, July 2022
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐for those who like mysteries and literary fiction steeped in history

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Savannah may appear to be “some town out of a fable,” with its vine flowers, turreted mansions, and ghost tours that romanticize the city’s history. But look deeper and you’ll uncover secrets, past and present, that tell a more sinister tale. It’s the story at the heart of George Dawes Green’s chilling new novel, The Kingdoms of Savannah.

It begins quietly on a balmy Southern night as some locals gather at Bo Peep’s, one of the town’s favorite watering holes. Within an hour, however, a man will be murdered and his companion will be “disappeared.” An unlikely detective, Morgana Musgrove, doyenne of Savannah society, is called upon to unravel the mystery of these crimes. Morgana is an imperious, demanding, and conniving woman, whose four grown children are weary of her schemes. But one by one she inveigles them into helping with her investigation, and soon the family uncovers some terrifying truths―truths that will rock Savannah’s power structure to its core.

Moving from the homeless encampments that ring the city to the stately homes of Savannah’s elite, Green’s novel brilliantly depicts the underbelly of a city with a dark history and the strangely mesmerizing dysfunction of a complex family


My thoughts:

So I know there is a lot of literature based in and around Savannah, which is a city in Georgia famous for ghost tours and it’s complicated southern history.  I liked reading the author’s historical and personal notes as he drew much of the book from either personal experiences or those of his friends, and from real events.  The result was a strong feeling of authenticity in setting and environment that sucked me into the story.

The balmy days, the rain, the locales, the iced tea and alcohol, the old ladies from old money maneuvering for social position… I kind of likened the reading experience to something that Wilbur Smith would put out, except maybe a little less exciting. I would love to see that author collaboration though *wink wink*

Ok back to Kingdoms – the mystery was exciting enough, except I thought that it went from zero to solved WAY too quickly and easily.  One minute they had a few leads, and the next Morgana had solved it?  I kind of followed her train of thought but I needed something more linking points A to Z.

As far as the characters… I liked them.  I think Green did a good job with their personalities and interactions and showing how the family tended to ebb and flow in their relationships with each other.  Read that as – the book nails southern Gothic. Is it bad that my favorite character was probably Gracie the dog though?  Ha, no for real though I liked the cast of family, friends, and all the homeless people, there were again just soooo many names.  My last and final thought is to mention that huge open ending! I won’t speculate for want of being spoiler free but I definitely wonder. If anyone wants to chat about it, I’m here for you 😅

Overall, this one was super readable. It was 100% a Celadon book: literary and atmospheric.  There were only 5 chapters though, very long, more like parts of the book that were divided into separate mini sections.  It made the read feel slower. The pacing was a little difficult but I was never bored while reading and did enjoy all the history and culture of Savannah.  The book club materials were awesome too – I’m not in a book club but I liked the map, further history, author interview, drink recipes, and all the discussion questions seemed well curated.

Definitely recommend for fans of family drama, southern literary fiction, mysteries.


Thanks for checking out my arc /  book review of The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green! I was sent a free early copy in exchange for an honest review, and as always all opinions are my own ♥️

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction

Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash (ARC Review)

I’m back from the trip with an ARC Review for you guys! There will be one more tomorrow before I dig into my UK book impressions post 😅

Endless thanks to my partner Celadon Books for the early print copy of Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash! The packaging and recipe card put me in the mood for this WWII read and the book definitely kept me entertained while travelling. I’ll try to bake the muffins this week and update with how that goes!

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I just love this package! Let’s take a look at the book really quick and then my thoughts on it


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Beyond That, the Sea
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Laura Spence-Ash
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 03/21/2023
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of character stories in wartime settings

Here’s the synopsis:

A sweeping, tenderhearted love story, Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash tells the story of two families living through World War II on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and the shy, irresistible young woman who will call them both her own.

As German bombs fall over London in 1940, working-class parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make an impossible choice: they decide to send their eleven-year-old daughter, Beatrix, to America. There, she’ll live with another family for the duration of the war, where they hope she’ll stay safe.

Scared and angry, feeling lonely and displaced, Bea arrives in Boston to meet the Gregorys. Mr. and Mrs. G, and their sons William and Gerald, fold Bea seamlessly into their world. She becomes part of this lively family, learning their ways and their stories, adjusting to their affluent lifestyle. Bea grows close to both boys, one older and one younger, and fills in the gap between them. Before long, before she even realizes it, life with the Gregorys feels more natural to her than the quiet, spare life with her own parents back in England.

As Bea comes into herself and relaxes into her new life—summers on the coast in Maine, new friends clamoring to hear about life across the sea—the girl she had been begins to fade away, until, abruptly, she is called home to London when the war ends.

Desperate as she is not to leave this life behind, Bea dutifully retraces her trip across the Atlantic back to her new, old world. As she returns to post-war London, the memory of her American family stays with her, never fully letting her go, and always pulling on her heart as she tries to move on and pursue love and a life of her own.

As we follow Bea over time, navigating between her two worlds, Beyond That, the Sea emerges as a beautifully written, absorbing novel, full of grace and heartache, forgiveness and understanding, loss and love


My Thoughts

Celadon tends to publish books that are more literary and atmospheric. Overall I enjoyed the story quite a bit, plus the brief chapters and multiple points of view kept the story rolling along without dragging or becoming boring.

My main issue was that there are sooo many points of view and I never settled into the flow. While it was nice to see the perspectives and opinions of all the different family members and people involved in the story, writing them in the same perspective made it a bit hard to differentiate the voices and tenses at times.  Keeping the people and ancillary characters straight in my head was hard for the first chunk of the book, and ultimately I wish there had been fewer voices.

One wonderfully helpful aspect was the timeline at the bottom of the pages. I always knew what year we were in and how much time was passing, so I hope this makes it into the final edition.

I also liked the character and family arcs, but wanted more historical info alongside them.  I didn’t know that there was a foreign exchange type program for kids whose parents wanted to send them away from the war. I would have liked to know more about it, like how the families and kids were paired up, how many kids went, etc. I think the book was more character story fictional than historical fiction in the sense of, there weren’t a lot of facts given throughout the story as events were happening and mostly glossed over.

I did like the story though and think that most people can relate to being torn between multiple lives, places, and people.  Watching Bea and the boys and the families bloom was a treat. Then there was the reconciliation as they fell apart and found each other again … Yeah, that. That’s how you do family stories.  The author excels at bringing all the feels into the pages.

Overall

There was a good mix of happy & hopeful mixed with tragedy & despair for a wartime story. I would have liked more history related to the exchange program and other lesser explored parts of the book. I also think fewer contributing voices would have streamlined the story a bit more.  Due to the reading speed, I think this will be a good book for those looking for a character driven family story this summer and I mostly enjoyed my time spent in the pages!


Thanks for checking out my early book review of Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash! I received an early copy from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review, and all opinions are my own!

Categories
Literary Fiction Thrillers

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer (Snarky Book Review)

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time you probably have heard me say that by principle, I don’t read books that have a legitimate Goodreads rating of under 3.7 ish.  Rare exceptions are made like when I happen to have time to finally read a Jeff VanderMeer and one is available, and unfortunately I picked his worst rated book by far (3.27).

Guys..don’t be me. Let’s do a quick look at the book first then I’ll share some thoughts


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Hummingbird Salamander
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jeff VanderMeer
  • Publisher & Release: MCD, 2021
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐ I mean no not really but if you are a fan of the author maybe give it a try

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

From the author of Annihilation, a brilliant speculative thriller of dark conspiracy, endangered species, and the possible end of all things.

Security consultant “Jane Smith” receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control.

Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril. Is the only way to safety to follow in Silvina’s footsteps? Is it too late to stop? As she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, time is running out—for her and possibly for the world

This book tried to be a lot of things. It tried to be dystopian and didn’t succeed.  It tried to be an eco-thriller and missed the mark. It didn’t fall anywhere into science fiction despite a lot of bird and salamander facts that ground the plot action to a halt every time he did a facts chapter.

If anything it’s a bit of a mystery and thriller at times and alternate future.  I felt like he skimmed over pandemics and chaos and the world devolving but nothing got enough attention or traction to stick with me.

The main character was absolutely terrible too. Not only because she was aloof and anonymous and her arc didn’t make a ton of sense, but she had the nerve to call herself a good wife and mother despite the fact that she cheated on her husband multiple times, almost did it again, and left them both to the wolves when she could have used her skills in security to hide and try to protect them.  Mom of the year award, right?

I didn’t even mind all the cryptic language – in fact I liked that. The anonymity and ever progressing loss of identity made sense.  It was the random springing from point A to point F that was terrible, and that the narrator really had no motivation to do anything she did (really, you’re just going to sacrifice your family and life and everything for a random mysterious letter?

When the ending came around, even with the mystery kind of solved and the motivations unveiled, even if the main character had known from the start that was what was happening and why…. Would she have done it? I really don’t know.

Basically the premise sounded really good and, yeah, you know, save the trees don’t trash the Earth and wear a mask, etc etc etc

Onwards and upwards


thanks for checking out my book review of Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer.  This copy was obtained through Libby and as always, all opinions are my own  

Categories
Fiction Horror Mysteries Science Fiction

Struggling Through Another Classic: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

You voted and I am delivering! One of my final GrimDarkTober reads is also my last 2022 edition of “Struggling Through the Classics”

Every season, I let you all vote on which classic I will read and then drop some thoughts on it! Earlier in the year I suffered through Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), then it was The Scarlet Letter, and now you all let me off the  hook fairly easily with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde!

Let me ask you all a question first – tell me in the comments, phonetically, how you pronounce Jekyll? Don’t look it up, just tell me how you read it in your head.  I never would have guessed JEE-kill, I was a JECK-ull person, but now I know that everyone says it differently. So, go tell me yours!

I guess what I didn’t remember or realize about this book is that it’s essentially a long short story.  I’d say novella but it’s really, really short.  For a “book” that has multiple full length movies and book retellings, how was it so short!

One thing that you all should never do, is quote me on anything, but since this was written in 1886 I’m pretty sure it came out prior to (or at the same time) that Freud was doing the whole three-parts-of-the-human-psyche thing, which to me makes the *idea* of Jekyll & Hyde pretty interesting.

In reality though, Stevenson managed to make Gothic London boring as hell because the book read like a legal brief.  I enjoyed the first chapter because I liked how he described the characters, and the last chapter because we got all the answers, and in between it just was a bunch of confusing stuffy old doctors and lawyers trying to piece a rather odd mystery together.

Don’t get me wrong, it was blessedly short and not a bad read at all but it seemed like a lot of leadup to a biiiig reveal/info dump that was presented in more or less the form of a legal brief.

Ahem.  Well. Onto the next one after the new year, I’ll put the next poll up sometime in December 🤣

A GoodReads Synopsis:

‘All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil’

Published as a shilling shocker, Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark psychological fantasy gave birth to the idea of the split personality. The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with damnable young man Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil.

Categories
Fiction Literary Fiction Science Fiction

Vaguely ‘The October Country’ (or: books with meaning cont.)

I feel like I’m screwing everything up this October and the blog is no exception. A hastily assembled month of guest content, genre diverse reading, and nostalgia related articles has led to my worst two weeks of views ever when I was thinking (and hoping) it would be well received.  I know the loss of Instagram traffic is hurting and change is always hard, but…. sigh, tell me again why I even bother?

Last Saturday I started some rambling thoughts on ways that a book itself potentially enhances it’s own reading experience, such as when it’s borrowed from a friend and some bookish conversation is enabled as a result. Or, in this case, when it was owned by and now a link to a deceased relative.

I’ve always gotten nostalgic reading Bradbury, especially the few remaining books I have from my uncle’s collection. The October Country is a short story anthology of some of Bradbury’s oldest stories, a macabre and fantasy-horror filled assortment of human observation and meditation on loss (among other things).  Not sci-fi. One thing I read about Bradbury recently that irked me was someone hating on the book because it wasn’t sci-fi? Like why? Authors evolve over time and sometimes write outside their classically known genre, although I do blame that on early publishers for marketing some of it as sci-fi when it’s not.

Anyway, I’ve got an old Ballantine sci-fi classics edition (see, to me this is setting the book up for undue scrutiny) of The October Country that’s falling apart at the binding.  I’m almost afraid to read it any more but also felt like thumbing through a few stories was suitable for my mood this October, as I tend to do anyway each autumn.  I don’t actually know what my mood is but it’s manifesting as smelling the book and imagining that I can still detect pipe smoke.  It’s having a minor melt down because I dropped and broke one of the last plates I had from his set, I’m supposed to be taking care of them right? It’s feeling one more page detach even though I’m barely cracking the spine and just feeling like I’m destroying everything.  

Anyway, to make this bookish, another way to connect to the physical reading experience is to know who else has owned and loved a book. As evidenced by a beaten to hell paperback that probably belongs in a dust sleeve for preservation but I don’t really think that’s what anyone would have wanted, so I continue to read a few stories every year.

I’ve only read the first few this time around and found myself enjoying and connecting with, not for the first time, the prose contained in “The Next In Line”.  With the frantic wife and the speed of her thoughts.  The evaporating warmth that keeps things (Bradbury uses the clay analogy) from moulding anew.

I’m not scared of skulls and bones…If a child was raised and didn’t know he had a skeleton in him, he wouldn’t think anything of bones, would he? … In order for a thing to be horrible it has to suffer a change you can recognize


If anyone is still following for GrimDarkTober content, I’ve got a guest review coming from Brandy at The Review Booth tomorrow, a review for Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde coming probably Monday, then a slew of guest content including a surprise interview 💀

Categories
Fiction Suspense

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth (FC Review)

Back in the spring, St Martin’s Press was kind enough to send a lovely finished hardcover of The Younger Wife my way! At that time I had done some introductory hype of the book, and then it somehow got mixed in with my general shelves and lost to time and memory 😭

Until now that is! Upon realizing I had never read it, I picked the book up and flew through it this week.  While The Younger Wife doesn’t fit in with my GrimDarkTober reading exactly, Hepworth is a master of domestic & psychological suspense, a different kind of horror that many women experience in their lives…


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Younger Wife
  • Author: Sally Hepworth
  • Publisher & Release: St Martin’s Press, April 2022
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of domestic suspense

Here’s the synopsis:

THE HUSBAND
A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

THE DAUGHTERS
Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

THE FORMER WIFE
With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the
truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

THE YOUNGER WIFE
Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?


I used to love domestic suspense books and have somehow never read this author before.  True that I mostly avoid the genre these days as I am finding them harder to read, but occasionally I like to check out the big hyped books of the year too.

The Younger Wife begins at the end of the story, with the big wedding. Someone is injured but we don’t know who, or who did it, or why yet.  The book itself then takes us through the prior year or so, from the multiple perspectives of Stephen’s two daughters and his new wife.

It’s impossible to say anything else about the book without creating spoilers, so I’ll just say that I did like this one.  Many books in this genre are notorious for going back into the past and giving 30 thousand boring details that no one cares about, which thankfully Hepworth didn’t do. She keeps the background blessedly relevant to the present story and shared just enough to drop some hints and make me care about the characters.

I did like the characters too. None of them were really what I expected after the first few pages and I didn’t dislike any of the points of view, although I didn’t have a clear favorite either.

On that note, the reason I didn’t rate the book higher was because the third person omniscient view didn’t hit home.  It’s usually one of my favorite styles but in this case it kept me a bit too detached from three very personal stories.  There are also two “I perspectives” that come at the beginning and end, but those are secrets.

It’s sometimes hard for me to read about domestic abuse and gaslighting, which may or may not have something to do with some of the family secrets alluded to in the synopsis.  Each member of the family had their own issues as adults – but where did they all come from? What exactly happened to that perfect looking family which is now in such disarray as adults? And really, why is the father marrying someone in her early 30s?

Overall: I enjoyed reading to find out these answers. It was a fast read and created a lot of tension and mystery throughout. I was worried for some of the characters. If you like domestic & psychological suspense, I would recommend giving The Younger Wife a chance!

Categories
Contemporary Fiction Literary Fiction

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen (Book Review)

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the gorgeous finished copy of Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen!

From my favorite non-SFF genre, this is a wonderful magical realism book about stories, secrets, acceptance, and the ghosts we hold onto. It’s packed full of great characters and themes that I love.

This comes with my apologies as I should have read and reviewed it already but had a terrible incident of dog vs. marshmallow from the press box (she is ok now!) and needed a little time.

So let’s look at the book, which I am highly recommending for new adult readers and all fans of magical realism!


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Other Birds
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sarah Addison Allen
  • Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Press, 08/30/22
  • Length: 290 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

Here’s the synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of Garden Spells comes an enchanting tale of lost souls, lonely strangers, secrets that shape us, and how the right flock can guide you home.

Down a narrow alley in the small coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, lies a stunning cobblestone building comprised of five apartments. It’s called The Dellawisp and it is named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey Hennessey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at The Dellawisp, she meets her quirky, enigmatic neighbors including a girl on the run, a grieving chef whose comfort food does not comfort him, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

When one of her new neighbors dies under odd circumstances the night Zoey arrives, she is thrust into the mystery of The Dellawisp, which involves missing pages from a legendary writer whose work might be hidden there. She soon discovers that many unfinished stories permeate the place, and the people around her are in as much need of healing from wrongs of the past as she is. To find their way they have to learn how to trust each other, confront their deepest fears, and let go of what haunts them.

Delightful and atmospheric, Other Birds is filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go. Sarah Addison Allen shows us that between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.


So the synopsis is absolutely dead on as far as what the book is about, and I have nothing else to add to the summary. Other Birds is full of both literal and figurative ghosts with a touch of magic throughout.  It’s not quite a GrimDarkTober read but I love it for autumn.

Zoey has moved to Mallow Island before college starts and meets the inhabitants of her mother’s old residence.  There’s a reclusive author, small little birds with big personalities, and three ghosts hanging around.  There’s a lot more too but it’s worth discovering on your own.

I loved the characters.  Each had a lot of childhood trauma in different forms and as they grew up, hoarded love where they could find it.  Everyone was broken in some way and I don’t always love books like this but I did like how Zoey brought everyone at The Dellawisp together and eventually they all found a lot of individual closure.

The theme of letting go to old loves and making room for new ones was touching and I have to give the book 1/2 of a bonus star for making me tear up.  (If anyone remembers my infamous bonus system: real tears is +1 star,  watery eyes is +1/2 star, real laughter is +1 star, chuckles is 1/2 star. Basically make me feel something and I give bonus stars).  What really got me was the point about how on whatever level of abuse occurs, whether it’s horrendous neglect, physical, or just not having a place in your own family for whatever reason –  sometimes it’s better to leave and find your own people. 

The other high point was that the book maintained a level of mystery and and ongoing discovery that kept me interested.  Who was prowling around at night? What was really going on with these characters – including the ghosts? It kept itself interesting and the reveals came at a steady pace.  Some I never saw coming, some I did, and it was a good mix.

The setting and atmosphere was piled on thick too, but this is one of the most character driven books that I’ve truly enjoyed recently. At the end of the day I had a few issues with how the various points of view were thrown together in each chapter, but I love the third person present tense.  It’s an intimate approach and such a generally wholesome book for the new adult like age 18+ readers that I’m just going with 5 stars.  

Anyway, here are a few quotes that packed a lot of punch for me:

Stories aren’t fiction. Stories are fabric. They’re the white sheets we drop over our ghosts so we can see them


It made him even more scared of rejection, because who would ever believe in a loneliness so overwhelming that you called upon a ghost to alleviate it?


Overall I highly recommend this one for fans of women’s fiction, magical realism, and new adult readers!

As a bonus: here are the press kit photos I took! Thank you again to the publisher for the book and box and all the support along the way ❤️

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction Horror

Wizard & Glass by Stephen King (or, why I can’t finish a series)

Ever notice that I tend to get about three or four books into a series and then quit? The fact is that in between ARCs I never had time to read these giant, door stopping books, and once they got above 8-900 pages I was just about out of luck …

Well, this book was one of these clonkers. It took me two weeks to get through it even listening on partial audio (28 hours total 😭) so it’s kind of easy to see where a reader with deadlines gets to these longer books and comes to a screeching halt.

Or maybe that’s just me.  Anyway, the great Mark Lawrence wrote (see GoodReads) that you are either a Roland (and hate Wizard & Glass because no progress is made) or an Oy (you love everything about the journey despite it being a giant flashback).

For once I am glad that I’m taking the time to be an Oy, and this is a more than appropriate kickoff to GrimDarkTober.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wizard & Glass
  • Series: The Dark Tower #4
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Grant, 1997
  • Length: 704 original hardcover (my PB around 930 pages) 
  • Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ I’m team “enjoy the journey”

Here’s the synopsis:

Roland the Gunslinger, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake survive Blaine the Mono’s final crash, only to find themselves stranded in an alternate version of Topeka, Kansas, that has been ravaged by the superflu virus. While following the deserted I-70 toward a distant glass palace, Roland recounts his tragic story about a seaside town called Hambry, where he fell in love with a girl named Susan Delgado, and where he and his old tet-mates Alain and Cuthbert battled the forces of John Farson, the harrier who—with a little help from a seeing sphere called Maerlyn’s Grapefruit—ignited Mid-World’s final war

So this book started out where The Wastelands left off, in an epic riddling contest between Eddie and Blaine the Mono. Was I belly laughing at the dead baby jokes? 

Um…. Maybe? I had a cathartic laughing experience at the baby and the SuperFlu one, I have such tied up feelings about pandemics and it’s not usually who I am but I think I just needed to laugh at something particularly horrible.  Some inner turmoil definitely released there, so thank you Mr King.

Anyway, Eddie is probably turning into one of my favorite book characters of all time, even if our main characters essentially drop off the page once Roland starts his story.

It’s creepy, dark, witchy, mystical, had me absolutely cringing at some especially gory parts, and was everything I’ve come to expect from King at this point.  I wanted Roland and Cuthbert and Alain to succeed. It was painful to watch youth and inexperience war against the more hardened players as they uncovered the true goings on in Hambry.

Not going to lie, I’m all for Roland and Susan too.  I was actually pretty broken up about how that all ended.  P.S. none of this is spoilery, it’s all alluded to in prior books.

Character wise – really quick – yes I liked the boys and their personalities. It was nice to finally “meet” them. Rhea the witch is probably the creepiest witch I’ve read in a LONG time, and more than once I had to put it down and go think non-gorey thoughts for a bit.  Sheemie was the real hero in the pages for sure.

One thing that struck me was the level of anticipatory grief that I was having for certain character deaths that actually never occured. They have to happen at some point but not all happened here and for that I was glad, because it was hard enough to read what was already there.

I do wish that King hadn’t essentially gone all Wizard of Oz at the end. It was just weird, and felt a lot weirder than the whole Charlie the Train thing he had going on before.  I won’t hold the ending against the rest of the book but it did put a weird taste in my mouth after such a disturbingly wonderful journey.

Quick note on what I heard from Frank Muller when I was listening – he’s a great narrator and added a LOT to the story, made my skin crawl reading Rhea’s parts!

Long story short: I’m an Oy. I appreciated the journey and am excited to keep reading forward.  When will I have time for the next book, even longer at 931 pages? I hope next month! 


The Dark Tower series so far:

1. The Gunslinger

2. The Drawing of the Three 

3. The Waste Lands