Thursday, January 28, 2021

Book Review | A Complex Accident of Life by Jessica McHugh

 A Complex Accident of Life is a poetry collection by Jessica McHugh.

A Complex Accident of Life by Jessica McHugh

Inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Jessica McHugh's debut poetry collection, A Complex Accident of Life, combines visual art and text to create 52 pieces of Gothic blackout poetry exploring the intense passion, enigmatic nature, and transformative pleasure of life, viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of a female horror artist.

Wow, I really loved this collection. It was written using the blackout poetry technique where you use words contained within an existing text and blackout the rest creating a poem. I'll post an example from this collection here:


I must own my purpose.
Courage and hope will demand all my fortitude,
And there is a great remaining road between
     Angel     and     intention.

All of the poems in this collection were created using pages out of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I loved it. The poems were incredible, and I'm really inspired by the whole process.

If you're a fan of poetry, do check it out.

4.5/5 stars


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Monday, January 25, 2021

Book Review | Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

Scritch Scratch is a middle grade horror novel by Lindsay Currie.

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

A ghost story about a malevolent spirit, an unlucky girl, and a haunting mystery that will tie the two together.

Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She’s a scientist, which is why she can’t think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she’s made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There’s something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour…he’s gone.

Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad’s ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something...and Claire needs to find out what before it’s too late.

I was excited about reading Scritch Scratch because it was marketed really well as a middle grade horror (versus leaning more toward fantasy or mystery). It embraced the creepy ghost story side whole-heartedly so I was thrilled to give it a read.

Unfortunately Scritch Scratch did not turn out to be a favorite middle grade book for me.

In Scritch Scratch, we are following a young girl name Claire whose father owns a ghost tour business. Early on in the book Claire has to help her father run his ghost tour one night, and not only does Claire meet a ghost - it follows her home.

I loved all of the scary things that began happening around Claire. Hauntings are my favorite subgenre, and I think it's the perfect way to pull young readers into loving horror. I did not, however, love Claire. Her attitude toward her parents and her friends just wasn't endearing. I found myself wishing this story had been told through her friend's eyes instead (think My Best Friend's Exorcism). I also didn't feel like any of the relationships or the dialog were very realistic.
That's the arguably objective side of my review. As for the subjective side, I had no idea this story was based on real events. I do not do well with real life child trauma and/or death. I would much prefer my horrors to all be fiction, and this book turned out to be one I personally wish I had skipped reading on that fact alone. 

/5 stars


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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Book Review | The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

The Mulberry Tree is a horror-adjacent middle grade mystery by Allison Rushby.

The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

Is the eerie tree beside their bucolic cottage really a threat to ten-year-old Immy? Legend and hearsay give way to a creepy series of events in a captivating mystery.

Do naught wrong by the mulberry tree, or she’ll take your daughters . . . one, two, three.

Ten-year-old Immy and her family have run away from their storm cloud of problems to a tiny village in Cambridgeshire, England, where her depressed physician father can take a sabbatical and get back on his feet. Luckily, they find an adorable thatched cottage to begin a new life in. But their new home comes with one downside: in the backyard, there is an ancient, dark, and fierce-looking mulberry tree that has ceased bearing any fruit. There’s a legend that the towering tree steals away girls who live in the cottage on the eve of their eleventh birthday, and villagers even cross the street when they pass by the house. Of course, Immy thinks this is all ridiculous. But then she starts to hear a strange song in her head. . . . In a page-turner perfect for middle-graders, Allison Rushby folds themes of new-school travails, finding friends, being embarrassed by parents, and learning empathy into a deliciously goose-bumpy supernatural mystery.

I love, love, love creepy trees. As soon as I read the description for The Mulberry Tree, I knew I needed to read it.

For the most part The Mulberry Tree lived up to my expectations. The tree was indeed a character in this book, and it didn't come across as some literary analogy with a deeper meaning to be extracted by the reader. It was a creepy tree with creepy intentions, and I loved that about this book.

Some of The Mulberry Tree was hard hitting. The dad was dealing with depression, and Immy was dealing with a parent who just wasn't around the same way that they used to be. It really pulled on my emotions, and I loved the relationship that Immy had with her dad and with the people around her in the village.

My only complaint was the ending. It wasn't a bad ending at all, but it took something away from my overall experience with The Mulberry Tree. I felt like the book deserved a little bit more of a messy ending instead of one so neatly wrapped up. I still highly recommend it, though. My creepy tree loving self is so happy to have read it. It's one I'm definitely passing on to my kids. I think they'll love it, too.

4/5 stars


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Monday, January 18, 2021

Book Review | Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

Across the Green Grass Fields is the sixth book in the Wayward Children fantasy series by Seanan McGuire.

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

A young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire's Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series.

“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to "Be Sure" before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

I love the Wayward Children series so much. My favorite books in the series are the stand alone ones that take the reader to a completely new world. I'm so excited that Across the Green Grass Fields falls into the portal fantasy side of this series.

In Across the Green Grass Fields we meet Regan. Regan is an intersex girl who loves horses, and she manages to find herself through a doorway to the Hooflands as one does with this series.

This book broke my heart into pieces in the way that this series always breaks my heart into pieces. I can't get enough of it, and please, please, please Ms. McGuire let me see Regan again. As much as I crave these portal fantasies, I'm ready for the school timeline to come around again. I have so many wayward friends I need to check on now, OK?

That's all I have to say. I loved this book, and now I wait for more.

4.5/5 stars


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Friday, January 15, 2021

Book Review | Root Magic by Eden Royce

 Root Magic is a middle grade horror/fantasy by Eden Royce.

From debut writer Eden Royce comes a wondrous historical ghost story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—an unforgettable tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic.

It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven—and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going train them in rootwork.

Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs...and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.

Debut author Eden Royce arrives with a wondrous story of love, bravery, friendship, and family, filled to the brim with magic great and small.

My ultimate hope for this book is that teachers and librarians who are looking for books for their spooky-loving readers will add this book to their shelves.

There's so much history and Gullah culture in Root Magic. Set in South Carolina in 1963, it follows Jezebel, her twin brother Jay, and their family just after the passing of their grandmother. The time has come for Jezebel and Jay to learn about rootwork and discover what they are capable of.

Can we also talk about the disturbing content in middle grade horror, please? People have such misconceptions about MG and YA, and I'm telling you - MG is where the disturbing stuff is at lately!

Root Magic touched on my spookiest fear as a girl. This book would have simultaneously terrified me and captured my heart. Then it went places I didn't know I needed to fear!

Root Magic did feel like a debut novel, but there was so much depth to it. I loved the characters, the family, the friendships, the emotions, the horrors. It checked all of my middle grade boxes. I'm planning to read a lot of middle grade horror this year, and I'm anxious to see if any of them will be able to top Root Magic.

4.5/5 stars


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Monday, January 4, 2021

Book Review | The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey

The Trials of Koli is the second book in the Rampart Trilogy by M.R. Carey.

The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey

The Trials of Koli is the second novel in M R. Carey’s breathtakingly original Rampart trilogy, set in a strange and deadly world of our own making.

Beyond the walls of Koli’s small village lies a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and shunned men. As an exile, Koli’s been forced to journey out into this mysterious, hostile world. But he heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If Koli can find it, there may still be a way for him to redeem himself – by saving what’s left of humankind.

I'm continuing to really enjoy this series. I think The Trials of Koli was even better than The Book of Koli. There's more of what I wanted from the first one - more POV, more world building.

I loved having the perspective of someone who was still in Mythen Rood (Spinner) as well as Koli's viewpoint outside of the village. I enjoyed all of the characters and their relationships throughout The Trials of Koli. I'm also glad we got to learn more about the choker trees and the nature of the world they are living in.

The Rampart Trilogy feels like one big book split into three parts so I don't think The Trials of Koli can be read on its own. It's a solid middle book, though. I will definitely recommend the series as a whole if I enjoy the final book as much as I've enjoyed the first two installments.

4/5 stars


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Sunday, January 3, 2021

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | January 3

I hope you all had a wonderful New Years Eve/Day. My neighbors were over the top with the fireworks this year. I think everyone was so excited 2020 was over they all got carried away.

If you didn't see my most anticipated books of 2021 post last week, be sure to check that out. I'm already excited about 92 books coming out this year. 😳

Disney-Pixar Soul

We watched Soul last night, and I absolutely loved it. It was the perfect movie to start the new year.

Posted Last Week


Finished Reading

The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey

I have just a few chapters left in The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey so I'm including it here as I will finish it up this morning right after posting this. I'm loving this series. I think I liked this one even more than The Book of Koli, and I can't wait for the third book of the trilogy later this year.

Currently Reading

Fairest Flesh by K.P. Kulski The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson Helena Claire L. Smith

Each year the Ladies of Horror Fiction team challenges the community to select a horror book written by a women as their first book of the year. This year I chose Fairest Flesh by K.P. Kulski as my Ladies First pick.

I'm finally reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson! I've been trying to figure out when to commit to these books, and my friend Brad invited me to join him in reading them throughout this year so I jumped at the chance. We are reading two chapters a day so this one will take us into mid-February.

I also started reading Helena Claire L. Smith.

Added to the TBR

Sadie by Courtney Summers Lexicon by Max Barry The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang

Courtney Summers has a new book coming out this year that I'm excited to read, and since I've never read Sadie I am hoping to read it as well.

I'm hoping to read more scifi in 2021 so I got a copy of Lexicon by Max Barry as well.

After seeing The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang on so many best of lists, I had to grab a copy of the audio to see for myself!

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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