Monday, March 29, 2021

Book Review | Be Wary of the Silent Woods by Svetlana Chmakova

Be Wary of the Silent Woods is the first book in the Weirn Books series by Svetlana Chmakova.

Be Wary of the Silent Woods by Svetlana Chmakova

In the Night Realm, vampires, shifters, weirns, and other night things passing for human prowl the streets... but they still have to go to school! Ailis and Na'ya are pretty average students (NOT losers), but when a shadow starts looming and a classmate gets all weird, they are the first to notice. It gets personal, though, when Na'ya's little brother D'esh disappears-It's time to confront the secrets of the forbidden mansion in the Silent Woods!

Join the acclaimed author of Awkward, Svetlana Chmakova, for an outing into her favorite fantastical world full of magic and adventure!


This is a catch up review from last year! Be Wary of the Silent Woods was one of my favorite books of last year. I featured it on my Favorite Books of 2020 post, but I never posted a proper review for it.

2020 was an amazing year for middle grade books, and Be Wary of the Silent Woods was another home run for me. Be Wary of the Silent Woods is the first volume in the The Weirn Books series. It's a graphic novel, and I adored it.

A weirn is a witch born with a demon guardian spirit bound to them for life.

The guardian spirits reminded me of the daemons in the His Dark Materials series. They did not have a big role in this first volume which makes me really excited to see what comes next. I would love to know more about them. This first volume focused mostly on the kids, the night school, and the mystery of the creepy old house in the silent woods.

Even though this is just volume one, we are treated to a full story here. I cannot wait for the next volume in this series! Svetlana Chmakova wrote a previous series set in this same world called "Nightschool: The Weirn Books". I'm going to need to track those down along with her other series to tide me over. 

⭐⭐💫
4.5/5 stars

Jennifer

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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Book Review | Alone by Megan E. Freeman


  Alone is middle grade survival story by Megan E. Freeman.

Alone by Megan E. Freeman

When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned. With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten. As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?

I'm back with some more middle grade horror today! I was really excited when I discovered Alone because it sounded dystopian to me, and I couldn't remember having read anything like it. I instantly preordered because I was so intrigued! I didn't realize at the time that Alone was written in verse. To be perfectly honest, I was worried when I found out. I have DNF'ed several middle grade books over the years that were written in verse, but I had absolutely no problems with the writing or the structure of Alone. I think that format enhanced Alone!

I was also excited that the main character had a dog as her companion. (This is one of the reasons that I read Alone this month - Barb is hosting her annual puppy love challenge to read a book in February featuring a dog.)

Overall I really enjoyed Alone. I felt like I was on this survival adventure right along with Maddie. I loved her as a character, and I loved her rottweiler George. The premise is Maddie wakes up to find herself entirely alone in her world. She has to figure out how to gather supplies and survive on her own. I think kids who like survival stories would enjoy this and find it to be quite unique. The first night I started reading Alone, I had nightmares about my youngest child being left behind to survive on his own.

I could really feel Maddie's loneliness while reading Alone. I think being written in verse, it was a perfect vehicle to express a lot of Maddie's emotions. There's a section at the end that includes one of my favorite poems of all times - The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. I think that section is just so beautiful.

As much I did enjoy Alone - I have some complaints. Everyone left in the middle of just one night. Not just in Maddie's town but in the surrounding towns, too. Everyone left their cell phones and all of their pets behind. The only reason was convenience to the plot. I know a lot of my followers have trouble with animal death. These pets were left behind in cages and in homes. There is also a bad guy in Alone, and this is proven via a kitten. Any reason the author could have given for everyone to leave especially without their cell phones or their pets would have been better than the one we got.

When it comes to middle grade horror, I pass any books that I like on to my kids, and I donate the rest. Despite my complaints, I will pass this one on to them. I have no doubts they will have the same issues, but it's still a book that really sucks you in and makes you care. If you have kids in your life or in your class who love survival stories, I still say add this to your collection. They will fall for Maddie and George, and they will likely enjoy the unique way this story is presented through verse.
 
⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars

Jennifer

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review | Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Lakewood is a debut horror novel by Megan Giddings.

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of medical experimentation—part The Handmaid’s Tale, part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.

On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.

The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.

Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.

I read Lakewood with the Ladies of Horror Fiction Goodreads group. I didn't realize Lakewood was being compared to The Handmaid's Tale. I also see now appropriate comparisons to Catherine House. I'm not a fan of either of those works so I want to start out by saying I'm probably not the right audience for Lakewood.

The exploration of medical experimentation and race in Lakewood was chilling, and I loved Megan Gidding's writing style.

I like there to be a strong balance between plot and character development, and I felt both of these were lacking in Lakewood (as well as in The Handmaid's Tale and Catherine House).

If you are someone who likes to focus more on the narrative than on the plot, Lakewood might be the right fit for you. I think this is a strong debut, and I will keep my eye out for Gidding's next release.

⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars


Jennifer

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Friday, February 19, 2021

Book Review | Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon is a middle grade horror novel.

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

One of our most iconic childhood games receives a creepy twist as it becomes the gateway to a nightmare world.

I went up the hill, the hill was muddy, stomped my toe and made it bloody, should I wash it?

Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend.Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was . . . different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee's welcome home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play Hide and Seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong.

One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.


Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon absolutely blew me away. Not only is it a scary middle grade novel - this is a straight up MG horror - it has a lot of heart. Friendship, family, terror. You guys have seen me praise a lot of middle grade horror lately, and this is one I highly, highly recommend. Put it in your classrooms, put it in your libraries, buy it for your kids, buy it for yourself. I was an absolute mess reading this book. Books like Hide and Seeker are exactly why I read - and will continue to read - middle grade. I haven't found an adult book with this kind of heart in a long time.


5/5 stars

Jennifer

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Book Review | Cradleland of Parasites by Sara Tantlinger

Cradleland of Parasites is a horror poetry collection by Sara Tantlinger.

Cradleland of Parasites by Sara Tantlinger

Bram Stoker Award-winner Sara Tantlinger delivers her CRADLELAND OF PARASITES, a harrowing and darkly gorgeous collection of poetry chronicling the death and devastation of one of history's greatest horrors: The Black Plague.

I have fallen upon a few plague novels over the course of the pandemic. It's very surreal to read about plagues, pandemics, the history of harsh and fatal diseases while living through a pandemic. It definitely heightens the works that I have been reading lately!

The poems in Cradleland of Parasites center around The Black Plague. Wow, these poems were dark and brutal and beautiful. Some of my favorites were Second Pandemic, Moral Decay, Death Knell, and An Advanced Society.

Cradleland of Parasites was my first poetry collection by Sara Tantlinger. I read and loved her novella To Be Devoured which definitely had a poetic quality to it. I look forward to checking out more from her in the future!

⭐⭐⭐💫
3.5/5 stars

Review copy provided by author

Jennifer

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