Friday, April 28, 2023

Review: THE BOOK OF SPECULATION by Erika Swyler


Rating: 2/5 stars

The Book of Speculation is objectively good; it’s well-written with fleshed-out characters and an interesting plot. “A librarian vs. the sea vs. his house vs. his sister vs. a curse,” as the author describes it. It’s mysterious with lyrical writing. 

Subjectively, however, this book is simply not for me. 

My coworker described this novel as Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore plus Night Circus plus Water for Elephants, and I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description. It’s a tricky description for me though because I rated those books 5, 4, and 3 stars, respectively, so I really had no clue how The Book of Speculation was going to go. I decided to rate it 2 stars purely for my enjoyment level, but it’s not a bad book by any means, and I’d definitely recommend it if you think it sounds up your alley. 

I’ve come to realize that I do not like books that center around a circus (Night Circus being the singular exception here). I also do not care about tarot cards, and those play a pretty big role in this novel. Mermaids also play a big role in this book, and I’m pretty impartial to them as well. Subsequently, I was not really attached to any of the characters, even though they were written well, so I wasn’t very invested in them uncovering truths about their past. And lastly, this book was weirdly similar to another book I was reading at the same time that I didn’t enjoy (The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender) even though they had no right being so similar, but I think the comparison was slowly turning me off of this novel. 

In short, this is a good book but it’s not a good book for me. I hope if you read it that it’s good for you though. 

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Review: BRING ME YOUR MIDNIGHT by Rachel Griffin


Rating: 5/5 stars 

I've been a fan of Rachel Griffin since the release of her first novel, The Nature of Witches. After reading her sophomore novel, Wild Is the Witch, and now her newest novel, Bring Me Your Midnight, I can safely say that Rachel Griffin is an auto-read author for me at this point. 

Each of her stories so far has been a cozy contemporary fantasy set in the Pacific Northwest (my favorite location on earth!) about a witch learning to use her magic while also falling in love. The books are fun, fast-paced, emotional, and heartwarming. 

Bring Me Your Midnight is Rachel's strongest book yet! I loved every minute of it and completely flew through the story. This novel contrasts the duty one has to their family, their ancestors, and their community with the desires of their heart that are completely at odds with what is expected of them. Would you let down everyone around you for your own happiness, or sacrifice your own happiness and future for the safety and happiness of those closest to you? This is the dilemma that the protagonist, Tana Fairchild, faces in this novel. 

As the coven leader's daughter, Tana has been expected since birth to marry the governor's son, Landon, to secure an alliance between the witches on the island and the non-magic humans on the mainland. Tana has always agreed to this plan, until she meets Wolfe, a member of the forbidden dark magic coven, and learns that her coven's magic is slowly killing their island and the surrounding ocean. As Tana learns the truth about her coven's history and the truth about her magic, she will have to decide on a fate that will affect not only her future but the future of everyone in her coven. Bring Me Your Midnight deals with the consequences of one's choices and how something can be both good and bad, both desirable and undesirable at the same time. 

This novel was magically ethereal and thoroughly enjoyable. If you haven't read a Rachel Griffin book yet and love cozy and romantic witchy stories, definitely check out Bring Me Your Midnight. I can't wait to see what novels she has planned for the future. 

Review: STARLING HOUSE by Alix E. Harrow


Rating: 4.75/5 stars

Arthur Starling is the mysterious and rarely seen Warden of Starling House, protecting the surrounding land from the Beasts of the Underland that may or may not lurk beneath the house. 

Opal will do anything for her brother, Jasper, to help him leave their small town for good and make his way in the world, including confronting Starling House and its reclusive sole resident. 

While this contemporary southern gothic fairytale is told from the dueling perspectives of both Arthur and Opal, neither is truly the main character of this novel; the house itself lies at the center of the story. 

I love stories containing a creepy, old house, and better yet if the house is a sentient character in the story. The Starling house is darkly magical, mysterious and beautiful, while also crumbling in disrepair. It’s a labyrinth that haunts people’s dreams to draw them to it. And it might also be haunted itself. 

The imagery and vivid descriptions in this story captivated me from the very beginning. I loved letting my mind get lost in Eden, Kentucky while also being glad that I wasn’t physically present in this creepy accident-prone small town.

Starling House is an ethereal and transportive novel perfect for those interested in the dark secrets of a cursed town, an old house with monsters inside, generational history that gets twisted throughout time, family ties and found family bonds stronger than steel, a pair of protagonists fighting for survival, and a swoony romance that rivals that of Howl and Sophie (from Howl’s Moving Castle, another incredible book featuring a sentient house). 

Starling House was one of my most anticipated books of 2023, and it’s definitely on my list of top books I’ve read so far this year. I love Alix Harrow’s lyrical and beautiful writing, and I will continue to read anything she publishes. This is her best novel yet, and it’s a strong recommendation from me.



Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF at 48%. 

The concept of this book sounded really interesting to me: left-handed booksellers and right-handed booksellers, the fighters and the creatives. An underground secret society in London.

Unfortunately, everything about this was a letdown for me. This book is marketed as a young adult fantasy, but it reads like a middle-grade contemporary, except has swearing similar to a young adult or adult novel, so it all just feels really jarring to read. 

The entire story so far was about Susan becoming close with the booksellers as they help her try to discover who her father was. I’m sorry but that is not an exciting plotline in what was supposed to be a fantastical and mysterious novel. It was rather slow-moving as well.

Ultimately I realized that I didn’t care about a single character or what happened to them or who Susan’s father was or any implications related to that. The entire story was boring, in my opinion, and I didn’t care to spend any more time reading it when I could spend time reading a book that actually excites me.

Review: POP KIDS by Davey Havok


Rating: 0.25/5 stars

DNF at 13%. 

I remember walking into Barnes and Noble on this book’s release day over ten years ago and seeing a stepladder display at the front of the store entirely filled with copies of Pop Kids. Drawn to the eye-catching hot pink cover, I excitedly grabbed myself a copy and checked out. Then I proceeded to put this book on my shelf and not touch it for a decade. 

I have been a fan of AFI since middle school, and the band’s vocalist is the author of this book, which is the sole reason I wanted to read it. I enjoy a lot of the lyrics he has written for his songs, so I figured some of that writing skill would transfer to his novel.

I was wrong. 

I think the main reason this book sat unread for so long is that the synopsis never sounded interesting to me. A bunch of teens doing unrelatable but stereotypical teenage things like having sex, stealing the car, skipping school, having sex, doing drugs, having big opinions, and did I mention having sex? The short amount of this book I read was truly repulsive and so over-the-top vulgar and sexual that I just could not continue. Included in that is the very uncomfortably misogynistic way he writes about females, as if they are made of only boobs and genitals and have no personality or depth. 

This book is a big disappointment for sure, and not just because of the subject matter. Davey’s writing in his novel is not at all reminiscent of his profound lyrics I’m used to hearing, and I have a hard time believing the same person who wrote this book also wrote the band’s songs that I love. 

My other major problem with this book is the highly apparent and egregious lack of any kind of editing whatsoever. If you are in a world-famous band and can afford to pay for your (self-published) book to be on a full stepladder display at the front of the biggest bookstore in the country, you can afford to hire an editor. It wasn’t just punctuation or formatting issues—of which there were many—but there were misspellings aplenty, word choice issues, redundant scenes and sentences, and many other problems on every single page that made focusing on the actual content of the story quite difficult (especially for an editor like myself who has a keen eye for the small details). Plus the many pop culture references felt very dated and have not aged well, adding a layer of cringe to my already poor reading experience.

This review is probably the harshest I’ve ever written, but Davey Havok will never see it, and honestly it’s in good company (unfortunately). I would not recommend this book at all and truly wish I could just forget everything I read of it. I’ve always been 100% honest in my reviews so I hate to say that, but it’s the truth. The only positive thing I can say about Pop Kids is that I genuinely like the cover. But that is sadly it, my friends. 

Review: THE BEAUTIFUL ONES by Silvia Moreno-Garcia


Rating: 2/5 stars

Okay so the beginning of the book was pretty slow, sitting at around a two-star rating. Then the middle of the book was quite boring and I really didn’t care at all what was happening. I almost DNFed twice, and I thought for sure I would rate this book one star. Then the ending of the book was incredible! I don’t know what happened to turn things around so completely but I was enthralled by the last two hours of the audiobook and loved the conclusion.

The Beautiful Ones takes place around the turn of the twentieth century (I think) and follows Nina as she makes her debut in high society. She ends up falling for an entertainer named Hector, who has telekinetic abilities like herself. The novel follows their tumultuous romance full of passion, betrayal, grief, desire, and lies.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s writing was excellent in this novel, and I’m looking forward to reading more books by her. I think my main problem with this book was the historical setting and the slow pace of the narrative. I normally like character-driven stories but I didn’t find the characters to be very likable here so I didn’t want to spend time getting to know them.

I think The Beautiful Ones will be an excellent book for the right audience, of which I was not. It reminded me of The Great Gatsby mixed with The Last Tale of the Flower Bride, both of which I didn’t love. If you enjoy historical narratives featuring wealthy characters who are insufferable combined with a tale of passion and love and featuring just a dash of the fantastical, then you might consider checking out this story.