Category Archives: Book Review

Labyrinth by Ron Currie, Jr.

Overview
Image result for xo orpheus book cover

Title: Labyrinth
Author: Ron Currie, Jr.
In: Xo Orpheus (Kate Bernheimer)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Mythology, Rambling
Dates read: 18th August 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 2013
5th sentence, 74th page: It’s not as though Americans invented this type of justification for murder, of course.

Synopsis

Once there was a boy whose father built a labyrinth.

This is a different story from the one you know. This father didn’t build the labyrinth to imprison a half-man, half-bovine monster. He didn’t build it to appease a king. No one’s going to fashion wings out of feathers and wax, and no one will plummet into the ocean to demonstrate the price of hubris.

Thoughts

I spent a lot of time reading this short story, trying to figure out how, in fact, it WAS a story. And then I got to that last page which said this was a non-story and I felt far less stupid and lame.

The labyrinth is something that I’ve always imagined as being rambling and nonsensical. Impossible to define or hold onto. Kind of like memories… and for me, this whole story was a metaphor for that illusivity.

This was disgustingly enjoyable and fun. It was really hard to keep track of and follow, but that’s what I loved so much about it.

<- DevouringsThe Last Flight of Daedalus ->

Image source: Goodreads

A Wild Life by Martin Hughes-Games

Overview
A Wild Life by Martin Hughes-Games

Title: A Wild Life
Author: Martin Hughes-Games
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: BBC, Media, Nature
Dates read: 17th – 18th August 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Corsair
Year: 2016
5th sentence, 74th page: Every dead tree sticking up out of the water had its own osprey.

Synopsis

The frozen wastes of the Southern Ocean; the tropical rainforests of South America, the scorching grasslands of Africa, the dizzy heights of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas: Martin Hughes-Games has been to every continent on earth filming natural history programmes.

We all know Martin as a member of the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch team, but before his presenting days he spent many years behind the camera producing wildlife documentaries. During a career spanning more than three decades, he has captured the extraordinary life and diversity of the animal kingdom on film – from bloodthirsty bats and man-eating tigers, to huge elephant seals and tiny but ever so painful centipedes.

Warmly told with humour and an inimitable style, and packed with insightful facts from the natural world, II A Wild Life II has to be one of the natural history books of the year.

Thoughts

This was a phenomenal novel. I’m a huge fan of BBC documentaries and all things nature. But I’d never really thought of reading something by a producer of these shows. Now I feel like this is a whole new, untapped area to sink my teeth into…

Each chapter in this novel features a different moment of production challenge in Hughes-Games adventures. They’re almost like separate, short stories. And each is as intense and intriguing as the last.

Encompassing the world and the many different ecosystems we have, you get to go on some very exciting journeys. Not only this, but the stories span the decades, giving insight into times and practices that may not quite be possible anymore.

There were so many moments in this that I don’t think I’ll forget. But the tales of the Mahout are probably the ones that struck me most deeply. Probably because they’re far out of my experience that I just can’t quote fathom it. Which, if I’m being honest, is frequently why I read…

This is an amazing book. Not only filled with nature and adventure, but also the challenges and intricacies of production that I had never even considered before.

<- Gorillas in the MistThe Outrun ->

Image source: Goodreads

Anna by F. Paul Wilson

Overview
Hauntings: Datlow, Ellen: 9781616960889: Amazon.com: Books

Title: Anna
Author: F. Paul Wilson
In: Hauntings (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Horror, Murder
Dates read: 18th August 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2013
5th sentence, 74th page: Morley watched the fabric and padding of the stool dissolve in a burst of flame, watched the wood of the seat and legs char and smoke and burn and crumble.

Synopsis

He thought he was just buying a beautiful foot stool. But then the wood in his house starts to attack him and he has to open the door to the past… a past that is unexpectedly dark.

Thoughts

There is nothing I like better than a story in which the bad guy gets his comeuppance. I didnt quite realise that this would be one such story until I got about halfway through, but then I felt wonderfully happy and vindicated.

As someone who loves woodwork, I kind of liked the idea of the woodwork doing the haunting. To begin with, your not quite sure WHY Bill keeps getting stabbed by his footstool, but as the past unravels… *shudder.

This was definitely a well themed hauntings question. It was a tale that made me slightly cringe and grin throughout. Wonderful and a little spooky, definitely loved this short tale.

<- Closing TimeMr. Fiddlehead ->

Image source: Amazon

Baby by Kathe Koja

Overview
Image result for teeth ellen datlow terri windling book cover

Title: Baby
Author: Kathe Koja
In: Teeth: Vampire Tales (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 3.5 (Liked this)
My Bookshelves: Horror, Vampires
Dates read: 18th August 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Harper
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: I was pretty scared, and pretty mad, when I got home.

Synopsis

She’s growing up and leaving the past toys of her childhood behind. But in this case, that’s a little bit more difficult and dark than expected…

Thoughts

I find dolls creepy (I hope to god I don’t have a doll obsessed kid)… and, once I realised that the vampire like creature in this was, in fact, a creepy doll.. ick.

Honestly, I didn’t really love this story. I didn’t hate it… but it wasn’t my favourite. Probably the doll thing. There is just something about them that is… nope nope nope. Especially ones with glass eyes.

I did like the take on vampires, magic and familiars in this. It was a little dark and twisty, kind of convoluted and not what I expected at all. Which is what I truly love in a short story.

<- SunbleachedIn the Future When All’s Well ->

Image source: HarperCollins

The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story by Libba Bray

Overview
A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology by Dhonielle Clayton

Title: The Scarlet Woman
Author: Libba Bray
Series: Gemma Doyle Companion
In: A Universe of Wishes (Dhonielle Clayton)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Historical fiction, Paranormal fantasy, Young adult
Dates read: 17th August 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Crown
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: The bulk of my correspondence comes from my grandmama, who, in between complaining about various ailments, never misses an opportunity to remind me that, at nineteen, if I don’t find a husband soon, I will become unmarriageable – though, she remarks, she isn’t sure that I am marriageable at all.

Synopsis

Gemma Doyle feels like she’s finally moving on from the magic and mayhem of her past. But, then a confusing note sends everything crashing back down on her head.

Thoughts

I remember buying A Great and Terrible Beauty a while ago, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading it. This short story based in the world of Gemma Doyle has certainly made me feel tempted though.

I found a lot fo this story hard to understand and follow. Probably because I haven’t read the greater series and so I don’t have a lot of backstory. But, it was still a great adventure.

A good short story can have a seriously open ended ending. This is like that. It makes me think this takes place between books in the Gemma Doyle series… otherwise it is just way too… unsolved for my liking.

<- The Silk BladeCristal Y Ceniza ->

Image source: Goodreads

On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle

Overview
On What Grounds (Coffeehouse, book 1) by Cleo Coyle

Title: On What Grounds
Author: Cleo Coyle
Series: Coffeehouse Mystery #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Coffee, Cozy mystery
Dates read: 13th – 16th August 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Berkley Mystery
Year: 2003
5th sentence, 74th page: This doesn’t.

Synopsis

Clare Cosi used to manage the historic Village Blend coffeehouse… until she opted for quieter pastures and a more suburban life. But after ten years and a little friendly cajoling from the owner (a fresh pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain was all it took), she’s back tot eh grind, serving coffee and solving crime – one cup at a time…

ON WHAT GROUNDS

With a sprawling rent-free apartment directly above the Village Blend, her cat Java by her side, and plenty of coffeehouse redecorating ideas, Clare is thrilled to return to work. Until she discovers the assistant manager unconscious in the back of the store, coffee grounds strewn everywhere. Police arrive on the scene to investigate. but when they find no sign of forced entry or foul play, they deem it an accident. Case closed. But Clare is not convinced. And after the police leave, there are a few things she just can’t get out of her mind… Why was the trash bin in the wrong place? If this wasn’t an accident, is Clare in danger? And… are all detectives this handsome?

Thoughts

I love a good cozy mystery. They’re cute, fun and, although you constantly want to know “whodunnit”, you’re not scared by the end of the tale. Everything gets tied up neatly and whilst there is a little bit of danger, it’s not overwhelming and frightening. The only problem with this cozy mystery? It features coffee. And I’m pregnant, so I can’t drink all of the coffee I want to…

Clare is a fun and unique lead. Rather than being young without much attachment, she’s a middle aged woman about to start her “second life”. She’s divorced, has a grown daughter and all of the trappings and difficulties that go along with that. It provides an added complexity to the story line that is sometimes missing from some of the mysteries that I read. It’s dark and wonderfully twisted. Seriously fun and very difficult to walk away from. I absolutely adored Clare as a lead. She is sassy and has a wealth of past experiences to draw upon.

This is a brilliant start to a new series. One that I can’t wait to fill my shelves with. It is fun and entertaining, filled with slightly eccentric characters and a number of potential love interests. I am really hoping that Clare picks Quinn ultimately, but I also know that Matteo is going to throw more than one spanner in the works for the chances of this budding relationship. Partner in Clare’s tight relationship with her daughter, the constant coffee recipes and just general food mentions… and I don’t recommend reading this on an empty stomach. I do recommend completely diving into this with a nice, big cup of coffee though.

I absolutely adored this story. I loved the slow unveiling of Annabelle’s past and the hints at who could have killed her. There are plenty of red herrings, and a couple of different horrors waiting at the end of the literary rainbow. This was a brilliant cozy mystery and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into more of Clare’s adventures.

<- More Cleo CoyleThrough the Grinder ->

Image source: Fantastic Fiction

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Overview
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves:  Historical fiction, Romance, War
Dates read: 14th – 15th August 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: He’s about to reach for his camera when he hears the laugh.

Synopsis

‘TRUTH BREAKS THE CHAINS OF SILENCE’

MADRID, 1957

Daniel, young, wealthy and unsure of his place in the world, views the city through the lens of his camera.

Ana, a hotel maid whose family is suffering under the fascist dictatorship of General Franco.

Lives and hearts collide as they unite to uncover the hidden darkness within the city.

A darkness that could engulf them all…

Thoughts

This is one of those “holy crap” “wow” “Oh My God” kind of stories. I had no idea if I was going to like this when I first started it… but then I got my teeth hooked in… and… I just can’t even. I pretty much read this whole 500 page book in one sitting. It was just impossible to put down, look away, forget about. And then, like the fool that I am, I finished it late at night and couldn’t sleep. Because. So many thoughts. Too many thoughts.

I think the thing that really threw me about this book was the fact that a lot of the history in this book is only recently coming to light. The fact that an estimated 300,000 babies were taken from their parents and put up for adoption (after telling the parents that they had died) is… unfathomable. And it happened RECENTLY. It’s not a part of history that we can say, oh, that was another time, it happened forever ago. It happened in the past forty-odd years. And it’s only just coming to light and people are only just being bought to task for what they’ve done… it’s… unfathomable. Like, my brain literally cannot grasp this fact.

There is a sweet romance throughout this story. It’s not at the forefront and it’s not as in your face as the actual romances that I read. But it is incredibly sweet. Ana and Daniel are that quintessential falling in love when young romance. That one that sticks with you for the rest of your life. Some of us are lucky and find that we are actually going to spend the rest of our lives with that person. But the others? Well, it’s those stolen moments in time, in this one summer that Ana and Daniel are able to spend together.

This is a brilliant story. It is filled with history and the darker parts of our recent past that need to be bought to light. There is an intense feeling of humanity and intensity throughout that plucks at your heart strings. You can’t stop reading and look away from the pages. There is mystery and horror, all lightened by the love, both romantic and familial that ties all of these amazing characters together.

<- More Ruta SepetysMore war ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So

Overview
Proud by Juno Dawson & various (9781788950602/Paperback) | LoveReading

Title: The Phoenix’s Fault
Author: Cynthia So
In: Proud (Juno Dawson)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Chinese mythology, LGBTQI, Romance
Dates read: 15th August 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Little Tiger
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: An infinite variety of them, as manifold as human hearts.

Synopsis

All those with a phoenix are supposed to present themselves to the Emperor and his dragon. But Chilli Oil and her owner don’t want to do that… they’ve got their heart set on someone else.

Thoughts

There was a great intersection of Chinese mythology in this story. The use of the dragon and phoenix as symbols of marriage and happiness. What I enjoyed most though was the way in which the author was able to use this symbol to show another kind of marriage and happiness.

I desperately was hoping for a happy ending to this story. Considering the collection it was in, I thought it might happen. But, honestly, up until I turned that final page… I just wasn’t sure.

The imagery in this story was brilliantly done. And the way that the mother accepts her daughter… just beautiful. Definitely a short story that I will read again.

<- On the RunAs the Philadelphia Queer Youth Choir Sings Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’… ->

Image source: LoveReading4Kids

Nice Guy Type by Sean Doolittle

Overview
Murder and Mayhem in Muskego: Jordan, Jon & Ruth, Phillips, Gary,  Richardson, Kat: Amazon.com.au: Books

Title: Nice Guy Type
Author: Sean Doolittle
In: Murder and Mayhem in Muskego (Jon & Ruth Jordan)
Rating Out of 5: 3.5 (Liked this)
My Bookshelves: Crime, Ghosts
Dates read: 15th August 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Down and Out Books
Year: 2012
5th sentence, 74th page: “Take the next block.”

Synopsis

There’s always the “nice guy type”. Even in death, but, as always seems to happen with the “nice guy”, they’re not always that nice…

Thoughts

Oh wow. There are so many layers of devious and revenge in this story. Which is surprising considering how short this story actually is. And, although I don’t agree with ANY of the characters’ actions… I also kind of understand some of them.

I seriously hate that saying “nice guys finish last”. Mostly because those “nice guys” generally turn out to be… Well, not nice. That is definitely the case in this story… not so nice and most definitely not finishing last.

Although this story involved a whole heap of violence and discomfort… I actually found it slightly sassy. In that humorous, but not outright funny way. I may just be a little sick and twisted though…

<- Undying LoveKross Kill ->

Image source: Amazon

Devourings by Aimee Bender

Overview
Image result for xo orpheus book cover

Title: Devourings
Author: Aimee Bender
In: Xo Orpheus (Kate Bernheimer)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Mythology
Dates read: 15th August 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 2013
5th sentence, 74th page: Same with the worms.

Synopsis

The ogre’s wife was a good woman. She was not an ogre, but she was ugly, by human standards, and she had married the ogre because he was strong and productive, and together they had made six small ogre children. The children all took after their father.

Thoughts

I’ve read the story of the human tricking the ogre into eating his own children a few times. I’d never thought if what it was like for the mother of those children though. Or even what the father felt after he did such a terrible thing…

The way this story turned those ideas and fairy tales on their head was brilliant. There’s also a cake that replenishes itself and a cloak that hides you in plain sight. The woman in this feels… in pain after her children are eaten, but still very much in love with her husband. It gives a whole heap more humanity to the “bad guys” of the original fairy tale.

Going in a pilgrimage of sorts to heal after losing your children is completely understandable. I love how this mother and woman just… takes it in stride and lives and experiences things to let herself heal. There is no hatred and horror, just a way of moving towards a new future.

<- Modern CoyoteLabyrinth ->

Image source: Goodreads