Category: Supernatural

Nov 12

Vampires and Witches and Daemons, Oh My! (The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness)

Supernatural, Time Travel, Vampires 21

Good Morrow, Bookworms!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A witch, a daemon, and a vampire walk into a bar… Oh wait, you know that one? That’s kind of what I thought too, when I started reading the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I decided to review the series as a whole, because I totally binge listened to them and this way I can limit spoilers with carefully placed vagaries. I’ll probably screw up and reveal stuff because I’m me, so take this as your spoiler alert if you’re super spoiler averse. Spoiler sounds funny if you say it over and over again. Spoiler. Spoooooiiiiiillllllllleeerrrrrrr.

Basic plot overview: Historian/professor/reluctant witch Diana Bishop finds herself drawn into an ancient mystery all while falling head over heels in love with a vampire/doctor/research fellow/polyglot Matthew Clairmont. A mysterious, bewitched alchemical manuscript revealed itself to Diana and as a result she draws the interest of every daemon, witch, and vampire in the greater Oxford region. Diana and Matthew’s attraction is forbidden by a shadowy organization whose chief function is to prevent the intermingling of creatures lest they be discovered by the hapless humans surrounding them (Volturi, anyone?) Diana and Matthew need to acquire the book, discover the secrets it holds, and figure out their relationship before the world around them implodes. Or something. It’s a big deal, okay?

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A Discovery of Witches was the first book in the crew and I found it disturbingly Twilight -ish… At least in the beginning. Diana (who doesn’t realize she’s beautiful and talented) can’t figure out why devastatingly handsome vampire Matthew has a thing for her. She falls for him, he tries to push her away despite his desperate passion, you know the drill. As things progressed, I got a little less grumpy because there was some science (highly fictionalized science, mind, we’re talking about vampires, daemons, and witches, after all) and pseudo-science. Namely alchemy. Everyone knows that alchemy is the process by which people who didn’t understand the periodic table of elements attempted to turn metal into gold. It’s obviously not a thing that can happen, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fascinating from a historical perspective, so that was pretty fun.

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Shadow of Night was the second book in the bunch, and reminded me of the second Outlander novel, Dragonfly in Amber in approximately 18 zillion ways. Only, you know. Vampires and witches and daemons. Oh my. There were a ton of cameos by famous historical figures because OF COURSE. Vampires don’t just chill with chimney sweeps. They get all up in art and literature and philosophy and politics. They also adopt street urchins, but as much as I liked Jack, he’s no Fergus. (From Outlandernatch. My word this isn’t very coherent if you haven’t read every single book I’ve read, is it?)

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The Book of Life was the final installment of the series, and while it contained elements I recognized from other series, none of the comparisons are as pronounced as with the first two books. In fact, it felt a little more spy thriller than supernatural time-traveling love story at times. Intrigue and justice and the righting of old wrongs all came into play.

I know this was meant to be a trilogy, but I kind of feel like Harkness left a number of loose ends that she could neatly dovetail into an offshoot series, prequel, or future installments. I’d probably read them if she wrote them. I’m not completely in thrall to the series, but I’d be willing to invest some more time in this world. If you’re in the mood for the supernatural, it’s definitely worth a read.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Have you read the All Souls TrilogyDid you see the same parallels I did? What did you think?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Oct 08

The Raven Cycle (well, most of it) by Maggie Stiefvater: A Cautionary Tale

Audio Books, Supernatural, Young Adult Fiction 11

Good Day Bookworms,

When I wax philosophical in certain moods, I like to think that my missteps might help other people. Here’s a lesson for you. If you go into a series planning to binge read the whole thing, you’d better make DARN SURE you know that the series is finished. Making the assumption that a Paranormal YA series is, in fact, a trilogy would be a good bet, but we’re not in Vegas. We’re in book land. And you know what’s worse than reading a series you’re super into and then finding out you have to WAIT for the next installment?! NOTHING. IT. IS. AGONY. AGONY, I tell you! And it’s my own fault. Also Maggie Stiefvater’s fault for making The Raven Cycle an impossibly delicious ride. Probably her publisher’s fault for taking too long with the editing or something. Maybe I can blame the time space continuum? I don’t knoooooooooow but I want time to move faster so I can find out what happens next!

I suppose I should explain a little. I started reading (alright, alright, listening) to The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater a couple of weeks ago. I read The Scorpio Races (review) by Stiefvater and liked it well enough, but it wasn’t my favorite. Hence, my expectations for The Raven Cycle (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves , and Blue Lily, Lily Blue) were sufficiently tempered. I figured I knew what I’d be getting into with a paranormal YA series, more or less. I was wrooooooooooooooong!

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It’s hard to talk about a series without spoiling, oh, everything, which was my main motivation for reading the whole series in one go and giving you a single write up. I really need to start paying more attention. It’s like I learned NOTHING from the whole Diviners debacle… But I digress. The Raven Cycle takes place in rural Henrietta, Virginia. Blue Sargent is a teenage girl living in a family a psychics, exceptional only in that she serves as a cosmic antenna to clarify other people’s clairvoyance. Blue doesn’t reap any benefit from her antenna-hood; in fact, it’s a pain in the tush to find out that you will be the cause of your true love’s death. Henrietta is home not only to an odd clan of psychic women, but also an elite boy’s-only prep school called Aglionby. A group of four Aglionby boys led by wealthy and charismatic ringleader Gansey are on a quest to find something money can’t buy, and Blue is soon swept away by their search. Enter weird paranormal stuff of a decidedly unusual variety. Add awesomeness. Shake until frothy. Then STOP COLD. Because the series isn’t finished. HEADDESK.

Part of the reason I was extra super sucked into this story is that it talks a lot about ley lines (which isn’t really a spoiler, but it wasn’t in the publisher blurbs, so whatever.) Anyway, ley lines are (anecdotally, at least) concentrated lines of energy of mysterious origin that spiderweb across the globe and are often marked by ancient monuments that nobody seems to understand. Like circles of standing stones. Like in Outlander! These books are much less scientific and get way more oogly-boogly than Diana Gabaldon ever does, but if you were intrigued by what Master Raymond may have known, you’ll probably fall hard for these books too. Also, “oogly-boogly” is my new favorite term. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear, I will be waiting until next year at least for the final installment. If you wish to learn from my mistakes, hold off on starting the series. Once you start it, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll join me in the AGONY club. My word. We should make t-shirts. And belt out show tunes. Into The Woods, anyone?

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No for reals, Bookworms. Who wants an AGONY t-shirt? I think we could make this a thing, you guys!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 14

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Audio Books, Supernatural 14

How’s it going, Bookworms?

I feel like I should write this entire blog post in 20s slang, but you’d miss out on the inflection. It’s going to take every ounce of restraint I possess not to end every sentence with “see”, see? I place the blame for my new affectation squarely on the shoulders of one Libba Bray, who penned The Diviners, and also on the shoulders of January LaVoy who narrated the audio book.

thedivinersI’ve been meaning to read Libba Bray for a while, and I picked The Diviners because it was on my soon-to-expire list (thanks for nothing, Scribd.) I didn’t realize just how spooky it was going to be before picking it up, so I’m actually pretty grateful for the near comical usage of slang and old timey vocal affectations. But I digress.

The Diviners takes place in 1920s New York City, which was by all accounts a happening place to be. Evie O’Neill is new to town, after being sent away from her boring town in Ohio to stay with her uncle. Some people have no sense of humor when it comes to having their secrets exposed, see? It works out for the best though, because Evie is ready to get her flapper on and party like it’s 1926 and NYC is the place to be! Evie’s Uncle Will has his head so full of the creepy crawlies that he’s unlikely to notice her antics… Or so she thinks. The thing that got Evie booted from Ohio wasn’t really her fault. Evie has a super weird gift that allows her to psychically glean information from objects. If a gentleman’s watch tells her that he’s had some scandalous dalliances, well, she can’t help knowing that!

New York is being terrorized by a serial killer just as Evie arrives in town. Because of the occult-ish nature of the killings, Evie’s uncle, something of an expert in the field, is called in to consult with the police on the case. Evie realizes her gift may help her catch the murderer, and things just start to get weird.

This book was a ton of fun and the scary elements were perfect for the onset of autumn. The slang seemed a little over the top at times, but the campy aspects of it worked for me. There was just one problem. I had NO IDEA this book was the beginning of a series until it was over and ALL THE THINGS were unresolved. I googles to make sure I hadn’t accidentally skipped chapters and lo and behold, book two was recently released. Don’t you just hate that?! Of course, it’s too late. I’m hooked. Just take my money, okay?

Bookworms, I need to not be alone here. Have any of you started a series purely by accident?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Aug 03

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Audio Books, Supernatural, Young Adult Fiction 8

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

I’m feeling pretty accomplished today. That’s right. I finally read a Maggie Stiefvater book. I’m not opposed to YA or anything, but after so many formulaic dystopias flooded the market, I got pretty picky about what I’d read. I’ve heard from a number of reliable sources (Jenny at Reading the End and Heather at Capricious Reader in particular) that Maggie Stiefvater is the bee’s knees, so I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Thanks to my subscription to Scribd and all the audio books my brain can hold, I was able to try The Scorpio Races on for size. Side note: Maggie Stiefvater totally composed the musical accompaniment for the audio book, which is darn impressive.

thescorpioracesThe Island of Thisby is famous for two things: water horses and the annual Scorpio Races. Water horses are basically what they sound like; horses that come from the sea. To be more specific, they’re horses that come from the sea who would rather devour human flesh than oats and are nevertheless captured by islanders and ridden for sport. The Scorpio Races pit water horse against water horse in a combined horse race slash death match spectacle. Riding a water horse in this race is the ultimate extreme sport. Throats are ripped out on the regular. Sean Kendrick is 19 and a four time Scorpio Race champion. He’s got a hand with the monstrous horses that inspires admiration and envy. Puck Connelly is trying her hand in the races for the very first time. She’s also the first female ever to dare to do so. Both Sean and Puck embark on a journey they never expected, all while trying desperately to avoid being eaten by bloodthirsty horses.

The overall tone of this book felt very Neil Gaiman to me. That might be an unfair comparison drawn based on the fact that the actor who voiced Sean Kendrick sounded a bit like Neil Gaiman (which is a very, very good thing), but it was also dark and incorporated a lot of English/Irish folklore which is rather Gaiman-esque in itself. I though it was an inventive story, though I probably would have liked it more if I were a horse aficionado. Still, I’d totally read Maggie Stiefvater again. Her mind seems to be a dark and twisty place, but not in the way that makes me want to cower under the covers. I’d like to see what else she has to offer. If you’re in the mood for something different, give The Scorpio Races a whirl. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Talk to me Bookworms! Would you ever consider riding an animal you coaxed from the sea that totally wanted to eat you? (Spoiler Alert: My answer is a HELL NO. I won’t even swim in water with fish. I’ll wade in the ocean but when it comes to full immersion swimming, it’s a pool or nothing. Fish seriously freak me out. And water horses? Um, no.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 09

Audio Book Mini Reviews

Audio Books, Children's Fiction, Supernatural, Vampires, Young Adult Fiction 16

Howdy Bookworms!

I am the worst lately. I just can’t seem to motivate myself to write thoughtful, interesting reviews. BWAHAHAHAHA. Sorry, sorry. Thoughtful and interesting aren’t really my bag, are they? Ah well. Even when I’m not posting, I’m still devouring books in any number of formats. I’ve got some bite sized tidbits for y’all today on my recent audio book listening.

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1. The Magician King by Lev Grossman: This is the second installment in The Magicians trilogy (review). It was enjoyable enough, as broody fantasy goes, but I’m legitimately puzzled by one thing. WTF is with Lev Grossman and foxes?! People transformed into foxes, fox deities… Bizzaro sexualization. I’m kind of worried about this guy.

2. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: I think I’m too old for this. I have absolutely no doubt that if this book had been released when I was a teenager, I would have ADORED it and declared it my soul mate made of words. There were still elements I really dug, but there were times I wanted to tell both these kids to quit taking themselves so seriously. GET OFF MY LAWN.

3. You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore: I had no idea this was a trilogy until I was almost finished with the book, but it was an entertaining and campy twist on the vampire genre. I couldn’t decide if I was amused or incredibly annoyed by the voice used for Abby Normal. It was soooo over the top crazy. Laugh or cringe? I simply do not know!

4. Matilda by Roald Dahl: I know, I can’t believe I hadn’t read this before now either. While I found Matilda utterly charming as a character, I can’t help but wonder… WHAT HAPPENED IN YOUR CHILDHOOD, ROALD DAHL?! The grown ups are SO MEAN.

What have y’all been reading and listening to? I feel so out of the loop! 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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May 11

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Audio Books, Chick Lit, Supernatural 7

Hello Bookworms!

Remember that time when I gushed all over the internet about Scribd? Well, the very first book I decided to listen to with my new subscription was a Sarah Addison Allen. Anybody surprised? You shouldn’t be. My ears devoured The Sugar Queen.

thesugarqueenJosie Cirrini’s life is in a holding pattern. Though she’s 27, she’s never moved out of her childhood home and her social life revolves around chauffering her elderly mother to her various society engagements in their small North Carolina town. Josey is so firmly under her mother’s thumb that she takes solace in snacks and sweet treats she keeps hidden in her closet. Josey’s life looks like it’ll be over before it starts when one evening she finds the rather scandalous town barfly Della Lee Baker hiding out in her closet amongst her guilty pleasures. The arrival of Della Lee sets off a series of events that changes the way Josey views her life and her family’s legacy.

Of course, as a Sarah Addison Allen, there’s a bit of magic involved (in the most whimsical and charming ways, naturally.) I’ve always said that red is my cosmic color of power, but Josey’s claim on that statement might actually be legit. And Josey’s gal pal Chloe has the BEST power/affliction. Books literally find her when she needs them. Where can I sign up for that?!

I’ve mentioned before that I have a hard time reading books where overweight and/or obese people are described by authors in an unsympathetic tone. Sarah Addison Allen is very sympathetic to Josey, who is described as “plump,” but in exploring her addiction to food and comfort eating I found myself getting downright sad. It hit a nerve, I guess. I mean, I’ll probably never truly understand what drives someone to shoot heroin, but mainlining cookies? That is something I can relate to. Ooooh the feelings. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen, whimsy, and baked goods should definitely check out The Sugar Queen

Tell me something, Bookworms. Do you ever get an unexpected punch in the feels while reading? When was the last time it happened? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Apr 02

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Audio Books, Supernatural 12

Howdy Bookworms!

I have been having such great fun with my library’s audio book selection lately. I’ve been dabbling in a lot of backlist books and it has been a blast. Sarah Addison Allen never fails to enchant me, the woman is made of moonbeams and fairy dust. Needless to say, I did a little happy dance when The Girl Who Chased the Moon popped up as available. I downloaded that faster than you can say “cake rules.” (Though, cake really does rule. I love cake.)

thegirlwhochasedthemoonWhen Emily Benedict arrives in Mullaby, North Carolina, she has no idea what to expect. Her recently deceased mother told her absolutely nothing about her hometown, let alone that Emily had a living grandfather (who happens to be both a giant and a BBQ enthusiast.) Mullaby is an odd town full of quirky characters and odd happenings. Julia Winterson is another reluctant Mullaby resident, having returned to town after her father’s death in order to run his restaurant. She bakes some amazing cakes, and nobody is more appreciative of that particular talent than dreamboat Sawyer.  Unfortunately IT’S COMPLICATED. Emily and Julia strike up an unlikely friendship and help each other navigate the strangeness and wonder of Mullaby. Family secrets and history and magic and love and moonlight and CAKE collide in this scrumptious novel, and the result is utterly charming.

Well, it’s official. I need to read ALL THE THINGS Sarah Addison Allen has ever written. These books just make me so darn happy. I can’t help but smile, sigh, and daydream a little every time I read one. If you need a break from reality that will warm your heart and make you desperately want to taste Hummingbird Cake (cream cheese frosting? I am so in!) pick up The Girl Who Chased the Moon and enjoy!

My dearest Bookworms, tell me something. Do any of you have an author that you read when you need a pick-me-up?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jan 19

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Contemporary Fiction, Supernatural 16

Greetings Bookworms!

Sometimes I need a little magic in my life. I was really excited when I saw that Sarah Addison Allen had a new book on the horizon. I navigated straight to NetGalley where I requested (and was granted) a complimentary review copy of First Frost. This in no way affects the integrity of the following review. My integrity is questionable regardless of free books.

firstfrostThe Waverley women are a bit different. They live in a small southern town where they are renowned for their unique and magical gifts. Claire has a way with food and flowers- she can infuse her concoctions with feeling. Her sister Sydney has the ability to make good hair days happen (a magical gift anyone can appreciate when they wake up faced with mad bedhead.) Sydney’s teenage daughter Bay knows exactly where everything and everyone belongs. The Waverley homestead has a personality all its own, and the apple tree in the back yard is fond of passive-aggressively flinging apples in the direction of people it doesn’t like. (It’s rather Oz-ian that way.)

Things never run smoothly when you’ve got magic to contend with, do they? A mysterious stranger shows up in town intent on disrupting the delicate Waverley balance and things go a bit wonky. Teenage heartache? Pining for a family? Desperate attempts to help the self destructive? This book has ALL THE THINGS. Plus, you know, MAGIC. This book was the perfect read for me at the perfect time. I’ve got a soft spot for this sort of Southern charm, and I really needed this bit of magic to brighten up my winter blahs. Sarah Addison Allen is often compared to Alice Hoffman, which is apt, but where Hoffman goes dark, Allen goes light. That, my friends, is pure magic. Get thee a copy of First Frost post haste!

Talk to me, Bookworms. How do you feel about magic in books? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Mar 19

King’s March: The Green Mile

Contemporary Fiction, Psychological, Supernatural 36

Greetings Bookworms,

Let it never be said that I am not susceptible to peer pressure. When I saw that Rory from Fourth Street Review and Wendy from Wensend were putting together a Stephen King event for March, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. Now, if you’ve been here a while, you’ll know I’m a big ridiculous chicken about my Stephen King. I have to be careful about what I read because of nightmares. I figured The Green Mile would be a safe choice for me, since I’d seen the movie and remained nightmare free. (Tear free? Not so much, but that’s another story.)

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The Green Mile is narrated by an aged Paul Edgecombe. In 1932, Paul was middle aged prison guard in Alabama… Paul isn’t just your garden variety guard, though. He oversees “The Green Mile” where inmates condemned to die in the electric chair serve out their last days. As an added bonus duty, Paul and his crew have to carry out the sentences. Because strapping convicted murderers into Old Sparky is still better than being unemployed during the Great Depression.

When John Coffey is brought onto the Mile, strange things begin to happen. John Coffey is remarkable. He’s and enormous African American man, standing 6’8 and full of muscle. Coffey landed in prison after being convicted of raping and murdering a pair of young white girls. Something about the story never quite adds up for Paul. Coffey is accused of the most horrific crime, but is mild mannered and sensitive to the point of being afraid of the dark. His mannerisms are remarkable enough, but Coffey’s hidden talents are mind boggling.

This book, you guys. THIS is what people need to read when they think Stephen King only does horror. Holy cats, this foray into magical realism was LEGIT. Because I’d seen the movie before I read the book, I had a pretty clear idea of what was going to happen, but I’ve never been particularly bothered by spoilers. For a dude who does so much scary and horrible, King’s got a soft spot for redemption and goodness. I doubt I’ll ever feel warm and fuzzy after reading a King novel, but this one came pretty close… Hot sticky tears and warm fuzzies are basically the same thing, right?

Alright Bookworms, sound off. Have you read any Stephen King? What’s your favorite? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small  commission.*

 

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Oct 10

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie (Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield)

Contemporary Fiction, Supernatural 40

How goes it, Bookworms?

Remember our very first Fellowship of the Worms selection The Thirteenth Tale?  Believe it or not, that was Diane Setterfield’s debut novel. When I saw that her long awaited followup was available on NetGalley, I could not help myself. I positively jumped at the chance to get my hands on Bellman & Black

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. You like honesty, right? 

bellman and blackBellman & Black begins with four ten-year-old boys frolicking in the woods. One of the boys in the group fashions a slingshot and uses it to knock a bird out of its tree. The rook is killed. Though Will Bellman is haunted by his act of childhood cruelty, he carries on with his life. Will proves a quick study at his uncle’s textile mill and is soon groomed to take over the operation. As he grows up and begins his adult life, he begins to lose family members and acquaintances. This isn’t much of a surprise, I mean, it’s the Victorian era, so medical care isn’t exactly stellar. A virulent strain of scarlet fever can (and does) wipe out a good chunk of a town. A mysterious cloaked figure keeps appearing at the funerals Bellman attends. One day, in the grips of extreme despair, Bellman imagines he has struck a deal with the cloaked man and embarks on a new venture.

His new venture? A funeral emporium. Now I GET that people who have suffered great losses often fall into depressive states or fixate on death… But starting a massive funeral emporium? It’s a little macabre. Of course, the Victorians were a little macabre… They did their grieving up in a big way- years of wearing black crepe, hired mourners, fancy pants coffins, all the dark and dreary trimmings. I found it to be a weird move, personally, but I am terrible at handling funerals. Seriously. I see one grieving family member and I’m a puddle of goo, even if it was someone I barely knew. I can’t imagine wanting to marinate in funeral-ness, but William was going through a lot. Plus, the world does need funeral supplies, so I’m willing to overlook the odd choice in industry.

What I can’t overlook is that this book was kind of… Boring. There was a lot of discussion of rooks and their influence on the human psyche

Try knocking THIS out of a tree with a slingshot... Actually don't. It's probably way easier than hitting a bird. (Image Source)

Try knocking THIS out of a tree with a slingshot… Actually don’t. It’s probably way easier than hitting a bird. (Image Source)

and mourning and grief… But you know what rooks are to me? The castle pieces in chess. That’s what we called them. Rooks. Apparently, they are ALSO big ugly black birds like ravens and crows. I’ve never been a big fan of birds that can actually fly. You can blame Hitchcock for that one. I think Setterfield was going for a Poe vibe, but it just fell completely flat for me. I’m really bummed about this. Setterfield’s debut, The Thirteenth Tale was SO incredible. Any offering she came out with was bound to suffer in comparison, I just never thought it would fail to hold my interest.

Of course, this is all a matter of opinion, and I am nothing if not aware of the fact that my taste in literature tends away from the poetic. I’m pretty literal when it comes to interpretations as well… I think for the right audience, this book might be wonderful. I’d recommend this to readers who enjoy novels with dark overtones and elements that are open to interpretation. Fans of ghost stories and gothic Victorian settings may just revel in the linguistically lovely descriptive passages. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me.

What about you, bookworms? Have you ever been disappointed in a favorite debut author’s sophomore work? 

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