Mrs Death Misses Death

Mrs Death Misses Death is a short novel, but is moving, and at times, difficult to read due to the subject matter.

Synopsis

It is exhausting being Mrs Death. Everyone believes Death is the Grim Reaper. No one would guess that Death is an older Black, working-class woman. Mrs Death has been there at the end of peoples’ lives since the First Morning of the First Mourning.

Now, in the present day, Mrs Death wishes to tell her story to a willing ear. Wolf Willeford is more than willing to transcribe Mrs Death’s words. He is no stranger to death, having survived a fire that killed many, including his mother.

When he sits at The Desk, he is can hear Mrs Death’s words, songs, and poems. As the two work together, they form a close bond and visualize a bright future for humanity.

Review of Mrs Death Misses Death

I have never read a book like this before. This book skillfully combines prose and verse in a very engaging way. If an audiobook releases, I will give that a listen as well. This would be perfect as an audiobook.

Death is literally in the title, so be fair warned that this isn’t always a nice and cozy story. There are discussions on real-life serial killers and their victims, which are graphic. They do not glamourize it but remind the reader that it happened. The author also discusses mental health, BLM, police brutality, and racism.

I will read whatever Salena Godden writes in the future, even if it is merely a grocery list. For now, I will take a look at her poetry and shorter works.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 01 February 2022

Thank you to Canongate for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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For past reviews, click here.

When We Lost Our Heads

When We Lost Our Heads by Heather O’Neill has a similar quality to it as when Marie Antoinette purportedly said, “Let them eat cake.” Is it a coincidence that one of the main characters is named Marie Antoine? I don’t know, but I like it.

Synopsis

When We Lost Our Heads is set in 1873 Montreal and follows two young girls who form an intense friendship that quickly implodes after a deadly accident.

Twelve-year-old Marie Antoine is adored and loved by everyone around her. Her mother died when she was very young, so her doting father has made it his mission to give her whatever she wishes. She knows she will one day be in charge of the sugar factory that she is the face of and that her father operates.

Twelve-year-old Sadie Arnett and her family are new to the wealthy neighbourhood of The Golden Mile. Her family has little wealth, but believe their new home will advance them politically and socially. From a young age, Sadie observed that her family placed all their attention and hopes of raising their social status on her brother Phillip. Perhaps because of their neglect, Sadie shows an interest in all things dark. Her first memory is throwing herself off a cliff. She finds joy in drowning kittens. She spends her time writing material that others would consider shocking.

When the two girls meet, everything else around them disappears. They love each other deeply, but they also feel intensely envious of one another. Their jealousy culminates in the pair often competing against each other. One such competition turns deadly, which inevitably forces the girls apart.

Throughout their lives, they will still feel connected in a way they do to no other. Set against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution, extravagant wealth contrasts against the impoverished working class.

Review of When We Lost Our Heads

This novel masterfully tackles gender inequality, gender identity, sexuality and class.

Twisted, decadent, and lavish are all words that describe this literary delight. The characters are not always likeable, but they are utterly fascinating.

My favourite parts of this novel were the girls growing up and discovering themselves. Around the midpoint, I found it slowed down a tad. The pace picked up again in the last quarter with its initial grandiosity and ended with a satisfying conclusion.

I don’t know what Heather O’Neill’s other books are like, but I will for sure be checking them out now.

I recommend this to readers that like morally grey characters and to those wanting a dark yet wonderfully absurd coming-of-age tale.

CW: sexual assault.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 01 February 2022

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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For past reviews, click here.

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli is a YA fantasy read brimming with an atmospheric and woodsy setting.

Synopsis

Emeline Lark left the small town of Edgewood to try to make it as a musician in Montreal. The thing is, whenever Emeline sings, moss and the scents of the woods physically manifest, so try as she might, it’s not that easy to leave her hometown behind.

One evening, Emeline receives a call with news that her grandfather has gone missing from his care home. She ends up rushing back home to try to figure out how her Pa magically disappeared. When she finds out that no one has searched the woods right behind her Pa’s house, she sets out to do it herself.

Emeline has always believed that the tales about the woods were pure fantasy and silly superstitions. She has never put stock in the stories of monsters and fey kings and the giving of tithes. That there was a reasonable explanation behind the town’s misfortunes and accidents. That there could be nothing sinister behind the things that go wrong in Edgewood.

Emeline’s beliefs are proven wrong as soon as she enters the woods. Almost immediately, she begins bargaining with the Wood King for her grandfather’s freedom. She agrees to sing for the king. If the king enjoys her singing, he will free her Pa. If he doesn’t, tough luck.

Review of Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

I thought I would love this book. I usually gobble up fantasy reads with lush writing, a great magic system, and strong female characters. But I never truly warmed up to this one. Edgewood does have beautiful prose and interesting characters, but I couldn’t tell you much about the magic system. It could have used some more explaining.

There were moments when I felt frustrated with Emeline. For some reason, she couldn’t seem to grasp that the “Mad King” was actually unhinged and was constantly shocked by his behaviour.

At first, the romance was alright. Usually, I don’t mind the enemies-to-lovers trope. But it soon went downhill and into icky territory.

I found the pacing to be a bit inconsistent too. It dragged in quite a few parts. I generally prefer slow-burn books, but this one was a bit too slow.

Despite those issues, I still felt compelled enough to read to the end. I think YA fantasy readers will still find lots to love in this book, but I may have not been the right audience for this one.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 01 March 2022

Thank you to Wednesday Books / St. Martin’s Press for an arc provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

The Appeal by Janice Hallett is a modern take on the epistolary novel. It’s a murder mystery told through emails, text messages, and reports.

Synopsis

A prominent family finds out that their granddaughter, Poppy, has a rare form of cancer. The family learns of an experimental treatment that they hope will cure Poppy. Since the treatment does not qualify for health coverage, the family calls in the help of their amateur theatre company, and together, they begin to raise funds for Poppy’s treatment.

As they begin to fundraise, some begin to question the treatment, the fundraising itself, and even the oncologist.

While everyone participates in this fundraiser, the theatre company begins rehearsals for its next play. As the play nears, tensions rise, lies unravel, and someone winds up dead.

Review of The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Initially, when I started reading this, I liked the novelty of it, of nosing through people’s emails and trying to figure out who was lying. But as I kept going, the emails felt like a slog. And I kept asking the following questions: did this need to be an email, who sends such long-winded emails when they just saw this person or will very soon, why not make a phone call, do spouses really email each other regularly when they live in the same house, and why are some key players’ emails excluded from the story.

Speaking of players: there are so many. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. There are so many that the author included multiple lists of characters throughout. After a while, I gave up on trying to remember who everyone was and just dived in.

The murder doesn’t happen until halfway through the book. Also, the reader doesn’t know who the victim is until that point. After the murder is when things started gaining momentum, and I raced through the last 100 pages or so.

While I think this novel could shed a few pages, my interest never waned, and I needed to find out what was going on. Some revelations were a bit obvious, but others were surprising.

Overall, I did enjoy this murder mystery and will read more from this author.

I recommend this to readers prepared to scour tons of innocuously written documents to discover a murderer.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 25 January 2022

Thank you to Atria Books for an arc provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

A Letter to Three Witches

A Letter to Three Witches by Elizabeth Bass is a lighthearted and fun read full of zany characters.

Synopsis

Nearly a century ago, after a disastrous incident that lead to the Dustbowl, the Grand Council of Witches forbade one particular family of witches from practicing witchcraft.

Today, Gwen and her family are still abiding by that order. That all changes when Gwen receives a startling letter from her adopted sister, Tannith. Tannith’s letter declares that she has bewitched one of the family’s partners and intends to run away with him by the end of the week.

What follows is hilarious magical mishap after hilarious magical mishap. Get ready for some enchanted cupcakes, transformations, and a cast of blundering witches.

Review of A Letter to Three Witches

This novel is a quick read and told mainly from Gwen’s perspective.

After reading some dark thrillers recently, it was fun to switch things up with this entertaining novel. By the end, I still had some unanswered questions, which makes me wonder if there will be more books to follow this one.

I recommend this if you’re looking for a light and funny witchy novel. I know I’ll be picking up Elizabeth Bass’ next release.

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 25 January 2022

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For past reviews, click here.

The Saints of Swallow Hill

The Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart is the kind of historical fiction I love. Set during the Great Depression in the South, this tale has rich characterization, a vivid setting, and research that blends seamlessly with the story.

Synopsis

Delwood Reese has a bad habit of going after married women. On one occasion, when his boss catches him with his wife, and after receiving a near-death punishment, Del decides it’s time to move on. He slowly makes his way south to a turpentine camp called Swallow Hill.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Rae Lynn Cobb lives with her clumsy husband, Warren. Together, they operate a small turpentine farm. The work is dangerous on its own, but it is even more perilous because of Warren’s reckless actions. His clumsiness eventually backfires on him, resulting in a grave injury. This disaster forces Rae Lynn to make some hard decisions, and she elects to leave her home disguised as a man. With her new name Ray Cobb, she makes her way south to the same camp where Delwood has recently arrived. Both will witness the racism and physical abuse that occurs at these sorts of camps.

Review of The Saints of Swallow Hill

The Saints of Swallow Hill captured my attention from the very first page. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this one, but the characters are so well-developed that I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough. Some of these characters will likely stick with me for some time to come. Del, Rae, and a few others go on a journey of self-discovery, of learning to trust and to love.

This is the first time I’ve read Donna Everhart, and I look forward to reading more from the author.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 25 January 2022

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For past reviews, click here.

The Secret by Debbie Howells

The Secret by Debbie Howells is a tense psychological thriller that kept me reading late into the night.

Synopsis

In the village of Abingworth, everyone has a secret to hide.

Best friends Niamh and Hollie are the only two teenagers in this small community. They tell each other everything. One day, Hollie shares the secret of all secrets with Niamh and makes her promise not to tell anyone, no matter what.

Not long after this, Hollie goes missing, and her body turns up days later.

When Detective Sergeant May gets assigned with solving this case, she quickly learns that this village is full of people who don’t say much but are quick to point fingers at one another.

Review of The Secret by Debbie Howells

This psychological thriller is slowly paced and intricately plotted and has multiple POVs. The chapters are fairly short and kept me turning the pages. It deals with some dark themes, so it won’t be one that everyone can digest. There are some great twists along the way that kept me guessing. I did not correctly predict the big reveal, but regular readers of the genre may have no trouble pinning it down.

I think the author accurately shows how debilitating emotional and physical abuse can be. A warning that some of the abuse is quite descriptive.

I recommend this to those prepared for a psychological thriller that takes it time examining dark subject matter.

This was my first time reading a Debbie Howells book, but it will not be my last. I believe there is a nice backlist to dive into.

CW: emotional and physical abuse/violence, child exploitation (non-descriptive).

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 6 January 2022

Thank you to Avon for the arc provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Such a Pretty Smile

Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester is an enthusiastic middle finger to the patriarchy.

Synopsis

It opens with a grisly description of a young girl found mutilated and murdered days after her disappearance. As more girls turn up brutally murdered, it begins to look like the work of the Cur, a serial killer that slays girls who refuse to be tamed.

Told in dual timelines, the reader follows Lila, a thirteen-year-old girl, and her mother, Caroline, an artist known for crafting creepy statues.

Lila has been a good girl her whole life, until one day, she suddenly feels overcome with fever dreams, anger and a snarling voice in her head.

This is a story about a girl who refuses to be controlled and will, most definitely, not “calm down.”

Review of Such a Pretty Smile

This horror novel explores dark themes of sexism, feminism, and societal expectations on gender norms. It looks at the Chads and Brocks of the world and how they get away with so much because they are good boys who can’t afford to have their life derailed, no matter their offence and whose lives they have ruined.

Some parts of this book have a persistent sense of uneasiness that escalates as the book progresses, while others are explicitly nightmarish. I may or may not have read this with all the lights turned on in broad daylight.

I recommend this to those who love horror with a heavy dose of feminism and social commentary. I will definitely pick up future books by the author. This makes a great addition to the horror genre.

My review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 18 January 2022

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for inviting me to read this via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

Books x books = a happy reader. The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk is a cozy read with a dash of mystery.

Synopsis

Liesl Weiss has worked as a librarian at a university for decades. When her boss suffers a stroke, she fills his position for the interim. It’s not long before she discovers that an extremely rare and recent acquisition of a religious text has gone missing. At first, Liesl believes the text must be misplaced, but soon she suspects someone stole it. When Liesl decides to notify the police about the disappearance, she cannot wrap her head around why many are against reporting it as a theft.

Do they merely want to save the university’s reputation, or could they be hiding something?

To make matters worse, a fellow librarian also goes missing. Liesl begins to question if the two incidents are related.

Review of The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

This story is told in dual timelines with multiple perspectives, although Liesl’s POV is the main one. It’s hard to say exactly when the book is set, but certain technology mentioned suggests that it is around the nineties. There are lots of references to discmans.

There are discussions on being a woman/woman of colour/gay while working in a field that is mainly dominated by white cisgender men.

It took a little while for me to warm up to this book, but the mystery soon drew me in.

This story will make you want to get all cozy and maybe enjoy a bowl of spicy noodles like Liesl frequently did with her family.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 25 January 2022

Thank you to Poisoned Pen Presss for an arc provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang

Joan Is Okay is a short novel where not a lot happens, but a lot is brewing beneath the surface.

Synopsis

Joan is in her mid-thirties and an ICU attending doctor at a New York City hospital. Work is her happy place. She enjoys being a cog in the machine. Her parents are from China, while she was born in America. When Joan turned eighteen and was about to start university, her parents moved back to China, allowing their daughter to begin the next stage of her life independently. Now, years later, Joan’s father has just passed away, and her mother returns to the States to reconnect with her children.

Usually, Joan uses work as an excuse to dodge family or friend gatherings. However, now that she has some time off work, she can no longer find a plausible reason to avoid them. She watches as news of COVID first surfaces in Wuhan, China and as it quickly spreads across the globe.

As an Asian American, Joan has experienced the feeling that she belongs neither to America nor her Chinese heritage.

Review of Joan Is Okay

While this book deals with serious topics, it is also balanced with deadpan humour. It touches on racism, microaggressions, sexism, belonging, familial responsibilities, and more. The majority deals with Joan’s life and the last quarter discusses the emergence of COVID and how it affects her and the world. I’ve read a few fictional books that discuss COVID, but this one is probably the one that handles it the best without being overly triggering. Joan’s voice is mostly matter-of-fact, which makes it easier to read about this period.

I believe Joan is a character that will stay with me for some time to come. She is a quiet woman, but one firm in her beliefs.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 18 January 2022

Thank you to Random House for the arc provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.